United School of Tokyo makes an attractive offer

By on November 10, 2014
Choosing an international education means being prepared to shell out two million yen or more in annual tuition. But this new school offers families an option to prohibitive tuition fees.

International schools in Japan are expensive and, without “gakko hojin” status or accreditation by the Ministry of Education (with the exception of a few), do not qualify for government subsidy. This means schools have to fund its operations from tuition alone. For some families, the prohibitive cost narrows down their options to just two: go for the Japanese school system or leave Japan and relocate to some place else.

A new wave of school founders though have been actively making a sea change in the international education scene in the city. Not long ago, Natasha Dytham, together with a team of educators and parents, opened United School of Tokyo in Shibuya offering tuition fees at almost half the rate of what other schools charge. TF talks to Natasha to find out more.

TF: What is UST about?
Natasha Dytham: United School of Tokyo (UST) started in June 2014. Most of our faculty members have worked together for several years in the past before we decided to come together to make our dream school.

United School of Tokyo is a unique school founded by educators and parents devoted to providing the best care and educational choices to our students.  UST recognizes that parents and teachers’ goals are universally aligned:. We do not see school as a business, we are not interested in profits – we want to do things right for our children and provide them with the best learning opportunities and life experiences. That’s how the idea of United School of Tokyo was born. Families and educators decided to come together to provide affordable, quality education for families in Tokyo.

TF: Tell us about the programs being offered at your new school.
ND: United School of Tokyo is an international school for children between the ages of 3 and 12 years old.

UST1At UST, we see ourselves as an international elementary school with feeder Pre-school, Pre-K and Kindergarten. All of our early childhood programs are offered for the full day (9 am -3 pm), 5 days a week. We do not have any part-time programs. Elementary school hours are 8:45 am to 3:15 pm. We also offer extra-curricular classes from 3:15 pm to 4:15 pm and extended care until 5:15 pm. To develop stronger ties with the neighboring community, we let children from other schools join our after-school classes.

On Saturdays, we host three types of Saturday school classes: one for babies and toddlers, one for kindergartners and one for elementary school age children.

During the summer, we offer a 6-week intensive summer school program for children between the ages of 3.5 to 10 years old.

For more information about our classes you can visit our school website. www.united-school.jp

TF: What is UST’s unique vantage point in terms of learning environment?

ND: I can talk about our school for hours (laughter) but if I have to describe United School of Tokyo in a few words, I would say:
▪ Multinational
▪ Child-centric
▪ Small classes
▪ Warm, family-like atmosphere
▪ Rigorous holistic curriculum with emphasis on experiential education, creativity, arts and physical education
▪ Daily Japanese classes

Another big advantage of our school is its tuition. One of our commitments is to help families that are looking for more affordable international school choices in Tokyo. UST strongly believes that access to a good education should be a right, not a privilege. Families living in Japan should have viable options of schools and educational systems available to choose from, without having it become a financial burden.

TF:What’s the teacher to student ratio in all classes?
ND: In order to ensure that children receive the individualized attention they need, we keep our classes small. The maximum number per class is 15 students. In our early learning classes, pre-school, pre-K and Kindergarten, each class has two teachers. Elementary school classes have one homeroom teacher.

A big advantage of being a small school is that we can maintain a warm, family-like atmosphere that we believe is very important because we are dealing with very young children for whom our school might be their first. We really want to make sure that all our students feel safe, happy and supported being away from their parents.

TF: What’s UST’s driving philosophy in terms of curriculum focus and vision?
Can you please explain how do children benefit from a ‘child-centric’ approach?
ND: We believe that education should be child-centered. Matching teaching to the different
learning needs of children in the class is important because young children learn at different pace and different ways. We believe that helping young children learn at their own pace and develop their unique abilities and talents, while allowing them to enjoy their childhood (that they only get to experience once, by the way) helps raise happy, confident and well-rounded individuals who are more motivated and likely to be successful.

