What Is The Difference Between International And National Schools?

Currently, getting an international education is one of the best gifts that parents can give their kids. With globalization, the society of today requires not only knowledge but the skills to understand diversity, respect for cultural differences, and cooperation with others, no matter where you come from.

One of the most significant factors families planning to move abroad should consider is where they should send their children to school – International or national schools. Both options have their upsides and downsides, and choosing which education experience best fits your child’s needs is no easy task. That’s why we’ve put together the difference between national and international schools in Tokyo to help you make informed decisions.


An international school uses a teaching curriculum different from that of the host nation. Today, the most popular curriculum choices in international schools are the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, the national curriculum of England, and the US-oriented curriculum. For instance, the IB curriculum offers three separate curriculums, which include the Primary Years Program (3-19), Middle Years Program (11-16), and the Diploma Program (16-19). 

These programs are intertwined and are meant to ensure interactivity, cross-disciplinary connections, inquiry, and international awareness to the students. This curriculum is designed to provide flexibility by accommodating national or local curriculum requirements. Generally, the IB programs are more academically rigorous than other national curriculums. 

Approaches for teaching English

English is one of the most spoken languages globally. In international schools, students use English as the language of learning. The teachers engage kids to speak English not only in the classroom but also during the extracurricular activities. This provides an excellent language environment for kids to speak and use English.

This is different when it comes to national schools where students will only study and practice English only during the English subject session. All the other lessons are taught in the country’s mother tongue language. This makes it hard for children to interact or work in other countries since they are only limited to their national language.

Professional Development 

There are over 300,000 thousand teaching staff tutoring all over the world in international schools. They come from different countries making international schools a collection of nationalities, with many opportunities for the staff to share techniques and expertise. This global diversity of teaching staff provides best practices from different nations that can be shared and incorporated into students.

On the other hand, most staff in public schools are from the local surrounding. As a result, there will be no much professional development and new cultural incorporations to students limiting their opportunities to national levels. The only professional development opportunity available is through teacher’s training provided by the national government.

Class Sizes

International schools keep their class size very small, not more than 20 students. With fewer students, kids don’t get the opportunity to hide behind others and, thus, get left behind when they don’t understand concepts. This also means that each student gets a fair share of the teacher’s attention, participate in discussions, and express their opinions. Most research has proven that smaller classes have students with higher grades and better performance in exams and other activities.

For national schools, you will find more than 40 students in one class. A teacher at such a classroom will not be able to observe and assess the whole class or individual students adequately.

Co-curricular and after school Activities

In international schools, you will get a pool of activities from which your child can choose, from the cooking club to the soccer team, drawing club, etc. Usually, before selecting an extracurricular activity, students and parents are taken through a series of questions to determine the student’s best activity. The after-school tasks are well scheduled, and some coaches are employed to train the students. 

You will also find many different extracurriculars public schools; however, they are not as functional as those of international schools. Students choose any activity without undertaking the strength test to determine in which task they can do best.

 Tuition Fee

All these benefits of studying in an international school in Tokyo come at a price. Be ready to part with several dollars for your child to access excellent education. Most international education is expensive, but it’s worth investing your kids’ education on them. 

On the other side, most governments have made their national school free of tuition fees. This could explain students’ large class sizes and lack of personal interaction between the teachers and students. 

It is clear that these two education approaches have distinct differences that set one from each other. With international schools taking all the advantages, ranging from developing international, open-minded students to smaller classroom sizes, it quite evident that its tuition fee is far more expensive for average families. All in all, the issue of globalization and diversification is pushing forward international schools in Tokyo. 


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