For Japanese families who are living in Cambodia, the educational environment for children should also be of great concern. Japanese School of Phnom Penh, which was established as the first Japanese school in Cambodia celebrates its third year in 2017. Previously Japanese family’s choices were limited to international schools and a supplementary lesson in Japanese led by parents. We asked Mr. Miura, the principal of the school about the educational situation in Cambodia and the school’s educational policies. (Interviewed at: September, 2017)
Nobuhiro Miura: Principal of Japanese School of Phnom Penh .
“The fascinating Great JSPP” is our target
What kind of school management are you targeting now that the school is in its third year?
In the first year, we focused on excitement for children, so we could be an “intellectual amusement park”. In the second year, we aimed to improve the quality of what we could achieve in the first year. And this year now that we are in the third year, we want more people to know the merit of our school. So, we set our goal as “The fascinating Great JSPP”, so that people outside of the school will notice the difference.
Now you have a school theme song and a school badge.
The music was written by Mr. Kazuomi Chiba (former Kaientai), and the words were written by Ms. Mieko Osanai who is the director of JHP. The school badge’s rough designs were created by students and parents of the school, then graphic designer Ms. Yuko Sakamoto brushed it up into several logos. We then voted for the best design. The badge design is a combination of cherry blossoms as a symbol of Japan, lotus flower and rice as a symbol of Cambodia. The great thing about being part of a newly opened school is that students, teachers and parents can experience many exciting steps that others can’t.
How many students do you have?
We have 61 students and 3 in a trial enrollment, a total of 64. Three years ago, we started at 21 students, now we have three times as many students. Back then we used two vans as school buses, now we have three medium sized buses. The buses are run by the parent’s council. Next year, we expect the number of students to be over 80. And more than one hundred in the next several years.
Developing education to connect with Cambodian people
How are you building the student’s relationship with Cambodia?
We are interacting with local schools. The junior high school has exchange programs with Hunsen Muoy Luy secondary school and the elementary school has exchange programs with Vatana Vichhay elementary school three times a year. They introduce each other’s schools and countries, play games together to deepen friendship. We have invited the schools to the children’s festival which will be held in November. During the exchange program, the conversation between them are in English or Khmer, they can communicate during introduction, but it is difficult when it comes to introducing schools and the culture, so we ask students from RUPP and Mekong university who are studying Japanese to assist as interpreters.
In the future, we hope to be able to coordinate homestay programs between the locals and the Japanese families, so they can deepen their understanding of each other’s cultures.
Significant growth through lifestyle economic studies and integrated studies
What kind of activities do you work on during lifestyle economic studies and integrated studies?
Lifestyle economic studies and integrated studies both have a fixed goal, but the learning process is what the students create themselves. It is a fun learning process that draws out the children’s abilities. Last year, we practiced the following studies in each of the age groups.
The first and second grade students created their own forest and expressed themselves through music and games, based on what they had observed and found in the nature geopark exploration. We also did a presentation on this at the children’s festival. In addition, at the exchange program with the COMBI kindergarten, we had fun through games and teaching traditional games from Japan.
The third and fourth graders worked on a variety of activities such as traditional crafts, food and play to deepen their understanding with Cambodia. The third-grade students made coconut oil and summarized the report through a paper. When creating the paper, we had instructions from those who work in the editing of free magazines. It wasn’t a pretend play but a hands-on experience for them. the fourth graders experienced traditional Cambodian pottery, some cooking classes making Cambodian sweets. They also grew and harvested cotton plants and made towels from them.
Fifth graders learned about food through the production of vegetables, we named it “Project F, let’s make Cambodian Donburi, JSPP style”. We started by creating a spot within the school for a small vegetable farm, grew the vegetables, made a vegetable tempura donburi (bowl), and sold the left-over tomatoes. Their task started at getting permission from the land lord, the principle and the students in the other grades, tearing out the concrete tiles to make a field before they could start growing the vegetables. During the whole process other classes would take part too and we would invite professional farmers as advisors. Vegetables was not the only thing they harvested. Children commented, “the bond between the class mates have deepened through our lessons.”, which made me very happy.
The sixth graders worked on a theme of “Becoming a friendship ambassador to Cambodia”. They planned their school trip, planned their itinerary so they could be the tour guide. As a part of combining social studies, they studied the Cambodian history. As graduation approached, they all studied their personal history looking back at their own growth.
The junior high school students worked on the garbage problem that Cambodia faces. While examining various areas, they wished to know the awareness of garbage by the local Cambodian people. We asked Hunsen Muoy Luy secondary school to cooperate on a survey and gathered data from nearly 500 people. Combining with the technical studies, they made garbage boxes to put around the school, which is the first step the students could take at the time. They also campaigned for the separation of garbage and were responsible for the garbage collection at the Bon Odori event last year. They also created a video of the school and published it, so we can use it as a presentation tool when we have exchange programs with other schools.
Our school is the only Japanese school in Cambodia. Because of this, many Japanese people who visit us or are working in Cambodia put in efforts for the students. There are many experiences that we could not do at a regular Japanese school, but thanks to this environment, the students can take part in many different projects during lifestyle economic studies and integrated studies and learn from them.
On the last interview, you had hopes to start school lunch, have you had any progress in this?
There are various problems and we have not been able to start it yet. Currently on every Fridays, students can order bread lunch box from a Japanese baker. The first-grade students also went to this bakery for bread making experience by the way. School lunch has not been implemented yet, but like the schools in Japan, we want the students to eat something warm all together, so the parent’s council hosts a “Curry lunch day” twice a year. On that day, the students bring white rice, and the parents will prepare curry in the cooking room, so we can have lunch all together. We make Japanese curry on the first occasion and Khmer curry on the second occasion, and it is very popular with the students.
Choosing a school based on future careers
What is the conclusive factor when choosing a school for your children between an international school and a Japanese school?
Whether it is an international school or a Japanese school, I think that you should decide based on the child’s future career plans. If you plan to return to Japan at some point and receive a Japanese education, all the entrance examination is going to be in Japanese. Education at a Japanese school is effective to acquire the ability to think in Japanese and to be able to tackle examinations. If you are going to be in Cambodia or any other foreign country, your children better learn English attending an international school. You may think that it is better to choose an international school just for the experience, but you should always think about your future career plans before deciding what school to send your children to. There is no doubt that Japanese schools are suitable for establishing Japanese as a mother tongue.
In addition, the Japanese school curriculum is based on the curriculum guidelines of the Ministry of Education (MEXT) in Japan. The curriculum consists of general studies plus moral studies such as greetings, cleaning and collective behavior. Because you are living overseas, you can learn more than what’s on the curriculum in a way. Also, your alumni and classmates will spread all over Japan and overseas. The previous school I worked at, the Shenzhen Japanese school in China holds alumni gatherings all over Japan. There are alumni associations of parents and teachers too. The possibility to form a wide community is another great aspect to choose the Japanese school.
Create a school that nurtures a child’s individuality
As the principle, what are your values?
I hope to make it a fun and fulfilling environment where children look forward to coming to school every day, a school where each child can grow. I am conducting a practical research to nurture the individuality of children through teacher’s training. Teaching is not the only factor in education, children learn by their own power and grow watching others. To nurture individuality in children, it is also important for the teachers to know “when not to talk”, “when not to teach” and “when not to bring a matter to a conclusion”. I think that it is necessary for children to think about themselves, their troubles and knock ideas against each other to grow together. I believe that if we can do that, we can create a school that I am aiming for which is “the exciting intellectual amusement park”.
- Japanese School of Phnom Penh
- Description of Business : Japanese Education