Child-centric teaching also helps keep behavior difficulties to a minimum. Children who are well motivated and on task, doing activities that are closely matched to their skills and abilities are less likely to act out.

In addition to teaching children self-respect, we teach them the importance of taking ownership of their learning, being responsible and showing respect for others. We want our students to know that every cause has an effect and everything we say or do could directly or indirectly affect life and people around us. We think that the best way to deliver this message is by helping our students become socially active and learn the importance of making a difference. Our students learn that every little deed counts, no matter how small it may seem. Whether they are helping a neighbor or a friend, cleaning their classroom or a park, recycling paper or saving electricity, donating books to their classroom or raising money to support fellow students in Cambodia – all of these are equally important acts of kindness, responsibility and benevolence that we want our students to partake in.

UST3TF: Not all families have the same needs.  What do you provide to those who might need extra help?
ND: As a school that works with young children, we believe in the importance of individualized attention and flexibility. We are always ready to assist a student or help out a parent. For children who have academic needs, we offer daily ESL classes or after-school support with any of the subjects they need help with. We offer after-school classes and extended care to support working parents. We also foster a strong sense of community at the school by promoting a regular school-to-parent and parent-to-parent communication and hosting events and workshops catered to the whole family.

TF:Who may and may not be admitted at UST?
ND: In order to guarantee a high level of English language among our students, we maintain a 70/30 ratio of students with near-native fluency of English vs. students who require ESL support.  As all classroom instructions are conducted in English, an admission priority is given to children who demonstrate age-appropriate fluency in English.  Children who need help with their English receive daily ESL support in addition to regular classes.

Due to lack of special resources, UST does not offer specialist support programs for students with learning difficulties and behavioral differences.  Exceptional admission may, however, be granted to students whose individual learning or behavioral requirements can be met within the mainstream classroom without significant additional support. We generally like to help families because we know how hard it could be to find the right school for your child, especially if your child needs extra help. However, we also need to act responsibly and make sure that such needs could be successfully met within our framework.

TF: Lastly, why should parents choose United School of Tokyo?
ND: With an annual tuition ranging from 1.1 to 1.3 million yen, United School of Tokyo presents a more affordable choice for international education.
While being a school with comparatively lower tuition, we are proud to say that our students have access to the best programs, facilities, technology, curricular and extra curricular activities, and live a very eventful school life by participating in many cultural and sporting events within the international school community and the local Japanese community.
UST is a truly multinational and multicultural school. We have over 20 different nationalities represented at the school and we like to create opportunities for our students to learn about and celebrate different cultures around the world.
While being an academic school, our main focus is to help raise well-rounded children. We have small classes and family-like atmosphere to help young children feel “at home” and happy. We employ a child-centric approach to education built upon the principles of experiential learning, importance of outdoor education and creativity.
UST uses American curricular standards and a well-balanced curriculum designed to better serve the academic and social needs of our students.
We strongly believe in the importance of teaching our students Japanese language and culture to enrich their experiences while living in Japan, and help them better integrate into the Japanese society and make a meaningful contribution to the local community. Our rigorous Japanese program, based on the Japanese national curricular standards, is taught daily.
UST is conveniently located in the heart of Shibuya-ward; .We enjoy access to great local parks and sport facilities that we use on a daily basis.
We believe in the importance of teaching our students a strong sense of responsibility, community service and charitability.
To enrich the lives of our students and help out working parents, UST offers an extra-curricular and extended care program that runs until 5:15 pm.
UST has school buses that run through Shinagawa-ku, Minato-ku, Meguro-ku, Shibuya-ku and Shinjuku-ku.

Natasha Dytham, a Tokyo resident for 15 years and a mum of two, is the Principal of United School of Tokyo. She has two Master’s Degrees and had a long career in .education and business before becoming a school principal for nearly three years. UST’s upcoming Open House dates are : November 15 at 1 p.m. and December. 13 at 1 p.m.

For more information,

United School of Tokyo   2-21-10 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

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