It may not be among the most famous cities in Japan but Kobe is one of the best locations for international schools outside of Tokyo. This is on account of its diverse expat community, meaning that those moving to the city with kids have plenty of choice when it comes to education.
Japan’s public education system is good quality but it’s in the Japanese language and the school culture and curriculum that is different from what many expats are used to. Private international schools are great for being able to learn in English or other languages such as German as well as teaching children Japanese skills and giving them the chance to learn in a very multicultural environment. However, places at top schools can be limited and tuition fees expensive if your child doesn’t have a scholarship.
Here is a selection of some of the best international schools in Kobe.
The largest international school in Kobe as well as one of the most renowned, the Canadian Academy originally opened in 1913 to provide schooling for children of missionaries in the city. Nowadays it’s open to all students, although competition for places can be fierce and there is an entrance exam.
The school provides learning for those aged 3-18 so your child can start at preschool and go all the way to Year 12. Both Canadian and the globally-recognised International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are taught in English. The school has great modern facilities, good links with many multinational companies, and students can enjoy a wide range of extracurricular activities such as outdoor trips.
The Canadian Academy is located in the residential district of Rokko Island. Annual tuition fees for 2023-24 range from ¥1 million for preschool to ¥2.9 million for Year 12.
Marketing itself as a “small school with a big heart”, St. Michael’s is a British primary school for ages 3-11. It was initially established by British missionaries in 1946 and maintains strong links with the Anglican Church. There are around 140 pupils at the school with around 80% of them international, including many Japanese.
St. Michael’s is the only International Primary Curriculum (IPC)-accredited school in Japan. Students learn the curriculum of England and Wales in the English language. One of the most notable things about the school is that it has very good special educational needs (SEN) facilities and reserves a set number of yearly places for SEN children. There is a community feel to the environment and parents have plenty of opportunities to get involved in activities. Annual tuition fees are currently around ¥1.4 to 1.5 million.
A European international school in Kobe located not far from the Canadian Academy, the Deutsche Schule is a primary school teaching pupils aged 2-11 in three languages – German, English and French. The English-language curriculum is the IB Early Years program.
The Deutsche Schule was founded in 1909 and it prides itself on holistic education to maximise child development, encouraging independent and critical thinking. The school has a good teacher-to-pupil ratio, with class sizes ranging from 6-15. There is also a Saturday school offered in German, English and French.
Tuition fees are in the ¥1.0 to 1.5 million bracket. Fees for Saturday school are around ¥150,000.
A more recent addition to Kobe’s educational facilities, Kobe Bilingual School – also known as KOBILS – was founded in 2008. It’s a Japanese-English school suitable for English-speaking expats who want their children to integrate better with Japanese culture as well as locals who want to develop English skills. The school is a primary school with kindergarten facilities and so caters for children aged 2-12. Two curriculums are taught – Japanese and the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. The school also runs weekend and after-school English classes for Japanese children aged up to 18. Annual tuition fees are ¥756,000 (kindergarten) and ¥882,000 (primary school) plus additional fees for registration and materials.
Founded by two brothers who had fled Communist China in 1951, this school caters for children aged 3-18 and became an IB World School in 2017. Its principles are rooted in Catholicism but families of all faiths can enroll their children. The school is located in the Suma ward and follows both the IB and American curriculums. Lessons are in English. Yearly fees range from ¥1.46 million for preschool to ¥1.77 million for Year 12.
Brian Adler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons