Japan’s first British Columbia-Certified Offshore School
British Columbia (BC) offshore schools are not new to the world, but they are to Japan. Bunka Suginami Canadian International School (BSCIS), Tokyo, is the first BC-Certified offshore school in Japan and is now in its third year.
The first BC offshore school was opened in 1997. What started with 14 students in one classroom in Dalian, China, has expanded to more than 10,000 students in 35 BC offshore schools around the world.
According to the British Columbia Ministry of Education website, “The B.C. Global Education Program makes it possible for schools in other countries (offshore schools) to offer B.C. curriculum to international students.”
Adopting the BC curriculum does take time though. It took three years for our Bunka Suginami host school to negotiate to have a BC offshore school in Tokyo. But the rewards of the curriculum are tangible. The Program for International Student Assessment — a branch of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development known as PISA — reviews and ranks schools from more than 100 countries. In the last review, BC students were ranked top in literacy, second in science and sixth in math in the world. This assessment shows that the BC curriculum, as implemented by BC teachers, has excellent results.
The curriculum focuses on ensuring that students are prepared to take an active part in modern-day society with global skills that will help them on whatever path they choose. The curriculum offers students various opportunities to discuss, present and be involved in their learning.
The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is planning to change the K to 12 curriculum across Japan, to enable students to develop higher-level thinking skills.
Established in 1974, Bunka Suginami High School has attracted students from across Tokyo, especially for its student-led fashion program and sports teams, which have won many national championships. However, it decided to apply to host a BC offshore school starting in April 2015 to meet the needs of 21st-century learning.
Our students are mostly Japanese nationals, who have come to us from the mainstream Japanese education system. They earn a Double Diploma (DD) at our school.
When they enter our program, all of our classes—half of each day—focus on studying “in English”, not “about English”. Our BC classes taught for half of every day focus on content but, even more importantly, on active learning skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Our students learn to express their opinions and become empowered learners. With these skills, students graduate with a BC Dogwood Secondary School certificate.
For the other half of each day students are taught core MEXT-mandated Japanese subjects, by experienced and creative Japanese teachers. They therefore also graduate with a Japanese school Leaving Certificate.
Every year, the BSCIS grows by one grade. Next year our school will start being co-ed in grades 7 and 10 with a new DD prep school starting in grade 7.
The Canadian education curriculum encourages them to engage with a passion in class activities, and challenges them to take their place in the world as empowered global citizens.
This is the third year of our bi-lingual, bi-cultural adventure. Our first grade 12 students are scanning universities in Japan and around the world to decide which one will be the best fit for their interests and skills. We celebrate how hard these students have worked and we look forward to seeing how each one of them will make this world a better place.