“Through projects that have an impact on the local community, students gain confidence and a sense of purpose”

The right approach

Consider which teaching style might be best for your child when looking for a school


FEBRUARY 2022 Industry Perspectives / Text by Toby Waters

There are several different teaching methodologies that schools apply today — from student-centred learning to cooperative learning to more traditional teacher-led classes. It’s good to consider a school’s approach to education when choosing a school for your child.

Effective teaching

NUCB International College (NIC) has a strong focus on developing self-confidence in its students.

“NIC’s educational philosophy revolves around three key words: Believe, Collaborate, and Achieve,” explains Dennis Kelly, principal. “We have observed that a strong sense of self-belief supports a growth mindset, that learning is enhanced by effective collaboration, and that putting a focus on skill development prepares students for excellence in lifelong achievement.”

Hakuba International School puts an emphasises on the need for students to learn by doing.

“Integrally tied to real-world experiences, our project-based learning empowers students to build the skills they need to understand and make sense of complex ideas and concepts,” says Tomoko Kusamoto, director of the Hakuba International School Foundation. “Through projects that have an impact on the local community, students gain confidence and a sense of purpose.”

Hokkaido International School (HIS) sees great value for its students in its own school community.

“At HIS, learning is rooted in relationships and in the school’s communal warmth,” states Tim Schlosser, head of school. “Through a balanced, experiential approach, we cultivate students who possess a global perspective, a strong character, and a deep commitment to building a brighter future.”

At Laurus International School of Science, science and innovation are seen as fundamental to success in tomorrow’s world, according to Mami Hioki, head of school.

“As the only science-focused international school in Japan, our goal is to nurture future innovators who will change the world for the better. We do this by putting an emphasis on STEM subjects,” she notes. “Parents choose Laurus because they know their children will be actively engaged in learning while having fun.”

Ensuring that lessons are as meaningful as possible for students is one key area of focus for St. Michael’s International School, Kobe (SMIS Kobe).

“Our innovative curriculum is designed around how children learn and incorporates best practices in primary education. This thematic approach to learning is exciting, active, and meaningful for children,” says Gill Tyrer, head of school. “Designed to prepare them for the future, the curriculum focuses on academics as well as the development of personal qualities and international characteristics.”

What’s most important at Gymboree is that pre-schoolers express and enjoy themselves while learning.

“At Gymboree, we follow a ‘child-led’ learning approach and encourage exploration and self-expression in a play-based learning environment,” says Elena Carrick, trainer in the Mommy & Me Programme at Gymboree Play & Music Japan. “During our Mommy & Me and drop-off programmes, children are encouraged, but not forced, to participate in our activities, which helps them grow into confident, happy, and motivated learners.”

Nishimachi International School puts a priority on making sure its students gain a deep understanding of everything taught in the classroom.

“‘Understanding by Design’ is the basis of the curricular framework at Nishimachi. This concept of curriculum development, assessment, and instruction is designed to foster deep understanding by providing students with stimulating and rewarding learning experiences,” says Matt Marson, director of learning and innovation. “At Nishimachi, student comprehension and the ability to communicate what they have learned is the ultimate goal.”

At MEES, students are encouraged to pursue areas that interest them most, according to Euft van den Berg, principal and founder.

“Children are natural learners who learn best when given the chance to follow their own interests. So, at MEES we offer project-based learning [PBL],” he says. “PBL is a student-centred, dynamic, pedagogical approach that provides opportunities for children to acquire in-depth knowledge by actively exploring real-world challenges.”

Saint Maur International School is invested in developing its students in every possible way.

“At Saint Maur, our approach is to effectively combine learning and pastoral care to help young people grow academically, morally, spiritually, and emotionally,” states Annette Levy, head of school. “We want to see each of our students become well-rounded individuals, ready to navigate their way through life. This will teach them to take responsibility to serve others and make the world better.”

Getting involved

Both active student learning and cooperation in the classroom are foundational to many schools, including St. Alban’s Nursery.

“At St. Alban’s, we foster student engagement by promoting group work and collaboration in our mixed-age classes,” says Gilma Yamamoto-Copeland, nursery director. “This allows children to learn from and help each other, and it is immensely beneficial in improving their confidence, motivation, and overall learning experience.”

