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OIS offers international curriculum challenges

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2010-09-16

Okinawa International School is small, but growing, and Masato Chinen knows he’s taking his students on an adventure they’ll appreciate throughout their lives.

Chinen is President, Director and Principal of the Naha-based Okinawa International School, a school that’s nearly busting at the seams as parents seeking a world class education for their children enroll them in OIS, which uses the International Baccalaureate program as its foundation. A man with a vision, as well as a love for children, Chinen has the school on a fast track for success, making his move from Tokyo to Okinawa a decade ago.

OIS is an English-immersion curriculum school, with the intent of producing motivated, educated youngsters ready to accept roles as Global Citizens. It was the first English-language school instituted in Okinawa.

OIS follows an inquiry-based curriculum in line with the IB Primary Years Program, with the intent of producing motivated, educated youngsters ready to accept roles as Global Citizens. It is also the first English Immersion language school instituted in Okinawa.

“Hold on to your dream. Climb for it” is the Okinawa International School motto, and one that Chinen embraces personally as well as patiently emphasizing repeatedly to his young charges. Since founding the school in 2003, he’s turned the fledgling school into an educational success story for youngsters pre-school through kindergarten, and on to elementary school. From the initial dozen students in a small storefront building, he’s built the student body to more than 130, served by 18 teachers and eight staff members. OIS is now an IB Candidate school.

“I really really need a new place,” he smiles as he warms to talking about the International Baccalaureate Program that’s the backbone of curriculum. Okinawa International School’s growth has Chinen already scouting for a new location; he’s almost outgrown the current school. By next year, when OIS receives its final IB certifications, his vision is for exponential growth in all age groups.

IB is really three programs that carry children from the IB Primary Years Program currently being offered at OIS for kids 3~12, to IB Middle Years Program for youngsters 11~16, and the IB Diploma Program for teens 16~19. The Primary Years Program focuses on development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. As OIS grows, the Middle Years Program sets the stage for educational challenges, encouraging students to embrace and understand connections between traditional subjects and the real world, enabling them to become critical and reflective thinkers.

The IB Diploma Program is the educationally challenging program that balances traditional education courses with independent study and examinations geared to preparing each student for success in universities and colleges, and on into life after formal education. Chinen dreams big, just as he encourages his students to do. He sees the day when Okinawa International School is offering everything to his young wards, from diapers to diplomas.

There are more than 2,700 IB accredited schools around the world, with more than 50,000 teachers educating close to 800,000 students. “There are lots of schools around that use strictly an American curriculum,” Chinen says, “but we’re the only one offering an international education. I wanted to make Okinawa International School truly international, so we opted to go IB.” The high caliber demands of IB bring a dedicated teaching staff to OIS, as IB is authorized anywhere in the world.

Two things Chinen is proud of with his intense IB programs; computers and Information Technology programs, now in their fourth year, are totally state of the art, and International Culture and History are both educational and informative, as well as popular with students.

There are no restrictions on enrollment at OIS, Chinen points out, although he underscores English is the fundamental language. About 10% of his students are foreigners; the remainder are Japanese who either already have sufficient English language skills or who are enrolled in English as a Second Language to develop their skills. Okinawa International School is a private institution, and operates with no government subsidies.

Okinawa International School begins reaching children in the formative years, with a Hummingbird program for one-year-olds, and Cygnet, a toddler course, for two-year-olds. In addition to the academic instruction, the programs also offer extended care programs to assist working families. The youngster programs can be entered either three or five times weekly. OIS also offers summer programs.

The OIS limits its classroom size to 20-25 students to facilitate a closer education experience between teachers and the children. Japanese language and culture are taught in the school, and the international nature of the teaching staff—which includes Korean, Cambodian, Filipino and Chinese—creates a multi-cultural, multi-racial atmosphere and educational environment.

Okinawa International School’s enrollment and tuition fees are reasonable, says Chinen, who adds that he and his staff work closely with families on payment plans that accommodate different needs. Okinawa International School is located at 2-34-22Sobe in Naha City. Parents who would like to consider enrolling their children in OIS may call (098) 835-1851. More about OIS is available at www.ois-edu.com.

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