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Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System: How Good Practice Is Positively Impacting Education Provision Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System



Japan is moving from a traditional focus on prescriptive English education towards a more forward-looking hybrid model, melding the influences of the world-class international baccalaureate (IB) curriculum into the existing Japanese educational model. In this chapter, the authors review the background and describe developments that are framing the debate regarding secondary school reform. Specifically, they investigate how IB in Japan is shaping new practices, which will be shown to have duals aims. The first is to nurture the higher-order reasoning abilities of students, in addition to analytical research and presentation skills. The second is to promote stronger English second-language acquisition. The authors also explore in what ways the introduction of IB is engendering positive changes to the English curriculum in the non-IB sector and in the university sector. This is an issue that is being keenly observed by both policymakers, educators, and the international baccalaureate organization.
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Chapter 3
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5846-0.ch003
Japan is moving from a traditional focus on prescriptive English education towards a more forward-
looking hybrid model, melding the inuences of the world-class international baccalaureate (IB) cur-
riculum into the existing Japanese educational model. In this chapter, the authors review the background
and describe developments that are framing the debate regarding secondary school reform. Specically,
they investigate how IB in Japan is shaping new practices, which will be shown to have duals aims. The
rst is to nurture the higher-order reasoning abilities of students, in addition to analytical research and
presentation skills. The second is to promote stronger English second-language acquisition. The authors
also explore in what ways the introduction of IB is engendering positive changes to the English cur-
riculum in the non-IB sector and in the university sector. This is an issue that is being keenly observed
by both policymakers, educators, and the international baccalaureate organization.
Local Implementation of
International Baccalaureate
in the Japanese Secondary
School System:
How Good Practice Is Positively
Impacting Education Provision
David Gregory Coulson
Ritsumeikan University, Japan
Shammi Datta
Tokyo Gakugei University, Japan
Mai Sugawara
Ritsumeikan University, Japan
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
In its efforts to bring about improvements in education, Japan has historically looked outwards for ideas
to borrow, adapt and mix with home-grown ideas. From the Meiji era, western education systems have
been the model that Japan has tried to emulate. Over time, Japan has developed a hybrid brand of educa-
tion which has been perceived very positively in the international sphere. In the 1980s, at the height of
Japan’s economic boom, the moniker Japan as Number One was widespread and international experts
sought to study, especially regarding literacy and numeracy attainment, what Japan had achieved so well
in its schools. However, the protracted economic decline of the 1990s brought about a period of intense,
critical self-reflection, including a focus on the aims of education. English is still mainly taught through
formal prescriptive methodologies, but it has come to be acknowledged that the attainment of English
in Japan is less than that in comparable neighboring countries, such as South Korea.
It is against this backdrop that the Japanese government stated its aim of creating 200 International
Baccalaureate (IB) schools by 2018. Funding from the government was provided to analyze IB, and
other non-Japanese curriculum models such as those in South Korea, China, India, Germany were also
examined. Japan-based IB educators and those based overseas were invited to serve on panels, advisory
boards, and research projects. Substantial funding and personnel support for the English-Japanese bilin-
gual International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) project were also allocated. In this way,
policy makers have clearly looked both inwards and outwards to create a new hybrid model to address
the current need for fundamental reforms.
In practice, the target of reaching 200 IB schools by 2018 has proved to be over-ambitious and the
plan has been pushed back to at least 2020. Nevertheless, the plan has been expanded, and now includes
international schools and state schools wishing to put themselves forward as candidates for the IB ac-
creditation process. A push from the grass-roots level for reform has thus become apparent.
The initial aim of the government was to create advanced Diploma Programme (DP) schools. This
implies a considerable loss of centralized control over curriculum to an international organization, a
remarkable proposition for a generally conservative administration. This move can also be construed
as an attempt by policy makers to give a more global, international direction to education reform. The
impression of one of the authors of this paper who has closely observed this process, is that sections of
Japan’s centralized education policy department had been in discreet touch with officials of the Inter-
national Baccalaureate Organization, and that an understanding was reached that a small number of IB
schools would be monitored over the medium term.
Against this background, the goal of this chapter is to consider where Japan has reached in its reform
of education curriculum, especially with regards to English teaching. This is of particular relevance as
the new national curriculum for secondary schools has just been officially released for public comment.
Two case studies of schools will be described as a means of examining the role that IB is playing in
education reform in this country.
The IB system was founded in 1968, and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Over 2,700 schools in 138
countries now offer this curriculum (Wilkinson & Hayden, 2010). The IB curriculum consists of the
Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the IBDP, and the Career-
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
related Programme (CP) curriculum outline. The IBDP requires completion of a course of study in two
languages. Other components are Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences and Mathematics,
as well as a sixth course taken either as a second choice from one of the former or from a group of Arts
subjects. Two further requirements are the completion of a 4,000-word Extended Essay and a course in
the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) in which students explore the nature of knowledge across disciplines.
The overall aim of the curriculum is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, internationally-minded
and caring young people who can help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural
understanding and respect. Hinrichs (2002) enumerates the benefits of the IB curriculum as including:
The development of communication, reasoning and responsibility;
The capacity to appreciate diverse ethnicities and religions and recognize the interconnection
between one’s own culture and that of others;
The development of an understanding of current aairs and global issues so that an apprecia-
tion of the value of peace is gained, and how this takes precedence over ones own culture and
A recognition of how the policies of one’s own nation may aect the world;
The development of respect for democracy and basic human rights.
