Around the latter 1980s a native Japanese population began living in Arizona while employed by Intel, Toyota and Nissan. Since it was never the intention of these workers to remain in America permanently, the Japanese Ministry of Education began establishing schools to ensure Japanese children could effectively be educated while coming from and returning to Japan.
The first of these schools was Arizona Gakuen School established in 1991 supported by the Japanese Business Association of Arizona. Saturday classes began with 4 elementary and 1 junior-high level. At first, classes were met at Mesa Community College for students under 18 years of age. All instruction and teaching materials are in Japanese. Morning classes at Arizona Gakuen School provide basic instruction in communicative language skills and mathematics. Afternoon classes are offered in science and social studies on an optional attendance basis. Attendance in the afternoon classes requires complete fluency in Japanese.
In 1992 Arizona Gakuen School opened a kindergarten class for four year old children. Calligraphy and choral music were added in 2005. Currently Arizona Gakuen School boasts 206 students in attendance with 17 teachers and 13 classroom aides.
While admission to Arizona Gakuen School is open to non-Japanese children, one of the goals of the school is to enable Japanese children born in America to be able to communicate with their non-English speaking relatives both living here and in Japan. Many of the faculty members are employed by other schools during the week to teach Japanese language and culture.
At Arizona Gakuen School, Japanese culture is not taught as a separate class but is rather integrated across the curriculum. Japanese holidays which happen to occur on Saturdays are celebrated by Arizona Gakuen School. Arizona Gakuen School is a non-profit organization operating in accordance with Arizona State law.
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