Groundwork is being laid for an officially sponsored international school in Tsukuba in the near future. As more and more foreign researchers come to Tsukuba for longer periods of time, the need for a full-service international school has continued to grow, and this is now being officially addressed by the city and prefecture.
Support for such a school has, of course, been growing for many years, culminating in the founding of Tsukuba International School in 1992 as a private entity funded almost entirely by student tuition along with a few private contributions. Not having a secure financial base has been a major bottleneck in providing the kinds of facilities and services that are really needed, and with an unstable operating budget that is so dependent on fluctuating student tuition, it has been difficult to really move ahead.
Efforts to overcome these problems are being waged on two fronts. On the one hand, independent of the present international school, the Liaison Council of Research Institutes in Tsukuba Science City has formed a task force to work together with city and prefectural offices in coming up with a plan to provide the necessary facilities and funding for a fully functioning international school similar to what has been done in such places as Sapporo and Fukuoka, where local governments have made those provisions. The task force held its first meeting Jan. 10 and will be holding monthly meetings to help coordinate efforts to come up with the best plan to reach the ultimate goal within the shortest possible time frame.
Among the various options that are being considered are: 1. Building a completely new entity; 2. Developing the present Tsukuba International Elementary School; 3. Contracting with an established school (with legal status) in the Tokyo area to form a branch school; 4. Building an associated school under the auspices of a private school such as Meikei Gakuen; and 5. Building an associated school under the auspices of the University of Tsukuba.
Over the next few months, the necessary additional data will be gathered and analyzed, the feasibility of each option will be considered, and a specific plan will be adopted. It is, of course, still too early to hazard a guess as to when and where the facilities for such a school will be built, but one major consideration will be transportation from other nearby concentrations of internationals, and thus location in central Tsukuba or to the south or west close to the Joban Line or the planned New Joban Line will be a primary consideration.
In addition to these long range plans being laid independent of the present school, efforts are also being made to provide a more stable funding base for the present school. A "School Support Committee" has been put together to develop a "second teacher fund" that will not be dependent on student tuition. Foundation grants along with contributions from private companies and individuals are being sought. Having Japan's first astronaut, Mamoru Mohri, on the committee is helping to give the committee the kind of visibility it needs to make an effective appeal. Persons interested in helping with this effort are urged to contact the school (contact information available on the school's website).
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