As this indicates, there is more to the IB philosophy than just academic excellence. It also aims for
the emotional and moral development of young people, focusing on the development of respect for the
self and the community. Ten personal attributes subsume all IB-courses. These, according to the IB-
Learner Profile, are:
In academic terms, globally IBDP has garnered an extremely positive reputation. Data collected by
the International Baccalaureate Organization (2016) shows extremely favorable outcomes for school
pupils who have studied the IBDP, compared to other programs. For example, both British and Turkish
IB-students were reported to be significantly more likely to attend the best universities, and also at-
tained better grades in their degrees. Cole, Gannon, Ullman and Rooney (2014) reported the statistically
significant development of the critical thinking skills of students enrolled in an Australian IB program
over two successive years.
Curricular Features of IBDP Curriculum
One of the signature courses of the IBDP curriculum relevant to this paper is the TOK. Its aim is to in-
troduce an examination of logic in the structure of understanding, focusing on the truth and the validity
of propositions. Through this, students are expected to become able to share their views on problems of
Table 1. Personal attributes
Inquirers Open-minded
Knowledgeable Caring
Thinkers Risk-takers
Communicators Balanced
Principled Reflective
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
understanding, acknowledging that the distinction between correct” and “false” ideas is less important
than reasoned debate aiming at creating shared understanding. TOK introduces an overarching concept,
as this philosophy of understanding is applied to all IB subjects where students are expected to ques-
tion their books and teachers. At its heart, it represents a tradition of acquiring knowledge that stands in
contrast to rote memorization. Through it, students are expected to become able to express themselves
concisely and logically in written essays. Amongst all aspects of the IBDP curriculum, TOK has been the
target of the most keen interest and analysis in domestic education circles. Books and articles analyzing
TOK in the local language are popular reading at teacher education programs. Official TOK workshops
generate waiting lists, and IBO has had to schedule extra sessions to meet this level of interest. Unofficial
TOK study groups and events have also sprung up. All this could be argued to demonstrate a perception
among educators that higher level critical thinking skills were lacking from secondary level education
at national curriculum schools.
Another fundamental component of the IB curriculum is Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS). This
encourages students to think beyond the confines of the classroom by having them come into contact
with people in their community, interacting with them in various ways, and engaging in voluntary ac-
tivities as a means of understanding and empathizing with people in different situations to their own.
As the nature of these components implies, IB does not have rigid methodologies for pedagogy, so it is
in the hands of teachers to make a success of their lessons, pushing the students in their classes towards
their own lines of inquiry.
The Situation in Japanese Secondary School Education
Students in Japan are often described as having a low-level of engagement with English, especially in
comparison to students in neighboring Asian countries. For example, in figures reported by Yoshida
(2013), nearly 80% of Korean students say they read books written in English in addition to those that
they read for school, whereas the figure for Japan is only 27%. Concerning this, Yoshida speculates that
teachers’ low rate of using English in classrooms, even for oral communication classes, is indicative of
a curriculum not set up to help students develop English abilities as a means of communication. This is
compounded by a teacher-training system in which learner-centered methodologies are not necessarily
prioritized. Generally, this situation manifests itself in the relatively poor English proficiency levels of
high school students. A comparison of scores on the TOEFL iBT test shows that Japanese students’
scores on the speaking and writing sections are near the bottom among Asian countries (Educational
Testing Service, 2012). Thus, it is unsurprising that the number of Japanese students who study abroad
has fallen sharply since 2004 (Cabinet Office, 2012, p. 3).
In response, the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) has explicitly stated that the aim of foreign
language education is for young people to become able to interact effectively with non-Japanese people.
While no doubt sincere, it seems clear that one reason Japanese youngsters fail to come to grips with
English is due to viewing it as a foreign language where the objective standard of native speakers is
held as the only acceptable criteria. This is a view bolstered by a pre-occupation with accuracy at the
expense of fluency (see Izumi, 2013), and the influence of the national university entrance examination,
which sets absolute correctness as the goal. The view of learners in the Japanese system is as perpetual
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
“learners”, rather than as “users” who may become able to use English as multi-competent individuals
(Cook & Wei, 2016).
Background to Curriculum Innovation in Japan
Challenges to the English education orthodoxy have a long history in Japan. Much research in English-
teaching circles has emphasized the importance of including global issues in ELT classes, mainly at
the university level. As long ago as 1990, the influential Japan-based teacher, Kip Cates, stressed the
importance of a “global” approach to education, divided into knowledge, skills, attitudes and action.
Cates stated, “Knowledge about world problems is the first goal. If we want students to work for a bet-
ter world, they must know the nature of world problems, their causes, and viable solutions” (1990, p.
4). This clearly implies an approach to critical thinking development as a primary activity in English
education. The author stressed the centrality of global awareness, curiosity, empathy and justice as goals
for English education. Such an approach finds support in, for example, the United Nations Lingua Pax
program, which promotes peaceful co-existence and prosperity in a multilingual world. Nevertheless,
this and numerous similar approaches, inspired more by thinking from the TESOL world than policy
makers, are found mainly in the tertiary sector.
While success has been achieved by individual teachers in secondary education, the situation alluded
to by Yoshida (2013) should be familiar to Japan-based secondary English teachers. Conversely, Japan
does have its fair share of excellence in teacher-training. For example, advances in the promotion of
the Content and Language Integrated Learning approach for secondary education, with similar goals to
Cates (1990), have been championed by teacher trainers (Izumi, 2016).
Difficulties With Implementation of IB in the Japanese Context
Eriguchi (2014) is an authoritative commentator on education reform in Japan, particularly concerning
IB. He acknowledges that the Diploma Programme (IBDP or DP) is the most difficult to implement in
Japan for local students, not least because of the level of English proficiency required by the DP, but also
because the requisite academic skills are not well established among Japanese school-age children (espe-
cially those with little, or no, overseas experience). Eriguchi states that one problem is the incompatibility
of the IB syllabus with the demands of the university entrance examination. Until now, only a relatively
small number of prestigious universities accept IB for entry to university. Further, many students hold-
ing the IB certificate do not enter Japanese universities, as we shall see in case studies described below.
