So you want your child to speak English? OK, lets look at the entire range of bilingual kindergartens in the Tokyo market. Bilingual Kindergartens obviously come in various shapes and sizes so lets start with the very smallest.
The smallest operators are usually those with little to no business experience. These are formed by individual teachers who have usually worked in a larger setting for a few years and feel that they then want to do something on their own. Its generally ok if they are only looking after a few children but you still have to be careful in this situation as these backyard operators are prone to mistakes, especially of course if they are not fully qualified in childcare.
Of course they are likely to be hard working, honest people with big hearts but the reality is that child care, particularly when its your child, is a serious business. Customers need a smooth experience and they definitely want their child to be safe.
Now lets jump to the other end of the scale and look at the big operators. These bilingual kindergarten operators have plenty of business experience. These are the companies that drive around in fleets of big busses (usually yellow, so that they are as visible as possible) they are well organized and will do almost anything to win market share. Their main goal is the expansion of their franchise, so they want to grow as big and quickly as possible.
They will most certainly teach your child English and in a safe environment. But is this enough?
Many of these operators are “skimming” the market, they provide the very basics, a foreign English teacher (who is often more of an entertainer than an educator) because many young parents just entering the market, falsely believe that this is all that's needed. As a parent you need toask yourself “other than a basic form of English entertainment, is there any other important substance to what they are providing my child?”
If not, lets look more deeply here at what a bilingual kindergarten really should be. Should it be a place that's largely concerned about making money. I don't think so. And I’m sure that many people would agree with me.
A bilingual kindergarten should be a place that is well organized, has warmth and heart, is safe, professional and can provide a wide variety of English experiences where the children are so engaged and loved that their entire school experience shapes them into the kind of children who are integrated perfectly into an English/Japanese culture.
By “perfectly” I mean deeply. Deeper involvement leads to greater understanding, learning, thinking and success.
It is the mid sized, duel family operated, bilingual kindergartens who can provide this, particularly if you can find the right school.
So why is the culture of a bilingual kindergarten so important?
The culture of a bilingual kindergarten will shape and influence the entire English experience that your child receives. If the culture is shallow, then your child’s grasp of English thinking will be light. If the culture is deep the school will provide deep learning experiences in English and therefore the children get to explore English in a way that deep learning and thinking takes place. They will fully embrace English with their hearts and minds and they will come to understand the two different views of thinking in Japanese and English.
Let me put it simply, to get your child to learn basic English is not enough. Your child is not truly bilingual until they can understand the two different ways of thinking. When a bilingual child comes to fully understand the two different views of thinking. Then they become masters of what they do.
A bilingual master, as an adult, can work in any company, either Japanese or English and they can understand the needs of both cultures. It is not enough to be a Japanese adult who can just speak English (or vise versa). This is not understanding.
A bilingual kindergarten with a strong culture can provide this understanding in your child’s early years, which will then make them a balanced bilingual master. Understanding is needed more than just the ability to recall words. This is what all true bilingual Kindergartens must and should provide.
A young parent who truly understands this vital aspect of what it takes to be bilingual master is guaranteed to discover the right bilingual kindergarten for their child.