Have you moved to Japan with an older child, or are you thinking about making the switch to a Japanese school in order to integrate in your local community, or save on the cost of international school fees?
Enrolling in a Japanese elementary school may seem daunting, but it is quite doable. If you need some help with the Japanese language side of things, Omakase Helper can help you.
When should you enrol?
The school year starts in April, so you need to start the process in November the year before. If you miss this deadline, it’s okay, your child can start at any point during the year.
Is my child old enough?
The child should have turned 6 before April 2nd in order to start first grade. Elementary school goes to 12 years old.
What if my child speaks no Japanese?
Most wards and areas will provide extra support for kids who don’t speak Japanese. This may be free Japanese classes, or an interpreter at the school. Speak to your Board of Education office to arrange this, or you can request Omakase Helper to do it on your behalf.
Does it cost money?
Public school in Japan is free, but there are some costs such as school lunch fee (about 4000 yen per month), after school care if you work, PTA fee and supplies.
How do you enrol?
First, you must have a valid address in Japan. You then need to register it at your ward office.
If you have an address, you are ready to start the procedure, which is as follows:
1. Go to the Board of Education office and inform them of your intention to enter public school. Your child will be assigned to the school which is nearest to your house, generally.
They will give you documents to fill out which are in Japanese. This is the “Application Form for Enrollment of Non-Japanese Students” (Gaikokujin Jidou Seito Nyuugaku Shinseisho) or the “Guide for School Enrollment” (Shuugaku annai) (for children who will just start to attend school).
2. Submit this form. They will give you the “Enrollment Permit for Non-Japanese Students” (Gaikokujin Jidou Seito Nyuugaku Kyokasho) (they will give them to you as soon as you submit the papers or they will send it by mail).
3. Then you must visit the school, with an interpreter if you don’t speak Japanese. This is for the interview (kouchou mensetsu). They will ask about your child’s name/nickname, educational history (bring transcripts if you have them), language ability, medical history, strong and weak points, and so on. You will need to provide an emergency contact and information about the parents.
4. Around February the school will hold a meeting with all the new parents (called hogosha-kai). They will tell you what to do for the entrance ceremony, what supplies to buy, what your child should know how to do before entering school and more. They expect the kids to be able to read and write their name in hiragana, use the toilet, dress themselves, use chopsticks and cross the road.
This chart by the Ministry of Education is helpful:
What supplies do you need?
Each school will provide you with a list of supplies that you need to buy. In general it will be things like:
- Backpack (Most kids take a “randoseru”)
- School hat
- Indoor shoes
- Bag for carrying indoor shoes
- Hand towels
- Sports and swimming uniforms
- Notebooks, pencils (etc.)
- Earthquake protection helmet
- Calligraphy set
Is there anything else you need to sign up for?
If you work, your child might need after school care. This is called “gakudo” and you will need to sign up for this. These applications are due before April, so there is a chance the program could already be full if you start late in the year.
If your child will walk to/from school without you, they may join an organized walking group. You need to sign up for this too.
If you are overwhelmed by all of this, Omakase Helper can provide assistance at any step: https://www.omakase-helper.com/schooling-service/