Eriguchi (2014) emphasizes the importance of locally contextualized solutions for how IB can be
integrated with the university entrance system, and why this is in fact essential for underpinning students’
self-esteem and motivation to study. Under the influence of IB, with its focus on CAS, for example,
universities in Japan may come to examine candidates considering all their background activities and
contributions, rather than the present system which is only concerned with the number of mistakes they
make in tests.
Critiques of International Baccalaureate in Japan
One welcome response by the Japanese government towards the situation described above has been
to encourage the adoption of the IB curriculum by the secondary education system to promote greater
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
educational diversity. Nevertheless, some analysis has commented on how this initiative has fared
relatively poorly. For instance, Yano (2012) contrasted high school students’ experience in Japanese
negatively with the IB Programme. Although his analysis showed that the number of instruction hours
for required and elective subjects is equivalent to the IBDP, the major difference between the two is the
time provided for higher-level, more intellectually-demanding courses. In DP, 240 hours is allotted for
the higher level whereas the maximum for required courses in Japan is only 140 hours. Moreover, the
DP provides hours for the Extended Essay, TOK and CAS, which also promote critical thinking, as well
as language development. Yano concludes that, although Japan has required courses for all students,
they do not provide high-level chances, accessible by all. Specifically, he recommends adapting CAS to
ensure a higher quality of education in Japanese schools.
Maki Shibuya (2013) examined the concept of IB as a means of producing global human resources,
a requirement also mentioned by Yoshida (2013). Shibuya focuses on extra-curricular activities in ju-
nior high schools and concludes that adapting the IB Programme into the Japanese curriculum could
strengthen the link between the subjects taught in schools and what is occurring in wider society. She
examines two schools in Japan that have adopted the MYP program. Holistic Learning, Multicultural
Understanding, and Communication are the key concepts of the MYP program.
Holistic Learning aims to promote development of the whole individual, incorporating extra-curricular
activities. Area of Interaction (AOI) is another component. This covers core elements that draw links
between the curriculum and society. Shibuya (2013) describes five parts: approaches to learning, com-
munity and service, human ingenuity, the environment, health and social education. In the curriculum
of one school described below, there is one bilingual class and three regular classes with Japanese as the
medium of instruction. In most classes, Ministry-approved textbooks are used; however, to incorporate
IB principles, extra-curricular activities are added or reorganized. This school balances the education
of globalized students while enriching their identity as Japanese.
Shibuya (2013) argues that incorporating MYP ideas in these cases in Japan goes beyond the perception
of such innovative curricula as mere entertaining diversions. That is, MYP links courses of study with
actual society. She mentions the difficulty of training teachers to put the MYP concepts into practice due
to time and resource limitations. Nevertheless, Shibuya states that IB should not be taken as an article
of dogma, but as a chance to critique and reappraise the pros and cons of Japanese secondary education.
Following the review above, it is clear that the IB approach is highly innovative in that it encourages
individuals to take responsibility for their own inquiry-based, critically-reflective learning. It also offers
a potential way forward for the locally-contextualized development of 21st century curricula, offering
students chances for intellectual development and identity formation as language users. Yet, as Japan-
based researchers have pointed out, the full IBDP curriculum is usually too demanding for the majority
of children following the regular secondary MEXT curriculum in Japan. It is interesting to note that this
has indeed been in evidence in the school systems of British Columbia and California, where the majority
of students at IBDP schools opt for only certain components of the IBDP. Schools and students feel that
even a partial IBDP coursework gives an added value over a typical local curriculum course of study.
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
In response, innovative forms of IB, or IB-inspired curricula, are appearing in Japanese schools.
In the case studies offered below, our concern is not so much with what changes may accrue to Japa-
nese children from partial or full IB, whose benefits are well attested. Rather, we aim to elucidate the
potential cross-over influences of IB on the regular school curriculum. This is especially pertinent in
schools where both regular MEXT courses are taught in parallel to the IB curriculum. Evidence of such
cross-pollination represents a road map for English curriculum development in Japan and may even be
useful further afield too. Out of consideration for privacy, school names and identifying dates in each
school’s history are not revealed.
A Private High School With Both MEXT and IB Curricula
School Profile: This study focused on a prestigious junior/senior high school affiliated with a large,
private university. An interview was conducted with five teachers in the team (the headmaster, the head
of the IB Programme, two Americans teaching TOK in the English immersion program, and a Japanese
teacher of literature). The school has had a history of teaching the IB curriculum for about seven years,
as a dual diploma in either Japanese or English. In addition, the regular MEXT curriculum and a non-
IB, English-Immersion (IM) course of study are also taught in parallel in the school. This course was
created to appeal to ambitious students who may lack the depth of English skill to deal with the rigor
of the full IB Programme. The parent university acquired the school several years previously and aimed
to have a stream of IB-certificate holding students matriculate into its undergraduate programs, thereby
strengthening its plans to become a global university.
The data-gathering proceeded as a set of semi-structured interviews with the five individuals men-
tioned above. Below the major themes, with supporting details that emerged during interviews lasting
about three hours, are summarized. Concerning the main issue of whether the IB-curriculum has a posi-
tive effect on the more traditional, MEXT-dictated course of study, the following points emerged. First,
when the IB-course was initiated, it was intended that it would have a positive influence on the other non
IB-courses as well. This has transpired. For example, the TOK course (one of the signature IB-courses,
described above) has been adopted by the non-IB English IM program, and the regular high school
course. Interestingly, however, TOK has evolved to match the specific requirements of the high school
course in which it is taught, adjusting to the academic, cognitive and linguistic level of the students in
each case, with the result that the IM and the IB are now distinct in how they are taught in the curriculum.
