A distinguishing characteristic of public education in Hawaii Kai is the availablity of an International Baccalaureate program from kindergarten through high school. Hahaione Elementary, Niu Valley Middle School and Kaiser High School are three of five such public school programs available statewide.
An International Baccalaureate (IB) certification is a recognition that the school meets additional standards set by a nonprofit educational foundation founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland. “Headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, IB programs reach more than 1 million students in 144 countries. IB aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”
One of the hallmarks of an IB education is the world language requirement. At Kaiser High School, the offered languages are Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. There is a catch however. At Niu Valley Middle School which feeds into Kaiser, only Japanese and Mandarin Chinese are offered. Students moving from Niu Valley to Kaiser can only take the language that they were studying in middle school.
For my child, who intends to go to college on the mainland, this meant that he could not study Spanish; Spanish would have been ideal because of its prevalence throughout most of the Continental United States.
You may be wondering who then, can take Spanish at Kaiser. The answer is that the student must fall into one of two categories. (1) a new student transferring into the school who did not attend Niu Valley Middle School; or (2) a student whose native language is the one they were studying at Niu Valley.
In any case, this means that my child now needs to work doubly hard to study Japanese. Having lived on the mainland, none of the language is familiar to him: not the sounds nor the commonly borrowed words we use here in Hawaii.
In any case, this setback seemed the perfect opportunity for me to try and learn Japanese “for real” this time. As a child, like many Hawaii kids, I attended after-school language class and I studied Japanese in high school. Still, I’m far from a conversational level of comfort.
As I discover new resources, I’ll post them here. Perhaps it will be useful to others as well.