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March 2005

First Graduation at Internet High School

Studying via the Internet (Atmark Cosmopolitan High School)

Is it possible to get both Japanese and US high school diplomas by studying on the Internet? The Atmark Cosmopolitan High School (site is Japanese only), which opened in September 2004 in the town of Mikawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, allows people who have an Internet connection to enroll wherever they are in Japan or around the world. As the word cosmopolitan suggests (to be cosmopolitan is to have a worldwide scope), students of the high school can obtain Japanese and US high school diplomas at the same time and can go on to find international careers. A graduation ceremony was held on March 5, 2005, and 10 people became the first graduates of this innovative school.

Today there are about 150 correspondence high schools in Japan. But the Atmark Cosmopolitan High School is the first school of its kind that allows students to gain a diploma after studying using Internet tools like e-mail, discussion boards, and Web cameras. The students can obtain Japanese high school diplomas in three years by earning the required credits.

There are currently 133 students, and when new students enroll in April the number will rise to 200. With the student body expected to grow, the school is setting up more schooling and self-study rooms across Japan. "Schooling" refers to a system at correspondence high schools where students attend actual classes given by teachers for several days to receive credit. At this school, though, the students need to attend classes for only two days a year, so the doors are open not just to people in Japan but also to those living overseas.

A "schooling" session on architecture (Atmark Cosmopolitan High School)

Students build their own study program. For each course they set a theme, select the learning materials, and hand in a project as a product of that course. Students can also choose how they study: They can do all the learning online, for instance, or they can take regular classes. Sometimes when you study alone it is difficult to keep up the effort, and you're bound to feel uncertain about what you're doing. But at the Atmark Cosmopolitan High School the students have individually assigned coaches who correspond with them by e-mail every day and help them to study productively at their own pace.

Online education is not the only defining feature of the school. The other major characteristic is that students can select a variety of courses that suit their interests. Although there are some courses that they have to take in order to earn a Japanese high school diploma, otherwise they're free to pursue their interests to their hearts' desire. They can focus on design, welfare, or information technology, for instance. This appears to motivate the students to work hard. They also have opportunities to take practical classes given by professionals, such as cartoonists, writers, and marketing experts.

Many elementary, middle, and high school students across the world probably wonder what use the things that they're learning in school will be to them in the future. The policy of the Atmark Cosmopolitan High School is to view this question as the key to learning and for the teachers and students to search together for a satisfying answer. Atmark's principal, Hino Kozo, hopes that the students will feel they have gained something at the school that would have been unobtainable at other schools, and that they will feel happy to have been able to attend a school like this.

Just as the Internet has no national borders, the dreams and futures of the students learning through the Internet are global in scope.

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