At Phoenix House International School, students feel like they are part of the larger school community, according to Claire Fletcher, head of school.

“All children and members of staff are allocated to one of four houses: Snowdon, Rothesay, Oak, or Windsor,” she says. “House membership comes with the responsibility to contribute to the success of the house and to commit to encouraging the achievement of others.”

SMIS Kobe’s Tyrer wants its students to understand that what they learn in the classroom is connected to the real world.

“Through our thematic approach, children are motivated to make purposeful connections between the classroom and daily life, and they discover how individual subjects relate to the world around them,” she says. “Collaborative learning, active learning, learning outside the classroom, role play, research, and presentations all encourage children to engage in learning that is relevant to their interests and needs.”

At Nishimachi International School, students are given an education that will allow them to get involved in our globalised world.

Nishimachi International School’s curriculum is structured to ensure that students receive a rigorous education, relevant to their environment and their experiences in a global community,” Marson explains. “Students are at the centre of the learning process throughout their time with us and are supported by a nurturing faculty as well as by technology that promotes effective learning.”

The staff at Gymboree International School believe that active learning should be encouraged from an early age.

“Our Gymboree International School preschool and after-school curriculum provides children with many opportunities for hands-on learning, including group art and STEM projects, group discussions, and show-and-tell sessions,” says Sandra Graff, Preschool & After School trainer. “These activities help children build the social, emotional, and communication skills they need to succeed at school and in their future lives.”

Being distinct

Each school has attributes that set it apart from others. For the newly opened Phoenix House, it is excited to promote its English boarding school-style education.

“We were delighted to open our doors in August 2021, providing a fresh option for parents in Tokyo seeking a British preparatory school,” Fletcher says. “Phoenix House follows the high academic standards, rigour, and expectations of the National Curriculum of England, while exposing children to a range of enrichment opportunities in the wider curriculum.”

Saint Maur’s long history in Japan helps to distinguish it from other schools.

“Saint Maur has developed a community that has held together across generations — and this year, we celebrate our 150-year anniversary,” notes Levy. “A sense of belonging quickly grows for students and parents as our community is one that joins together in learning, in achievement, in challenging ourselves, and in serving others.”

According to Yamamoto-Copeland, the strong relationships between families at St. Alban’s International Nursery is what sets it apart.

“We have created a close-knit community of families in a warm and welcoming environment that our pupils thrive in,” she says. “We aim for our children to progress at their own pace and to see our classroom as an extension of the family unit.”

MEES’s van den Berg believes that his school’s distinctive approach to learning makes it well-suited to meet the specific needs of students today.

“As a newly founded school, MEES was able to redefine traditional educational structures. With mixed-age classes, we break up in level-appropriate groups, which vary in size or are taught individually,” he says. “Subjects are not standalone but taught through projects, which are initiated by students. Through students’ own research, they acquire the knowledge to proceed, and what is learned becomes more meaningful.”

NUCB relies on its strong educational programme to attract students.

“We teach according to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (DP) as well as the case method, which emphasises inquiry-based, problem-solving learning,” says Kelly. “The DP builds the students’ academic ability to the equivalent of first-year university level, while case method teaching develops leadership and decision-making skills by applying students’ education to real and imaginary scenarios.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Laurus’s focus on STEM subjects has given its students an edge.

“Although we closed some classes due to the pandemic, we were able to smoothly transition from in-person to online lessons,” she said. “Our students already had experience using technology in the classroom, so it was easy for them to shift to remote learning using the devices they had at home.”

The great outdoors as teacher

Some schools set a high priority on giving their students the experience of being in the natural world.

“The natural environment of Hokkaido provides unique educational opportunities,” Hokkaido International School’s Schlosser says. “Our outdoor and arts programmes have been historical pillars of the school’s identity, and we are one of only a few international schools in Japan offering a full seventh to 12th grade boarding programme.”

Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture also provides numerous learning opportunities for students in the great outdoors.

“Set in a stunning locale that is connected both to the local community and to nature, Hakuba International School offers a unique learning experience,” says Kusamoto. “Project-based learning, social and emotional learning, outdoor education, residential life, and a focus on sustainability all play essential roles in enabling our students to grow into responsible young adults who will make a positive impact in the world.”

Although all of these excellent schools have different approaches to teaching, they ensure that their students’ best interests are at the centre of everything they do.