Immersion Education & Bilingualism
Is the English Immersion & Bilingual Program for me?
What is the difference between the English Immersion & Bilingual Program and an International School?There are a number of differences between the Bilingual Program option at Gyoshu and other international schools in Japan. The major differences can be grouped under four general categories:
- Language: Most international schools cannot fully support bilingualism and biliteracy in both English and Japanese. Too often, education in an international school results in less than full Japanese language development, especially in the areas of reading and writing, for Japanese children. While students may develop high levels of English proficiency, first language (Japanese) literacy is often diminished. The educational environment in the English Immersion & Bilingual Program would be identified as an “additive bilingual” language learning environment in that students acquire a second language (English) without any negative impact on their first language (Japanese) development. While students rarely reach native levels of English proficiency upon graduation of the Bilingual Program, student’s English proficiency should be sufficient to succeed at the university level in the USA. In our program we consider the maintenance of native-level reading and writing skills in Japanese critically important for the student’s future. This is something that most international schools are unable to fully address.
- Identity: Japanese students in international schools typically encounter issues relating to their cultural identity. Identity issues are complex but some of the reasons for this include:
- most classmates are non-Japanese
- most teachers and staff are non-Japanese
- the school curriculum and culture are non-Japanese
- Japanese language and culture are not strongly promoted or supported
- For Japanese students where their cultural identity becomes an issue they may find it somewhat difficult to feel comfortable living in Japan or abroad. On the other hand, Japanese students in the Bilingual Program do not develop any ambiguity about their cultural identity. Japanese language and culture are promoted and valued and, as such, they develop pride in being Japanese. However, because of their experiences in the program they also develop a more open attitude towards things that are non-Japanese as well as a more global perspective of their world. Maintaining one’s own cultural identity is often a very important consideration for parents and students and a major difference between the goals of the Bilingual Program and other international schools in Japan.
- Two Curricula & Two Diplomas: An additional feature that may be important for many secondary school students is that the Bilingual Program follows guidelines from the Japanese Ministry of Education and the International Baccalaureate Organization. Students and parents can be reassured that they are getting a Japanese education in the Bilingual Program. However, the program goes beyond simply providing Japanese education and incorporates an international curriculum into the course so that high school students can graduate with two diplomas, one Japanese and one international. Having two diplomas enhances students’ post-secondary opportunities in Japan and abroad.
- Future Goals: Choosing between an international school and English Immersion & Bilingual Program may come down to the student’s goals and aspirations for their future. If the student sees an advantage in maintaining their Japanese language proficiency and identity and wishes to keep their post-secondary school options open then the Bilingual Program would be the better option in most cases.
What’s the difference between the Elementary Immersion Program and the Bilingual Program at Gyoshu Junior & Senior High School?There is a significant increase in the level of content, language and commitment required of students at the junior high school. Not only is the content much more difficult but the level of English used at the junior high level is much more challenging as well. The reading difficulty of the textbooks is higher and the amount of reading and writing students must do in the program is greater.
Students are also expected to be more independent and responsible for their progress in the course. Students should be well on their way towards developing good independent study habits.
Because of the greater demands of the program, student motivation becomes a key factor in their success in the program. Students without clear reasons for remaining in the program or who are not strongly motivated to further develop their English language skills may find the course extremely difficult.
What is the relationship between the Bilingual Program and the Core Program at Gyoshu Junior & Senior High School?There are a number of similarities and differences between the Bilingual Program and the other two course options at Gyoshu (Core Course and Alpha Course). The Bilingual Program follows the same curriculum guidelines and covers the same basic content as the regular Gyoshu program. Within this curriculum framework, the philosophy and characteristics of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme (MYP) is incorporated into the grade 7-10 program. The incorporation of the MYP can be accomplished because of the flexibility of the MYP program and because the content of Gyoshu’s regular curriculum and the major areas of the MYP program overlap.
An obvious difference between the programs is that a significant amount of the classes are conducted in English. The classes taught in English are conducted by licensed and experienced English speaking teachers from around the world. In the Bilingual Program students have two homeroom teachers?one Japanese and one foreign. Many of the Japanese Ministry of Education approved textbooks are translated into English and students have access to both the English and Japanese versions for their studies.
Regular (weekly) opportunities to review scientific and mathematical terminology in Japanese are provided for the students. In addition to the content classes taught in English, students also have supplement classes once a week to review material and technical vocabulary in Japanese. Students receive on-going assessments in both English and Japanese to ensure that students are maintaining the same level of academic achievement as students in the other courses at Gyoshu.
There are a number of differences between the Bilingual Program and the other Gyoshu courses. Information and communication technology is an important part of the Bilingual Program and takes a more significant place in the overall program than in the other courses offered at Gyoshu. Greater integration of content disciplines, more frequent opportunities for self-expression and greater emphasis on independent research skills are also important distinctions between the programs. There is also a greater emphasis on learning to take risks, actively participate in classes, and using higher order thinking skills.
Students who hope to continue in the program at the high school level are also encouraged to participate in a 3½ week exchange program abroad in grade 7. This is a program only offered to students in the Bilingual Program.