Hiroshima International School

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima international school (HIS) and this Fall the school welcomes a new school principal, Mark Exton, who has a strong teaching background and is passionate about ways to help the school continue to improve and grow. The future looks bright for HIS as it is one of only two schools in Hiroshima with the globally recognized International Baccalaureate (IB) program and is now poised to develop into a more important resource for our multilingual and multicultural Hiroshima community.

Located in the hills of Asakita-ku, HIS is about a 30 minute drive from Hiroshima’s main train station. The school was originally founded in 1962 as an American school in Ushita and then moved out to the current campus which was built with funding from the Ford Motor Co. Starting this August, the school welcomes a new Principal with a fresh outlook -Mark Exton- to act at the helm. I had a chance to catch up with Mark on his recent visit to HIS to talk with him for this review and I was impressed and inspired by his philosophy and passion for education and making connections with Hiroshima’s international community. I am sure he will be a great asset to the school as well as to the Hiroshima international community at large.

Every April, HIS puts on its annual school festival at its campus which is open to the public and is a fun event for families: entertainment, international food booths, British tea and scones cafe, craft and handmade goods sale, flea market, games and fun for the kids as well as chances to win prizes in a raffle. Other regular events held at the school and for the students include: taking part in the annual Peace Marathon event, volunteer activities (last year in the Tohoku area), fun runs, plays (Romeo and Juliet, the Wizard of Oz, among others), Prom dances, Halloween parties, Bonfire night and more.

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A vision Mr.Exton has for the school is to get a larger number of students in earlier at the lower grades to build their English ability alongside their Japanese skills to give them more advantages to achieve more in the future. He emphasized the need for schools to be thoughtful learning environments for students where they can feel supported to build character, creativity, communication and critical thinking while learning to collaborate and work well with others. As a parent of two as well as having a strong teaching background himself, he is looking forward to working alongside the HIS teachers to make sure the students are taught the necessary learning strategies from a young age that they can build on for a lifetime of education.

The HIS curriculum covers the whole range of pre-university curriculum from age 3 to the end of high school and for the last 5 years, the school has been following the International Baccalaureate Organisation’s (IB) globally certified standard program and curriculum. Another benefit of HIS is the small class sizes; this offers greater individual attention and guidance from the teachers and staff. New Principal Mark Exton says he looks forward to knowing everyone’s name within the first year and feels comfortable working at a small, friendly school. If you visit the school for an event, festival or other occasion, you too will be impressed by this positive atmosphere.

Curriculum

  • According to the new Principal: “Learning at HIS is based upon the philosophy of the International Baccalaureate (IB), with the school being authorised to offer the Primary Years Program (PYP) in EC3 (from age 3 or 4) through to grade 5. The Primary Years Program is adapted to take advantage of the local context to help students relate to their local communities and learn to think creatively and independently. The curriculum is concept-driven, focusing on the teaching of ‘big ideas’, rather than content-based (dependent on certain textbooks and testing materials). In grades 6-10 the school runs its own program, culminating in the examinations of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), an examination program administered by a department of the University of Cambridge. The IB Diploma Program (DP) is for the last two years of school, grades 11 and 12.” The last two years of school (grade 11-12) are focused on getting students ready to enter university abroad or within Japan by using the internationally accredited IB program. TOEFL, SAT and other tests of international standard are available to students of the school to help them apply overseas.
  • In addition to the class curriculum, there are after-school sports clubs like volleyball, basketball and soccer are available and inter-school competitions around the country with other international schools are regularly held. Other after-school clubs such as the Yearbook Club, Programming Club, Bridge club, and Model United Nations Club, Gardening club, Chess, Hip-hop Dance Club, Card games Club, and so on are available and vary depending on current faculty resources. At least one drama production is held every year and rehearsals for this are usually after hours or on weekends.  Similarly, various musical productions (Festive Eve, Spring concert, Grade 12 IB Music performance) practice and rehearse after school.

Calendar

Classes start at 9 am and finish at 3:20.  Students have a 15 minute break in the morning and a 50 minute lunch. The year begins at the end of August and continues until the end of June creating 180 teaching days in total. There are breaks about every 34 teaching days with the biggest break from mid-June to mid- August. There are also 1 week breaks in the middle of October, end of February and end of April. There is a 3 week Christmas break from the middle of December to the second week in January.

*If your kids are coming from the Japanese system or any other school on a different schedule, there may be a gap in their studies. You can get advice from the school about what they may suggest to help fill this “gap” as well as talk with other parents at HIS through the PTA.

Fees

A list of the current school fees can be found here at the HIS website. In brief, Grade 1-12 fees are around 1.3 million yen ($16,352 USD at 79.5 yen to $1) not including administration fees and the cost of sending your child to school on the chartered bus.  No meals are currently provided at the school, so students are asked to bring their own meals and snacks. There are discounts for enrollment of more than one child and there is a scholarship available. For details on pricing and enrollment, see this PDF or contact the school directly. These fees seem in the average to low range when compared to other similarly qualified international schools in Japan. One time sign-up fees are waived for students signing up for pre-school (before 1st grade = 1-5 years).

The (IB) International Baccalaureate program in the news

In recent news, in a bid to boost “globalization” and competency in English in Japan, Mombusho, the Japanese government’s board of education has been seriously considering encouraging more high schools across Japan to become IB certified  (see more: 3/2012 Yomiuri-News). Currently, there are only 16 IB certified schools in Japan, but the ministry of education is hoping to reach its target of 200 schools in less than five years. This is a big selling point for HIS as the school’s IB program is firmly established not only for the high school level, but the necessary strategies and skills needed for the program are taught in the younger grades as well. HIS graduates have been accepted in good quality universities in Japan, Australia, Canada, Korea, America and the United Kingdom.

If you are interested, you can read more about the  school’s history as researched and written by 2006~2012 Principal Peter Mackenzie or find details about events, curriculum and enrollment details on the school’s official website.

Social Networks: Hiroshima International School (HIS) are also on Facebookand Twitter: @HiroIntSchool

Address: 3-49-1 Kurakake,  Asakita- ku, Hiroshima-city, Hiroshima JAPAN 739-1743
Telephone: 082-843-4111 (from outside Japan: +81 82 843 4111)  Fax: 082-843-6399 (from outside Japan: +81 82 843 6399)

E-mail: info@hiroshima-is.ac.jp

jjwalsh

Been enjoying living, working in and writing about Hiroshima since '98- co-founder, editor, photographer and writer for GetHiroshima.com / GetHiroshima map + GetHiroshima magazine

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