An explosion in the number of Indian workers here has prompted a long-term Indian resident of Tokyo to open a school that offers her compatriots’ children an opportunity to learn about their cultural heritage.
The India International School in Japan, which opened in Tokyo’s Koto Ward in August, is the first of its kind. It has 35 pupils — 23 kindergartners and 12 elementary school students, including one Japanese and two Pakistani children.
“The main reason (for opening the school) is that (more and more Indian) information technology families are coming to Japan. These families are with young children, but they don’t have schools for themselves,” said school President Nirmal Jain, who has lived in Japan for 30 years.
The school, founded with financial support from Indian residents here as well as some Japanese supporters, is chiefly designed to satisfy the needs of Indian residents, said Jain, who has also worked as a radio announcer at Japan Broadcasting Corp., better known as NHK.
With dozens of Indian software services companies having launched operations in Japan since the mid-1990s, the number of Indian residents in Tokyo has risen rapidly. To exacerbate this trend, these firms are now sending more and more programmers to Japan from India.
For example, the Japanese unit of Indian IT giant Wipro Technologies now has about 170 Indian engineers in Japan, more than four times the number it boasted five years ago, according to the firm.
According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the number of Indian residents in the nation’s capital stood at 5,725 as of July this year, compared with 3,074 five years ago and 1,628 a decade ago.
Foreign children in Japan usually enroll either at Japanese schools or at international schools that provide Western education programs.
Yet Japanese schools are often accused of failing to provide support for foreign students who do not understand Japanese well, while enrollment at international schools can be extremely costly for parents, who generally have to pay more than 1 million yen in annual tuition fees.
Meera Gadgil, whose husband runs a computer software firm here, cited cheaper tuition fees as one of the attractions of Jain’s school, which her three-year-old son attends.
Monthly tuition at the India school costs 50,000 yen, roughly half of what is charged by an international school on average.
The school offers a program modeled on the Indian government-set primary school education curriculum, supplying the same textbooks and teaching the Hindi language.
Classes are taught in English, another official language in India, by mostly Indian women who have teaching experience at home, Jain said.
Aishwarya Jayakandan, 7, came to Tokyo with her parents in January 2003, when her father started working at a foreign-affiliated computer company here. After attending an international school, she joined the India school in September.
She said she prefers her current school because she would like to learn Hindi.
Sushma Raju, who came to Japan 5 1/2 years ago after marrying an Indian IT engineer, said their four-year-old son attended a Japanese kindergarten for 1 1/2 years but began attending the India school in the summer.
Although Japanese teachers at the kindergarten helped Raju, who has difficulty speaking Japanese, she wanted her son to learn English at an early stage, she said.
“Ultimately we will go back to India. So when we go back, we don’t want the (education) system to be so different for him,” she said. “If we can get the same Indian education over here, that is a great advantage for us.”
Jain said that while some children were born in Japan or were brought here as babies, her school can provide opportunities to help them understand their own culture.
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