Second, concerning the degree of influence the IB has on the other courses in the school, it emerged
that this effect begins during the first three years of the Junior High School (ages 12 to 15), where a
specially formulated class entitled the International Preparatory Stream (IPS) is offered, and from which
students regularly progress into the high school IB Programme. One informant reported that most of the
school’s IB teachers also teach in the IPS program, where there are classes with a curriculum loosely
inspired by the IB MYP. These classes do not yet follow an IB curriculum. The class is diverse in that
“returnees” (students with extended experience of living abroad) are enrolled.
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
Nevertheless, the parent university’s plan that this would create a stream of IB-certificate-holding
new undergraduates failed to materialize as strongly as planned. These IB-students have preferred to look
beyond Japan for university education, or else attend English-medium universities in Tokyo. Instead, it
has been the school’s experience that it is from the IM courses (the non IB-course which nevertheless
teaches the TOK curriculum in English) that a stream of students has flowed into Japanese university
undergraduate programs. All the teachers reported that this has created a legacy/pathway towards suc-
cess for all the non IB-students in the school. Consequently, a portrait of a very positive effect of the
IM-course on the total student body, not just the minority IB-students, emerges. This is inspired by, but
distinct from, what the IB-course provides. This is significant because the IM-course is mainly com-
posed of students who have not had overseas experience or are from mixed-race families. Rather, these
are ambitious children who have learned English as a second language through their own enthusiastic,
committed efforts. Further, it was pointed out that the full IB Programme may be too much of a gap to
bridge for such students.
During the visit to the school for the interviews, an invitation was extended to observe one of these
IM classes where a team-taught TOK lesson was underway. The students in this class were third years
(ages 17 to 18), and had all studied TOK for one year, and had spent one year studying overseas. The
class topic was the issue of mind-body duality, considering how humans perceive physical emotions.
After considering material from the TOK book, the two American teachers conducted an exploration of
this issue. Noticeably, a constant oral interaction about the issue was maintained between the teachers and
students and between the students themselves. The pace did not obviously slow due to any concerns on
the part of the teachers with lack of understanding, as would be typical even in quite advanced TESOL
discussion classes in universities. The students were constantly on task and appeared to be intellectually
engaged in following the philosophical implications of the lesson. During the lesson, one of the teachers
referred to the ten personal attributes, mentioned above, posted on the wall (and, indeed, throughout the
school) as reminders to students to strive to develop themselves.
Concerning assessment, in typical MEXT-prescribed courses of study, students usually view the tasks
and exercises as having only one correct answer, but not so in this school. Following the introduction
of the IB in the school, and its positive influence on parallel courses described above, an IB-inspired
rubric was implemented in the IM course. Specifically, there was a direct influence from the IB-course,
which engendered a change in the IM-course students perceptions of what constitutes a good grade.
The IM has always had a completion essay, but the teachers started tying it to the model of the IB Ex-
tended Essay. It was reported that the IM students became much more accepting of teachers’ discretion
in awarding grades for original, thoughtful work displaying evidence of critical thinking, rather than
assessment based on dichotomous grading. While the quality of the arguments in written essays might be
lower in contrast to those written by students in the TOK classes, it is clear that the performance of the
IM students was excellent. Interestingly, the IM teachers also make use of Japanese-language materials
to support and enrich the understanding of their pupils. This practice finds support in the practice of
“translanguaging, whereby the use of all students’ linguistic skills constitutes good pedagogic practice
(see Adamson & Coulson, 2015).
In sum, in a school where the IB-curriculum is deployed, there is clear evidence of a very beneficial
cross-pollination from the IB-course. The IM students may not yet have the bilingual resources to keep
up in a full IB-course, but their development as young academic users of English is unmistakable. Fur-
thermore, the benefits of a bilingual education are seen in more than just academics. Concerning CAS,
described above, it was reported that the IB-class students fully enjoy interacting with the people they
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
meet during their projects. All students end up feeling that it is worth being involved in national and
international initiatives, including, for example, taking part in volunteer projects in developing Asian
nations. It was reported that such CAS-inspired projects match the 10-point school teaching statement.
This is directly modeled on the IB concept, which includes qualities such as being open-minded and
A MEXT Curriculum Junior/Senior High School With
an IBDP Track Option and MYP Courses
The following case is particularly revealing in our approach, since one of the school’s founding goals
was to assess how an IB-style education would influence the national curriculum, thereby gaining the
interest of observers at MEXT, local Boards of Education and the media.
School Profile: It is a private, co-ed school where about half the students are returnees, or children
of international marriages. Compared to similar schools, it has a lower student-teacher ratio, more over-
seas teachers, and all full-time Japanese teachers are expected to have at least some understanding of
English. More than 90 percent of the graduates proceed to four-year university programs. The school
recently merged with a large private university, a trend also seen in the first case study. The school
shares a geographical site with a PYP, MYP, DP IB World School (henceforth: IB sister school) on a
“two schools together” model.
Currently, about half the school leavers enter the attached university. As in the first case study, to the
university’s disappointment, the more strongly bilingual graduates, including those with IB-certificates,
often choose overseas or domestic English-medium/bilingual universities. Interestingly, a university
administrator revealed that this fact had led to debate on university curricular innovation to attract more
bilingual and internationally-experienced students.
