Ward in central Tokyo breaks ground by sending students overseas on school trips

Minato Ward in central Tokyo has decided to send its public junior high school students to Singapore on their school trips next year, aiming to nurture their international experience.

Ward officials say it will be the first municipality in Tokyo to choose an overseas destination for school trips for public junior high students.

Up until this fiscal year, the ward's school trip program has focused on exploring the ancient cities of Kyoto and Nara.

All third-year students at its junior high schools, including those in special needs classes, will be eligible for the trips overseas. About 760 students are expected to travel to Singapore for five days from around June to September next year.

Ward officials say they hope to provide students with opportunities to brush up their English conversation skills and broaden their international perspectives by immersing themselves in different cultures.

The ward has been trying to strengthen its English education for students, starting with first-graders at elementary schools.

Singapore was chosen as the destination because English is one of its official languages, and it is comparatively close to Japan, with a small time difference. Ward officials also said it has a stable security environment and emergency response systems in place, especially at times of accidents.

Officials are also considering plans to have students take classes at local schools and interact with their Singaporean peers.

The ward plans to cover about 400,000 yen, or about 2,700 dollars, per student for the trips, keeping the burden on students at around 470 dollars, the same cost as going to Kyoto and Nara.

It has earmarked about 3.5 million dollars in the supplementary budget, which includes travel expenses for teachers and advance research costs.

An official of the ward's education board, Shinozaki Reiko, expressed hope that the experience will allow children to apply their skills in a different setting overseas. She said they can set goals and challenges ahead of the trips and work to achieve them in Singapore.

A resident in Minato Ward expressed appreciation for the plan. She said it is a new way of using taxpayers' money for children.

A woman in another municipality in Tokyo said that while it offers children good learning opportunities, sending them abroad on school trips poses a large financial burden on parents.