Located on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido International School (HIS) has a 60-year history and has grown to approximately 200 students, with a residential program for up to 40 students. The main campus—about 15 minutes away by subway from the center of the main city of Sapporo—sits in a low-rise residential neighborhood, which offers all the essential services. Though Sapporo has a population of two million, it has the advantage of being well-planned—with plenty of space—and close to natural surroundings in all directions.
The school’s second campus—HIS Niseko—is a 20-minute drive from the international ski village of Hirafu. The rural school, located in the center of the beautiful town of Niseko, serves the local and expatriate population of this international resort region. The school is close to some of the best that Hokkaido has to offer in terms of skiing, hiking, lakes and the ocean. Supported by the main campus in Sapporo, HIS Niseko is able to deliver a unique and diverse learning environment to its 35 students.
Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, HIS boasts a diverse student population representing 28 nationalities. Over one-third of the students are Japanese, with 13% from North America and the U.K. HIS offers both American and international curricula: Reggio Emilia, U.S. Common Core, International Primary and Middle Years Curricula as well as Advanced Placement courses in the upper levels. The teaching staff of 30 includes four from Japan and 16 from North America.
An integral part of the HIS experience is outdoor education. Students are challenged during adventures by taking risks and performing risk management, taking advantage of leadership opportunities, and participating in private reflection. Students who especially wish to take advantage of Hokkaido’s many offerings may also join the Adventure Hokkaido Outdoor Club (AdHOC). The school describes it as
“a loose-knit organization that one weekend goes swimming under a waterfall, the next climbs a snow-capped peak, and the next hunts for little snow bugs at a local park. It is all doing what we [have] never done before, and exploring the wide variety terrains and destinations of this northern island.”
At HIS, students have opportunities to make a difference. They can serve on the Student Council, participate in community service activities, or join the ACT Club, launched in 2006-07 to meet the needs of tsunami victims in the wake of the Sumatra Earthquake disaster. Throughout the years, ACT members have raised funds for a local orphanage and led the entire school on a successful energy reduction campaign. In 2012, ACT organized and directed a rice donation drive for Tohoku tsunami victims. HIS students also coordinate and participate in monthly community service projects, such as neighborhood clean-up campaigns, snow removal, collecting Christmas gifts for underprivileged and orphaned children, and beach clean-up.
Middle school students have three years to fundraise for an incredible field trip to Kyoto when they reach Grade 9. Considered the cultural center of Japan, Kyoto provides students with the opportunity to participate in traditional Japanese cultural events and activities. Exploration of nearby Osaka and Kobe is also an enjoyable part of the trip.
HIS does a wonderful job of bringing the community together to celebrate throughout the seasons. The school says its PTA-hosted Fall Festival “attracts hundreds of locals and expatriates to sample international cuisine and crafts, hear and watch HIS students perform, and play games.” Winter Celebration is the time to showcase academic and arts achievements; food is served while student artists entertain. Japanese Culture Week includes traditional dress, dance, music, food, games, and mochitsuki, the pounding of rice cakes, essential to the New Year’s celebration. The school says, “Mochitsuki is a whole community event which requires many hands and is a time of fellowship and socializing with friends and family.” Spring is time for the annual Spring Arts Performance. Held at Kitara Hall in Nakajima Park, this big event raises money for the music program and scholarships. The Spring Bazaar fundraiser and flea market includes food, fun, and great bargains.
HIS prefers to hire certified single teachers but would consider couples, including those with a non-teaching partner. The school will also consider candidates certified in a non-English speaking country. Candidates should have at least five years’ experience classroom teaching, but they need not possess an academic degree in the subject they will be teaching. HIS adds, “due to our Outdoor Education Program, HIS has a preference for hiring teachers with experience and a keen interest in supporting, leading and potentially teaching in our Outdoor Education Program.” Those up to the age of 65 may obtain a work visa.
The benefits package includes a moving allowance, annual airfare, and a fully furnished apartment that the school helps to find. Tuition is free for up to two children. Teachers are offered approximately $900 per year in professional development (PD) funds, which can be carried over to a second year. Additionally, HIS provides in-house PD opportunities. Worldwide health insurance, including life insurance and dental, is fully covered. This package amounts to some good savings. There are local employment opportunities for non-teaching spouse as well.
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Please note: The information presented about this school was valid on the date published. This information may change, and the most up-to-date information can be found on the school profile.