Almost all students at this school’s IB Programme go through the full PYP-DP coursework. In com-
parison, in the MEXT curriculum stream, all junior high school students are exposed to some IB-MYP
courses (such as English, Art, Music and PE). When they continue to the high school, they have a choice
from various IB-style (inquiry-based) courses. One of the most significant findings was that the range
of inquiry-based courses had steadily increased since the school’s inception. In interviews, the increase
in provision of such courses was attributed to recent trends in educational reform. In fact, only a very
small number of students in this school aim for the full IBDP (3-4 per year). However, other inquiry-
based school elective courses are typically subscribed to maximum capacity, again attesting to intense
interest in non-prescriptive style courses.
One of the authors was deeply involved in this school’s curricular development, and this led to the
chance for interviews with various stakeholders. An ongoing aspect of this school is that its lessons
and management are regularly observed by policy makers, researchers and educators. Such instances of
observation form the bulk of the data collected. Examination of the data revealed two significant points.
First, the MYP and IBDP courses are shared with the IB sister school, allowing students from both
courses to attend. All Language B courses in IBDP are for second-language learners. That is, a “native
speaker” is not supposed to take Language B. IBDP English A (first-language level), IBDP History,
TOK, and MYP Art, Music, and PE were observed, and interviews conducted with those involved. The
classes were taught in English or English-Japanese bilingually to predominantly Japanese students,
similarly to the first case study.
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
Second, some of school’s non-shared/non-IB classes are based on IB or inquiry-based education.
For this report, Social Studies classes taught in English or bilingually by an IB experienced educator
were observed.
What, then, are the education reform expectations and goals resulting from the above two innovative
aspects? In the interviews, the following points consistently arose. The degree of reported progress (not
at all; to some degree; to a high degree) is shown in each case set against expectations at the outset. The
overall results were as follows:
The opportunity to enhance English acquisition: to a high degree;
Wider university entrance opportunities for the student body: to a high degree;
Adequate preparation for academic and life-long skills such as higher-order inquiry,
Analysis, critical thinking, research and presentations, that would be applicable in any
high-level school, university, or workplace inside or outside of Japan: to a high degree;
Preparation for some MYP-age students to aim for the full IBDP: to some degree;
Cross-pollination of teaching practices between the school and the IB sister school, and
Overall positive impact on non-IB track courses (mainly educators and administrators):
To some degree (and increasing);
Positive dierentiation of oneself in a competitive education industry: to a high degree;
School advancement (thanks to administrators and managers): to a high degree.
The interviews also revealed that IBDP courses such as TOK, Language A and B, the Individuals
and Societies (IBDP group 3), the Extended Essay, CAS and, indeed, most aspects of the DP, succeeded
in promoting the development of skills such as higher-order inquiry, analysis, critical thinking, research
and presentations. The result was the same for the courses modelled on the IB/inquiry, referring to the
courses mentioned in the second point above. Most students referred to the availability of such educa-
tional courses as a primary reason for choosing to attend this school over a school offering a more typical
national curriculum based heavily on one-way lecturing and rote memorization.
In terms of English language acquisition for both those born and raised in Japan and returnees, in-
terviews with educators and students indicated that expectations are being well met. Having Japanese
L1-speaking students graduate with a much higher English ability in comparison with that of national-
curriculum schools has been one of the main goals of the school. The best objective indicator of this
attainment is that, recently, the school has appeared at the top of a regional table of TOEFL test scores.
In addition, graduates consistently score highly on the IELTS, and other test scores, required to get ac-
cepted to English-medium universities overseas and within Japan. The school was reported to be among
the best in the area for success in this regard.
When asked how such English acquisition and/or improvement gains were achieved, the provision
of English-only and English-Japanese bilingual courses and bilingual extracurricular activities was
given as a key factor. Concerning this, it is pertinent to ask what influence IB had. It emerged that the
school invests more than comparable schools on its English department. Students are placed according
to language ability, with the top students being able to take IBDP (English A) from year 11. English B
is available to acquisition-level students and is extremely popular. Bilingual, and/or English-only MYP
Art, Music, PE classes and after school activities, and a bilingual library with bilingual support staff,
were all observed to come together as a well-planned education package. Graduates, students, parents,
and teachers agreed that the existence of a K-12 IB world school within the same building, as well as the
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
sharing of some of the faculty offices, most learning spaces and student social spaces, are essential to
the overall level of English acquisition that can be achieved. Similarly, a shared faculty lounge, faculty
and administration offices, the cafeteria, the entrance hall, a theatre, a gymnasium, the sports ground,
the student council, and major events such as sports day and the school festival, are all shared or fully
Overall, students aiming to acquire English need rich chances for incidental learning, and, thus, need
to hear and produce as much English as possible. This is available in most aspects of school life. Further,
the English and humanities departments run joint Model United Nations classes (currently very popular
at many international schools) at quite advanced ESL levels. Events such as English story-telling by
high school students to their peers in the IB sister-school PYP, a high school class on bilingualism, and
many other classes also make good use of the IB sister school community.
Some national curriculum non-IBDP social studies classes at the high school level are offered in
English to sufficiently capable students and, at various levels of bilingual proficiency, to “English-ac-
quisition level students. The latter was started experimentally in 2010 but was continued and expanded
in response to popular demand. Student surveys in each class showed that over two-thirds of students
expressed a desire for this bilingual approach to continue. The students interviewed frequently gave
“tangible” English improvement and domestic emphasis on globally competitive skills as their main
reason to continue opting for the bilingual classes.
The following specific classroom practices were also observed as being useful for facilitating higher-
order reasoning, analysis, research and presentation skills at times in a bilingual setting:
Formulating research questions, research design, and overcoming research challenges
Research through multiple perspectives using a variety of sources
Referencing and, particularly, critical evaluation of sources
Mutual constructive criticism between peers
Cycles of reection and improvement
Articulation of ideas through presentation and research writing
Skills in providing answers during question-and-answer sessions
Here, the debt owed to IB is a little less easy to identify. Nevertheless, some of these courses are taught
by trained and experienced IB teachers. Their example is doubtlessly influential for the non-IB teachers
who also design and teach courses. Finally, former high school and university teacher informants who
went through these classes largely concur that, thanks to the courses, they are better prepared for research
and analytical seminar-style classes. Graduates of the school also reported feeling better prepared to
function in English environments and university environments requiring analytical skills.
Japan has embarked upon an exploration of the possibilities for reforming its national curriculum. This has
arisen through the adoption, and adaptation, of the IB curriculum, and the learning concepts associated
with it. The specific aim has been not only the fundamental issue of catching up to the levels of English
acquisition of other Asian countries, but also the nurturing of skills of critical evaluation and reflection
and expression. These two aims are achievable as a set, and the evidence compiled in these case studies
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
demonstrates this. Concerning the first case study, success was achieved with the steady stream of non
IB-students (those who have not usually had the benefit of extended time abroad) from the IB-inspired
IM classes. Such students were seen to have highly developed critical skills (i.e. their ability to discuss
issues of considerable complexity) required by TOK and, in many cases, these students have continued
into the parent university. The questioning of teachers seen in the first case study school is probably
untypical of most Japanese secondary classrooms. In other words, the IBDP model of pedagogy instils
values of curiosity and confidence in learners. In fact, such forward-looking concepts match the stated
intentions of MEXT for raising a generation of young people who are no longer inhibited to interact in
complex discussions, especially with non-Japanese.
As seen in the second case study presented above, the cross-pollination of the full IB with mainstream
classes has spurred the parent university into offering more undergraduate IM classes to maintain and
encourage the stream of students. As such, positive effects are seen to be rippling outwards with the
development of such curricula by high schools. In addition, this phenomenon is likely to eventually lead
to a gradual loosening of the prescriptive nature of the standardized Japanese national entrance exami-
nation. This is because increasing numbers of universities will be moved to amend their own entrance
examinations to directly gather talented students. Indeed, the national university entrance examination is
under intense review at the time of writing and is scheduled for a thorough reform. This development by
universities to bypass the examination to attract talented youth will be further pushed by the decreasing
number of young people in Japans ongoing demographic shift. In this way, good practice at the high
school level is leading to a positive reorganization in education provision.
This change in the landscape of the national curriculum has come about thanks to both top-down
pressure (i.e. the demands of the Japanese Education Ministry), and bottom-up innovations (locally situ-
ated solutions) to the challenge of how to offer IB, or IB-type education, to a larger number of students.
What has become apparent in our study is the importance of hybrid models, whereby students who do
not (yet) have the linguistic skills for the full IB Programme can get access to innovative curricula with
similar goals. This is largely a result of a loosening of MEXT’s constraints on educational reform, al-
lowing different influences, and locally relevant factors, to shape good practice. As MEXT continues its
observation of certain schools and evaluation of what they do well, especially concerning the appearance
of stronger humanistic forms of education whilst maintaining high academic standards, we predict it
will be more inclined to support the rolling out of IB-inspired curricula even in regular high schools.
A number of limitations need to be acknowledged when interpreting these findings. For instance, the
case studies focused on schools which are part of a university corporation in urban areas. It remains
to be seen how well the success described in these two case studies is truly replicable in the other 198
schools the ministry has so far stated it wants to introduce IB, or IB-type, education into. One of the
reasons for this is the need for expert teaching in the schools, and it is not clear that Japan currently has
a sufficient pool of adequately trained teachers to fill these posts. Conversely, this could also be regarded
as a chance for the appointment of teachers from various backgrounds and nationalities. The authors of
this chapter have already established research relations with IB schools in smaller regional cities, towns
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
and even some remote areas, to examine how IB will fare in those areas in the coming years. In keep-
ing with the spirit of innovation around secondary education outlined in this paper, it is thinkable that
internationalization at schools in remote areas will be realized.
This is all very well, but it also remains a fact that the implementation of IB is practically very dif-
ficult for Japanese students, especially considering the very considerable distance between Japanese and
English. Eriguchi (2014) makes clear that IB in its pure form is difficult to square with the demands of
the national, monolithic university entrance examination. This gap becomes a central issue when school
age children are expected to produce mature, reflective work in English, with Yano (2012) showing
that this has, indeed, been hard to implement. Conversely, as the discussion of Shibuya (2013) showed,
there is no sense of faddishness in how MYP has been in the junior high school context, for example.
All the while, this push for innovation is based in a pragmatic response to resolving the challenges of
the traditionally prescriptive syllabus.
Returning to the title of this chapter, while it can be said that the impact of IB is still limited to a
few schools that have embarked upon the arduous, yet rewarding, journey towards IB certification, the
number of schools willing to consider that journey, or at least some parts of it, is constantly increasing.
These schools are aware of cases similar to, if not the same as, those described here, and in what way
they are benefitting from IB/inquiry-based curricular reforms. Policy makers charged with policy reform
have recently released key elements that are undoubtedly intended to be part of the new Course of Study
at the elementary and junior high level. At the time of writing, the new national curriculum course of
study for high schools has just officially opened to the public for comments before being implemented
in coming years. Three key phrases have come to capture the spirit of the new course of study: multi-
way interactive learning, deep learning, and independent learning. These have often been referred to
simplistically as “active learning”. This term has been rightly criticized at times as only superficially
catching the tone of the deeper education reform in progress in Japan. The commitment to education
reform is now reminiscent of revolutionary education reform in the Meiji era, and the post-World War
II era, when rapid reform was achieved after the introduction of democracy.
