Taste of Japan: Guam school offers language, culture studies

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Photos courtesy of The Japanese School of Guam
Photos courtesy of The Japanese School of Guam

Taste of Japan: Guam school offers language, culture studies

by: Tahahiro Takiguchi | .
Stripes Guam | .
published: April 10, 2018
Living overseas, many parents want their children to experience a cross-cultural learning environment. Those stationed in Japan, may enroll their children in local or international school. It’s a choice they have. 
 
And, believe it or not, if you are stationed on Guam, there is a Japanese school that is open to military kids, at a full-time or part-time basis.
 
Founded in 1989, the Japanese School of Guam runs on the same curriculum and textbooks of public schools in Japan. It is accredited by both the governments of Japan and Guam, and teaches kids in preschool (K-4) through the 9th grade about the Japanese language, culture and good manners. 
 
Although the school was founded for Japanese students whose parents moved to Guam, it accepts all children on the island. Entrance exams or other qualifications are not needed to enroll, according to Keiko Dakanai, chief admin officer of the school. The school’s principal will interview the child and parents to determine if the child needs to enroll in supplemental Japanese conversation classes. 

Several American parents on Guam have enrolled their children in the school, according to Dakanai. 
 
“Some of them sent their children to us, looking to continue their studies according to the Japanese school system, as they had enrolled at local Japanese schools before moving to Guam,” she said.
 
“Overall, I would consider it extremely beneficial for any student to be part of this school and curriculum experience,” said Petra Baldwin, a Navy spouse and part-time ESL teacher at the school since August 2017. “I consider myself quite fortunate to be a member of a great team of English teachers.”
 
Currently nine students from military families are studying alongside 71 Japanese students under the guidance of 25 educators, according to Dakanai.
 
Rona Moore, a military spouse, decided to send her son Immanuel to kindergarten at the school to give him an opportunity to learn Japanese and experience a new culture.
 
“Our experience has been exceptional and we highly recommend the school,” Moore said. “Our son has immersed himself in the school system. He loves every aspect and wakes up excited to go to school.”

“Our kids are far ahead of the curve on math and basic science, and they have opportunities for fun music and sports activities during and after school,” added G. Curt Fiedler, who has his three children - Hana, Nami and Joli – enrolled in the school. “The school has a safe and positive learning environment.”
 
On Guam, knowing Japanese is considered as a great asset in the island’s tourism industry, as more than 900,000 Japanese tourists visit every year - more than 70 percent of all the visitors of the island. So, good language skills gained at the school can translate into good job opportunities later in life.
 
Students at Japanese School of Guam, however, can acquire not only Japanese proficiency but also English abilities with the goal of bilingualism, and that helps students continue their education in higher-level schools, according to Baldwin.
 
“The English teachers strive to design lessons and plans to satisfy all levels of abilities while keeping the Common Core Standards as guidelines,” Baldwin said. “Students at our school successfully transition to pub–lic schools and/or higher education facilities.”
 
Since the school runs on Japanese fundamental values, it also puts an emphasis on raising children to be punctual, clean and polite, according to Dakanai.

“Our school helps children gain dignity through a well-rounded education and various traditional school events, such as sports day and a school trip to Japan,” she said.
 
Moore likes the school’s whole learning experience, not just bookwork and studies.
 
“Children receive life lessons about a healthy mind, body, spirit and respect for self and others,” Moore said. “The attention that every child receives from the entire staff, it truly is a school effort and every sensei is fully attentive to each class.”
 
While the regular program is made up of seven 45-minute classes from 8:10 a.m. to 3:55 p.m., in conformity with the guidelines of the Japanese Ministry of Education, the school offers an after-school program. 
 
In the afterschool program, English class is offered to primary students while abacus calculation, art, music and sports classes are provided to advanced students.
 
Also in the afterschool program, military kids can learn Japanese conversation and abacus calculation while still enrolled in DODEA schools, as the program is offered between 4:10 – 5:50 p.m.
  
While full-time enrollment will run around $4,700 annually, along with $450 entrance, $222 annual registration and $606 annual facility maintenance fees, the after-school program costs $10 per class, with $150 entrance and $125 annual registration fees.
 
“The entire school day is structured like a Japanese school, so children coming here with their parents who attended school in Japan experience a seamless transition,” Baldwin said.
 
Admission to the school is open throughout the year, although the new academic year begins in April, just like in Japan.
 
To make the education at the school really rewarding, however, you may need to consider various things before you make the decision, according to Moore. 
 
“A few considerations might be: how long will you keep them in the school? Do you plan on transferring to another Japanese school when you move? Does your child adapt to change easily, and what do you want your child to take away from the experience?” she said. “We are certainly advocates, but it’s something each family must decide.” 
 
“The school is small and feels like home,” Dakanai added. “If you are interested in our school, feel free to contact us for a visit.”
 
You can find out more about Japanese School of Guam at www.japaneseschoolguam.com, or call 734-8024.
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