British Education in Japan – A Year in Review


British Education in Japan – A Year in Review

RSJ Principal speaks at Symposium for over 80 guests in Tokyo

On Saturday 26 November, RSJ Founding Principal Tony Darby was pleased to speak at a special event “British Education in Japan – A Year in Review”, featuring Heads of other British schools in Tokyo.

Indeed, it has been a big year for international education in Japan. Famed British schools such as Rugby School, Harrow, and Malvern College are in various stages of entering the market, with more than 3,000 new student slots to be opening up over the next few years – the biggest expansion in international education in the country since 2018. Japanese media has dubbed this development the “British Invasion” – the most significant cultural phenomenon to move across the pond since The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s.

Global Reach

The November 26th event took the story from the media headlines and into grass-roots territory, inviting views directly from professional British educators.

In opening remarks, Lori Henderson MBE noted that the current trend in Japan is not an isolated phenomenon on the world stage. “British education as an export is worth almost 10 billion pounds per year. Currently one quarter of all world leaders and heads of state have been educated in the British system. And closer to home, the Japanese Imperial family choose the UK in which to live and study”.

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The Heads

Taking to the stage for a panel discussion led by Ziver Olmez, MD at the CEA Group, the Heads of Schools addressed a variety of topics and shared views on developments in their school communities over the past 12 months. Speaking on behalf of their schools were:

  • Hannah Goddard, Head of School, Clarence International School

  • Claire Fletcher, Founding Head of School, Phoenix House International School

  • Tony Darby, Founding Principal, Rugby School Japan

The Arts

Hannah Goddard, who moved to Japan to join the CEA Group in July, has a wealth of experience in Asia – including an educational leadership role in South Korea. She spoke compelling on what makes British early years education so impactful and successful in preparing children for international primary school education.

Ms Goddard went on to discuss the benefits of heuristic play, currently being implemented at Clarence International school, and how this can build creativity, resilience and problem solving skills in young children. Finally, she spoke about the synergy between the arts and early years education and how this is central to the ethos at CIS.



Continuing the educational journey, Phoenix House is now positioned as the only British Prep School in Tokyo – focusing solely on the British curriculum. 

Earlier this year, PH was named as the key feeder school for Rugby School Japan. Ms Fletcher described what being a ‘feeder school’ means, and how that impacts the PH pupil experience. One of the greatest differentiators of British primary education is its emphasis on oracy and learning how to use language effectively. Ms Fletcher described how Phoenix House cultivates this culture, summed up in the school’s tagline “Confidence to Communicate, Language to Lead”.



One of the most exciting developments in Japan’s education landscape, said Mr Olmez, is the establishment of Rugby School Japan – the first British boarding school of its kind in the Greater Tokyo area – set to open its doors to 160 pupils in autumn 2023. RSJ Founding Principal Tony Darby pointed to the pupils and families whom could most benefit from the holistic education on offer at RSJ, driven by the School’s ethos, “Whole Person, Whole Point” – a model of education and wellbeing developed over many decades at Rugby School UK.

Whilst people often imagine British secondary education to be quite traditional and purely academic-focused, Mr Darby explained how a rich co-curricular and pastoral offering would manifest vividly alongside solid academic results at RSJ. “The House system at Rugby was one of the first to be established, literally hundreds of years ago, and will be the focal point of pastoral care at RSJ too”.

Pointing to the “Harry Potter effect” across Asia and globally, Mr Olmez invited Mr Darby to address why and how the British boarding school experience is so rich and valuable, in order to prepare children and young adults for the world beyond school.

“People often ask ‘What exactly is pastoral care?’ At RSJ, pastoral care means sensitivity to the needs of teenagers of all types, but most of all it means time. Time spent with each child by the Housemistress or Housemaster, the resident deputy, resident matron, tutors, coaches and older students ensures that every one of our pupils, individually, is happy and knows without any doubt that they are cared for and a valued member of a larger community. That is the social contract that we the school have with the student and their families”.

With over 26 years of experience in the boarding school sector, he also warmly spoke to a question on the minds of many parents in the room – particularly those new to the concept of boarding: how does boarding affect parent-child relationships?

University Admissions

In his closing remarks, Mr Olmez posited that attending a world-class school like Rugby School Japan means that you’re more likely to attend British universities and also open doors globally. Mr Darby responded with details on how RSJ’s multifaceted education would certainly better prepare students for top universities, and mentioned RSJ’s close working relationship with Rugby School UK’s University Counselling team, and the emerging links between his team and leaders at Chiba University and Tokyo University.

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More to come

In a lively Q&A, the panel covered topics ranging from how to deal with bullying at their schools, to the curriculum trips held at CEA’s North Peak enrichment campus in Hokkaido.

The event wrapped up with an exciting British tradition – a raffle – with four lucky guests winning exclusive Rugby School gifts (brought all the way from Rugby UK by Mr Darby)!

This is expected to be an inaugural event in a series on British Education in Japan. Details of the next session will appear on the Rugby School Japan website, in due course. Thank you to all who participated.

Full story on the CEA website HERE

Further reading

RSJ Events – We look forward to welcoming you to an RSJ Event soon!