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Private nursery schools strive to offer novel services

JIJI

With the number of privately run nursery schools increasing in Japan, many such facilities are working to come up with novel services to survive, including original educational materials and English conversation classes.

While the number of children on nursery waiting lists remains high, nursery school operators are keen to find ways to differentiate themselves to stay in business, even as the country’s birthrate continues to fall.

Major nursery service provider JP Holdings Inc. started using new educational materials at its nursing schools in June for children aged between 1 and 3 years old. The new workbooks are linked with picture books and are designed to develop socializing skills and language abilities.

“After assessing the effects of the materials, we will consider offering them to other nursery schools and kindergartens,” said Hiromi Yamaguchi, president of JP Holdings.

Nichii Gakkan Co., another nursing care provider, is promoting collaboration between its nursing schools and its English conversation school, Coco Juku.

As of the end of March, native English teachers from Coco Juku have been sent to 16 nursery schools run by Nichii Gakkan to give English classes to toddlers. As tuition is included in the overall child care fees, parents do not need to pay additional costs.

Responding to the tendency to start English education at an early age, Coco Juku is considering providing more nursery schools with teachers.

Success Holdings Co., which mainly operates in-house nursery schools, such as those for the children of hospital personnel, has developed a computer system that calculates child care fees based on usage of services by individual clients, including whether children are looked after during night shifts.

As the government plans to expand public support for in-house nursery schools in April 2015, Success Holdings is hoping to attract more companies to use its child care services.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, there were a total of 474 authorized nursery schools run by private companies as of April 2013. The figure represented a jump of 24 percent from a year earlier, apparently because private companies and social welfare corporations are now being treated equally by local governments that authorize the establishment of nursery schools.