Japanese Mother Tongue Program in an International School: A Case Study

Masayo Ohyama, Fordham University


In international schools, a range (75–80%) of students is non-native English speakers. However, many of these schools do not offer mother tongue (MT) programs to these students. These globally mobile students’ MT proficiency levels depend on whether or not their school offers an MT program. As a result, MT teachers must teach students who possess a wide range of proficiency levels in their MT. This study applied the lens of sociocultural theory to provide more complete description of the Japanese MT program in an international school including the school’s organization, language policy, and MT curriculum development. Rather than just describe instructional MT practices, this single case study examined the educational context of the school and the Japanese MT program by conducting semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and documents in this international school offering an International Baccalaureate Diplomat Program (IBDP). The findings of this study were (a) a lack of written language policy, (b) a lack of common curriculum, (c) a lack of curriculum cohesion, (d) the Japanese MT language program offering combination of the day- school curriculum in grades 7–10 and the after-school curriculum in grades K-6, and (e) differentiated instruction implemented by the three Japanese teachers to the students who have different MT proficiency levels. Although international schools have a commitment to rich language development, they still need to reflect on how to improve the language curriculum including strengthening the organization structure of MT instruction and enhancing the curriculum cohesion of MT instruction across grade levels.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Education Policy|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Ohyama, Masayo, "Japanese Mother Tongue Program in an International School: A Case Study" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10690149.