Aoba-Japan International School (A-JIS) has two campuses in Tokyo. With one in Meguro and another in Hikarigaoka, it welcomes international students from their first days at school through to their high school graduations and beyond. In an interview with Custom Media, Long Tran and Yuya Ra, two recently graduated students, talked about their fond memories and the skills they have taken away with them from their time at A-JIS.
Tran started studying at Aoba-Japan International School in 2015 and graduated in 2018. About to start studying English and Philosophy at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, he has “become a more mature person” throughout his time at A-JIS. “The teachers were very passionate about what they were trying to teach and how they [helped] the students to succeed”.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an internationally recognised qualification and is renowned for being challenging. At A-JIS, students study through the International Baccalaureate scheme. “I think how the IB reaches really deep into each subject, that really helped me to open my eyes to how far I can go, or how much further I can go in to the subjects”, said Ra. Set to begin her studies in Environmental Biology at Imperial College London in September, she hopes to “use [her] knowledge to fight pollution around the world”.
The IB education requires students to carry out self-directed projects. The independence to work and learn on their own provides them with a skill that will be valuable when they reach university level, and indeed career level. “What I learned from these self-management tasks is that you have to really put yourself on discipline. Discipline and time management”, said Ra. When asked to give advice to younger students, she enthused, “Don’t procrastinate! Stay on your task. You can do it!”
Tran commended the IB for encouraging him to “be experimental with what you give out to the course”. He found the IB gave him “the ability to direct [his] own studies, to read the requirements and see how [he] can fit [him]self in it, or how [he] can take advantage of it and go forward”.
Ra praised the teacher–student relationships, saying she “value[d] how teachers explore[d] questions with the students”. The teaching process at A-JIS is laid back. Since the school is smaller than average, the attention to each student is more concentrated. “If you have a question, [the teachers] have the patience to listen to it and solve it with you”. The trust in and admiration for her teachers was evident, as she praised the laid back but committed attitude towards teaching, making sure every student felt relaxed and free to learn in their own way. “I think [Aoba] gave me an opportunity to develop my own voice”, said Tran.
Ra explained the learning style at Aoba, and how she feels she has benefitted as a student: “We don’t just try to remember it, we are learning to actually incorporate it into our understanding, and so that is why we realised that something we understood before is kind of different from what we are learning now, so let’s figure out why. So those are critical thinking skills, which are important skills, I think”.
To think in depth about what you are learning, question things and try to understand things on a deeper level is something the IB promotes—it pushes students to question their work, and question why they are learning what they are learning. Tran said that “the impulse to look at different perspectives and the ability to direct myself” was a valued aspect of the personal development he had gained at A-JIS.
“The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know and I really was driven by that curiosity,” said Ra. A mature approach to knowledge and learning proves that Aoba has nurtured Ra to increase her hunger for learning. “Don’t be afraid. If you are a curious person, this will be a really good environment for you”, she said, smiling. Tran advised about the importance of enjoying studies, “try to have fun with what you are studying. Don’t see it as something you have to do, but what you can do”.
A-JIS has provided a stable learning structure, preparing these students for their new life at university. Encouraging students and guiding them in to the subjects they enjoy the most seems to be A-JIS’s secret to success.
“When I was younger, I didn’t really think about why I was learning or what I was learning for. I was just learning for the grades … kids aim for high grades because they believe that brings them everything else in life. I started thinking about it once I came to Aoba. I settled on choosing to learn what I like to learn”, said Ra.
This approach results in students being passionate, successful and informed about their future decisions and feeling more confident in their chosen subject when they finally do embark on their post-high school journey.
Tran specifically commended A-JIS for preparing him for university: “My counsellor gave me advice on what to study and what direction I should take. He also read through my university application. I talked to them about my studies and they helped me figure out what I want, and what I should do”.
The social aspect of schooling at A-JIS is a benefit to students who are native and non-native speakers of English. Ra spoke about how A-JIS prompted her to make friends and converse with international students of her age. “I made friends with kids from other countries: Ireland, Malaysia and Japan. Since our [native] languages [are] all different, we spoke English, and so that really helped me to get a hold of how ‘teenage talk’ works in English.”
This experience is a great way to prepare children for their future life, particularly students who plan to attend universities in places such as the UK, the US or Canada. It also aids in opening the minds of young children and getting them to experience contact with people from different cultures and backgrounds from all over the world.
This has been an important part of Tran’s time at A-JIS, as it influenced him to choose to go to university in the UK so he could “use English on a daily basis … in an environment where I can speak the language that I am most familiar with, even outside of school”.
The two students have been raised in a school that provides a clear and independent learning path to all students. Supported by teachers, their peers and their families, they have both achieved the grades they needed to get into two prestigious British universities. Both students are excited about their futures in the UK, and feel prepared for the educational differences between international school and university, due to the IB-style education and the supportive and dedicated school that is A-JIS.