Most expats send their children to international schools in Tokyo, which is a more expensive option than Japanese schools. This is mostly because international schools are better equipped to deal with the needs of foreign students and allow them to continue studying the same curriculum as they did back home. This subsequently eases the transition into life in a new country.

Public schools in Japan

Parents of very young expat children might consider sending their children to local Japanese schools, which are free even for foreign children. The advantages of these schools are that children will learn Japanese and will integrate into local society more easily. Still, this is usually only an option for expats planning on moving to Japan for an extended period.  

The Japanese school system has a well-deserved reputation for being strenuous. Expat parents might find the performance pressure placed on young children a bit daunting. If factoring in after-school activities and near-obligatory lessons at jukus (cram schools) children could face a 12-hour day, with homework still waiting to be done later.

The school year in Japan runs from April to March – although for Japanese children, regular school during term breaks is often simply replaced with all-day juku

International schools in Tokyo

International schools in Tokyo offer a wide range of programmes, as well as tuition fees, from those aligned to numerous foreign curricula to integrative approaches which combine Japanese and international educational models. While most institutions teach general courses in English and follow an American or British curriculum, some schools cater specifically to French, German, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean expats, as well as some other nationalities.

Admission requirements for international schools differ widely and, of course, depend on the school. Tuition and costs also vary and, aside from basic tuition costs, there may be additional costs for things such as uniforms, field trips, bus services and even technology fees.

Most international schools follow the northern hemisphere academic year with a seven- to eight-hour day, generally from 8am to about 3pm.

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