Interaction and inquiry, and other related concepts, will soon be mandated in the national curricu-
lum. The impact of this, as it becomes implemented nationwide, will be the object of fresh research
and discussion. Some of the questions and issues that the chapter has attempted to address also require
further research. One key issue will be the impact of recently commenced IB-teacher training courses at
a handful of universities, and how the new graduates will fare once they become practicing teachers. It
is our hope that through this snapshot of a system embarking upon a historic shift, teachers and policy
makers in other countries may find inspiration as well.
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Content and Language-Integrated Learning (CLIL): The practice of teaching academic content
in another language while focusing on the linguistic forms of that language.
Global Awareness: Global awareness is comprised of curiosity about, and empathy for, issues such
as race, religion, and identity, and challenges such as poverty, health, and climate change.
Local Implementation of International Baccalaureate in the Japanese Secondary School System
Holistic Learning: Learning with the aim of helping students situate their studies in their communi-
ties in order that they actively and compassionately engage in, and understand, their locality.
IB (International Baccalaureate): IB is a rigorous curriculum from primary to pre-university edu-
cation, promoting reflective learning with ideals of compassion and empathy.
IBDP: The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is an educational program that acts as
an entry qualification for higher-level studies in many universities around the world.
Motivation: Motivation is an individual’s positive attitude towards a studied language as evidenced
by his or her willingness to use the L2 for communication, or to achieve personal goals.
Theory of Knowledge (TOK): Theory of knowledge is a component of IB. It aims to develop stu-
dents’ awareness of knowledge by examining the truth and validity of propositions.
Translanguaging: The practice of multilingual individuals making use of all their linguistic knowl-
edge in education, for example, to achieve their goals.
... Japan, in particular, has placed an emphasis on IB education, setting a goal to reach 200 IB schools in the country (Yamamoto et al., 2016). The value of the IB curriculum has also led some schools and programs in Japan to emulate the IB curriculum in order to promote positive practices within the school system (Coulson et al., 2019). This chapter will explore various aspects associated with the implementation of the TOK curriculum in a non-IB immersion program. ...
... In particular, changes in university admissions processes were more drastic within private institutions, in order to increase the number of IB-educated students entering them. These findings are supported by the case studies of Coulson et al. (2019), in which private universities had pushed for the creation of IB programs in their affiliated secondary schools for the purpose of having learners from those programs matriculate into their universities. It still remains to be seen how Japanese universities will continue to adapt and evolve as IB becomes more common in Japan, especially given the fact that IB education will continue to be a constant in Japan going forward. ...
... The potential value the curriculum offers extends beyond just the learners enrolled in IB programs and requires exploration. There has been some education policy related research into the implementation of IB in Japan (e.g., Coulson et al., 2019;Moriguchi, 2018;Sanders & Ishikura, 2018) but this area still requires further investigation. While educational policy has received some attention, implementation of IB educational pedagogy in Japan has barely been explored. ...
In recent years, Japan has made a significant push in expanding the International Baccalaureate (IB) into schools across the country. The goal of spreading the implementation of the IB curriculum in Japan goes beyond learners in IB programs. The value of IB curricula can also be beneficial in contexts outside the IB, although some adjustments to implementation might be needed. Theory of knowledge (TOK) is a central element of the IB and furthers the development of critical and thinking skills. This study is situated in a high school immersion program in Japan that has TOK as part of its curriculum for the 2nd and 3rd years of the program. TOK has been found to be beneficial to the learners in the program, but there are also challenges of implementing the IB curriculum in a non-IB context. These issues will be explored through discussion of classroom and curriculum practices. Through this chapter, teachers and researchers alike can understand the benefits of TOK, and the importance of critical thinking skills in the 21st century.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) offers curriculum frameworks within which schools and teachers experience a degree of creative freedom in the planning and delivery of the programs. This results in a potential consistency dilemma when an IB school is required to foster creative professionalism through collaborative practices, yet needs to ensure consistency of both content and pedagogical approaches. A collaborative environment requires a clearly defined balance between teacher autonomy and school direction in order to align pedagogical practices with curriculum intent. Teachers moving from a Japanese Article 1 school where limited autonomy is required may experience challenges when adjusting to requirements for a greater role in curriculum design in an IB Dual Language Diploma Program. Collaborative practices may not result in the necessary shifts in pedagogical practices if teachers are not adequately prepared for a school culture focused on creative professionalism.
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We investigate translanguaging (i.e. the co-use of first and second languages) in a Content and Language Integrated Learning course, as a pragmatic means to promote the skill of young university students in extended critical academic writing. We aimed to prepare new undergraduate students (n = 180) for courses where partial English-medium instruction is typical, rather than full immersion. This means that both Japanese and English may be used in the teaching and completion of regular classes. Data from students’ answers to questionnaires and their written work over a three-year period demonstrate (a) how translanguaging facilitates completion of tasks and (b) the appearance of positive perceptions of students toward this policy. Further, content and language assessment criteria in writing, and the strategic use of Japanese language reading related to class themes, resulted in improved outcomes for most students of lower proficiency. Awareness of translanguaging among the students led to improved written work, and this enhanced authenticity and relevance to local purposes. Conclusions indicate that translanguaging in a partial English-medium context reflects the growing realities of English use as a Lingua Franca.
