Curriculum FAQs

What is WASC?

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is one of six regional accrediting associations in the United States. The Commission provides assistance to schools located in California, Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and East Asia. The Accrediting Commission for Schools extends its services to public, independent, church-related, and proprietary schools of the following levels and types: elementary schools; junior high/middle/intermediate schools, comprehensive/college preparatory high schools, continuation high schools, alternative high schools, occupational/vocational high schools, regional occupational programs/centers, adult schools, and vocational skill centers. (from WASC webpage)

What is the purpose of WASC Accreditation?

The original purpose of accreditation in the United States was designed to encourage the standardization of secondary school programs, primarily to ensure for the benefit of colleges and universities that graduating students had mastered a particular body of knowledge. However, today the process developed by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), involves a dual purpose that continues the expectation that schools must be worthy of the trust placed in them to provide high quality learning opportunities, but with the added requirement that they clearly demonstrate that they are about the critical business of continual self-improvement. (from WASC webpage)

What is CIS?

The Council of International Schools (CIS) is a non-profit membership organization that provides services to elementary and secondary schools and higher education institutions around the world. CIS is the premier worldwide accreditation organization for international schools. Through its professional staff of Regional Accreditation Officers, backed by a team of administrative personnel and CIS volunteers, the Accreditation Service manages an Accreditation Programme which encourages teaching and learning focused school improvement through a process of continuous Self-Study and Peer Visitor evaluation. The final award of Accredited Status demonstrates that a member school has achieved high standards of professional performance in international education and has a commitment to continuous improvement. (from the CIS webpage)

What is the IB?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a non-profit educational foundation, motivated by its mission, focused on the student. The three IB programs for students aged 3 to 19 help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. IB programs are recognized around the world and ensure an increased adaptability and mobility for IB students. The curriculum and pedagogy of IB programs focus on international perspectives of learning and teaching, while insisting that students fully explore their home culture and language. IB World Schools must undergo an exhaustive authorization process in order to offer one or more of the programs, which includes a study of the school’s resources and commitment to the IB mission and philosophy.

What is a "GPA"?

GPA stands for ‘Grade Point Average’ and is a mathematical average of all grades received over a given period of time. It is commonly used in the United States and Canada, and in many international schools, and is one of the measures used by universities in North America to determine college acceptance. At NIS, in common with most schools who use GPA, it is accumulated over the course of the High School career meaning that the GPA of a student in Grade 12 is an average of their Grades from the first Semester of Grade 9. In order to calculate GPA, letter grades (from each final semester report) are turned into a number (A+=4.5, A=4, B+=3.5, B=3, C+=2.5, C=2, D+=1.5, D=1, F=0) and these numbers are averaged (equally weighted) into a final ‘grade point average’. GPA is valued by many people because it can be said to be an indicator of achievement over time (consistency) and for that reason, while universities do not require us to provide GPA, it is one measure which universities (particularly in North America) value. At NIS we currently also use GPA as the determining factor in the award of Valedictorian and Salutatorian. However, since it is an average score over time, it does not take into consideration students who have made exceptional progress in later grades, nor take into account that the GPA is a mathematical average of different grades, coming from different teachers in different classrooms. Therefore, GPA is only one method used at NIS to assess unique individual learners. The externally validated and moderated IB results, PSATs and SATs are also important measures of learning.

Is the NIS curriculum recognized by the Japanese government?


NIS is one of 20 schools in Japan with either WASC, CIS, or ACSI accreditation that are recognized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology-Japan (MEXT). Students graduating from these schools are eligible to be considered for enrollment in Japanese universities. However, each university has different admissions guidelines and policies, which does not automatically result in eligibility. As the curriculum at NIS is taught in English, enrollment into NIS is not recommended for students who wish to enroll in universities in Japan that are Japanese-language based degree programs. (please see: MEXT website)

Why does NIS have to develop our own curriculum?

Different than some countries with nationalized curriculum (like Japan), international schools are independently operated and fall under the jurisdiction of a variety of accrediting agencies. NIS is accredited by both CIS and WASC, and is also an "IB World School" providing the PYP and Diploma Programme. While these agencies have certain guidelines and policies, ultimately it is the school, which must develop the appropriate curriculum for both the needs of our community and the standards of those organizations, and this is typical of most international schools around the world.

Why do NIS teachers need time to work on curriculum?

An important part of the accreditation process requires that we as a school community have a commitment to continuous improvement. The Wednesday afternoon early-release days provide dedicated time for collaboration, staff development and training.

Why does NIS not have an "opening ceremony"?

NIS has an all-school assembly at the beginning of the year, but does not place as high a level of importance on opening ceremonies or regularly meeting as a whole school as, for example, the Japanese school system does. Each division will host separate gatherings and assemblies to discuss issues, present ideas, and make announcements, but these are generally tied to the curriculum and not celebratory in nature. In recent years, we have held assemblies to recognize the completion of elementary school and middle school, but these events do not involve the entire school community. We do, however, believe that graduation from high school is an important event that signifies not only the time and effort put into completing all of the requirements for graduation but also the passing from adolescence to adulthood, and celebrate this achievement at our "Commencement Exercises" held at the end of the school year for the senior class.

What are the "Commencement Exercises"?

The commencement exercises (or 'Graduation') are held in June each year. This is a day of celebration for the entire school community which marks the successful culmination of high school for our 12th Graders while, at the same time, signifies the 'commencement' of their adult lives as they set out on a journey as global citizens 'inspired and empowered' to make a difference in the world. The graduating class must have completed all academic requirements for graduation - but of course most of our students exceed these requirements - prior to collecting their diploma on this day. All parents, family and friends of the graduating class and of the school are all welcome to share in this celebration.

Is there a university entrance examination system for universities abroad like in Japan?

The admissions process, and timing, for admissions into university or colleges are different for each country. Different than the Japanese system, which often relies on a single test or series of written examinations, admissions into many schools in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and other countries use more of a variety of assessment methods to evaluate a student's ability to achieve academic success and to gain admission into their university or college. At a basic level, most countries require a student to have obtained a high school diploma. At NIS, in addition to the NIS diploma, students are also eligible to obtain the IBDP diploma or certificates in specific courses. The IB diploma is an important additional diploma that may be a requirement in some countries, particularly for enrolling in universities or colleges in the UK. For some countries like the U.S. and Canada, additional items must be submitted as part of the admissions process such as standardized test scores (i.e. SAT, ACT and TOEFL), recommendation letters, essays or personal statements, financial statements, and official grades or transcripts. Students are encouraged to work closely with the guidance counselor to help plan their individual path after NIS.