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There is a growing body of research suggesting that schools need to respond to changing social and economic dynamics by prioritising "21st-century skills". Proponents of this view, who have been termed "the 21st century skills movement", have called for greater emphasis on cognitive and non-cognitive skills development, alongside the learning of subject content and technical skills. This paper explores the potential of International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) schools to respond to this mandate in China, one of the fastest-growing markets for International Baccalaureate® (IB) schools globally. The authors' research team undertook a multi-site case study of five elite IBDP schools in China. Their findings revealed confidence among interviewees that the IB educational philosophy was conducive to 21st-century skills development, especially through the provision of the three IBDP "Core Requirements", which are Creativity, Action, Service (CAS), Extended Essay (EE) and Theory of Knowledge (TOK). Despite this confidence, concerns remain about the implementation of the IB educational philosophy in the context of IBDP schools in China.
Technical Report
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This study examines one of the central elements of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course. Four case study schools in Sydney, Australia have collaborated with the research team in 2013 in order to share their perceptions, implementation strategies and evaluation of the TOK course. The case study schools have contextually varied situations, locations, histories and philosophies, which collectively provide information on how the TOK has been taken up, interpreted and adapted by particular school communities. All data arising from these case studies has been coded and thematically analysed by the research team. In addition to the case studies, the University of Western Sydney research team have prepared two online surveys, one for teachers and one for students of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP), which all Australian IB DP schools were invited to complete. Data from these surveys were analysed using bivariate and multivariate statistical analysis. In a further quantitative component of the study, the research team examined mixed cohorts of first year International Baccalaureate (IB) and non-IB university students from a number of Australian universities using the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI). Together these data sources provide an analysis of the current functioning of the TOK course in Australia and in relation to academic self-concept and critical thinking.
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This article presents a summary of the findings of a recent study that points to the importance of informal, out of classroom, interactions in effecting change in student attitudes as they pass through the two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, designed as an internationally recognized pre-university programme for students worldwide. Possible reasons for the changes in attitudes that were found, and the major factors that students claimed were responsible, are discussed.
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Over the last four decades, International Baccalaureate (IB) schools have become increasingly important in the global market of international education. This is especially evident in Asia Pacific, which has evidenced the fastest growth in IB schools, as well as international schools more generally, across the world over the last decade. Despite this dramatic growth of international education in Asia Pacific, empirical research examining leadership in this context is scarce. This paper addresses this gap through the analysis of case study data collected in five International Baccalaureate Schools in East Asia. The purposes of the report are to explore key challenges facing IB school leaders in the region, and identify implications for researchers and IB school leaders.
How are two or more languages learned and contained in the same mind or the same community? This handbook presents an up-to-date view of the concept of multi-competence, exploring the research questions it has generated and the methods that have been used to investigate it. The book brings together psychologists, sociolinguists, Second Language Acquisition (SLA) researchers, and language teachers from across the world to look at how multi-competence relates to their own areas of study. This comprehensive, state-of-the-art exploration of multi-competence research and ideas offers a powerful critique of the values and methods of classical SLA research, and an exciting preview of the future implications of multi-competence for research and thinking about language. It is an essential reference for all those concerned with language learning, language use and language teaching.
In International Education Policy in Japan in an Age of Globalisation and Risk, Robert Aspinall analyses the ways in which Japanese government policies on English language education and the promotion of Study Abroad have been implemented in schools and universities. © 2013 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. All rights reserved.
The 2013 UN Human Development report predicts the middle classes of ‘The South’ a five-fold increase by 2030. Globalisation has resulted in national conceptions of business: education and identity being in flux. Emerging middle classes of the South are already embracing international forms of education for instrumental reasons of advantage and distinction. The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum continues to experience a strong growth in this area and appears to offer a globalised and international form of education, which may offer the chance of educating a global citizen, despite the fact that it is much valued for the relative advantage it may offer. This article reviews the data surrounding the rise of the South and explores the identity of the IB, as it exists in international schools, particularly the dilemma between its internationalist and the globalist outlook. The theory of Pierre Bourdieu facilitates a critical examination of the role of global citizenship education in this paradigm, and the instrumental role it may play in conferring symbolic capital and distinction on this form of social reproduction. Finally, Global Citizenship Education in IB curricula represents a pastoral (religious) component as is common in elite school systems, yet in its globalised form: secular and inclusive whilst equitable and distinct.
A s language teachers in the 21st century, we live in critical times. Our world faces serious global issues of terrorism, ethnic conflict, social inequality, and environmental destruction. How can we prepare our students to cope with these problems? What is our responsibility as language teachers in a world of war, poverty, prejudice, and pollution? "Global education" is a new approach to language teaching that attempts to answer these questions. It aims to enable students to effectively acquire a foreign language while em-powering them with the knowledge, skills, and commitment required by world citizens to solve global problems. Global education has been defined as "education which promotes the knowledge, attitudes and skills relevant to living responsibly in a multicultural, interde-pendent world" (Fisher and Hicks 1985: 8). Another definition states that "global educa-tion consists of efforts to bring about changes in the content, methods and social context of education in order to better prepare students for citizenship in a global age" (Kniep 1985: 15). Global educators emphasize that global education is a pedagogical approach, not just a new "teaching technique," and usually des-ignate peace, human rights, development, and the environment as the four content areas of global education. The goals of a "global" approach to educa-tion are generally divided into knowledge, skills, attitudes, and action: • Knowledge about world problems is the first goal. If we want students to work for a better world, they must know the na-ture of world problems, their causes, and viable solutions. • Acquiring skills—communication, critical and creative thinking, cooperative prob-lem-solving, nonviolent conflict resolu-tion, informed decision making, and the ability to see issues from multiple perspec-tives—necessary to solve world problems is the second goal. • Acquiring global attitudes—global aware-ness, curiosity, an appreciation of other cultures, respect for diversity, a commit-ment to justice, and empathy with oth-ers—is the third goal. • The final goal of global education is ac-tion—democratic participation in the lo-cal and global community to solve world problems.