To an outsider, a Japanese student's preoccupation with school--and the stress that sometimes results--can seem excessive. Primary school entrance exams, praying for grades at shrines... isn't it all a bit frantic? Yet most foreigners do not realize in Japan, academic achievement is tied far more closely to career success than in other industrialized nations. For good or ill, Japanese students are playing for higher stakes than most, earlier than most.
This situation presents a special moral imperative for educational equality. When so much of a student's future can rely on their school performance, the disadvantage incurred by receiving a below-average education is even greater than in other nations. For this reason, the historic educational reforms undertaken by the Ministry of Education in 2002 put a new emphasis on a longstanding philosophy of Japanese education: equal opportunities for all. Since then, considerable headway has been made in improving some of the weaker public schools. However, private schools--and to a lesser degree, charter schools--present a dilemma. The service expensive private schools provide in offering specialized, advanced education for wealthy students is valuable, but how can this be reconciled with the goal of equality?
The Sister Schools Program is the Ministry of Education's attempt at an answer to this question. In 2010, the Ministry arranged for three schools to form a close, cooperative relationship. One private school, one charter school, and one public school was selected for the pilot program. These schools were to maintain their independent administration, but begin to undertake collaborative afterschool events, in order to help students at all three schools (particularly the public school) enjoy the resources of their Sisters. In fall 2012, the program was implemented, with its first three schools:
- Juuban Public School - A perfectly unremarkable public school, chosen for its normalcy to represent municipal education.
- Ohtori Academy - The foremost private school in Tokyo, selected to test if a highly traditional private school would accept "lesser" schools as Sisters.
- Infinity Institute - The most cutting-edge charter school in the city, a sort of inverse of Ohtori, chosen to examine if hypermodern schools would integrate well as Sisters.
The first year of the program has been very successful, and today, in 2013, it is only expanding. While each of the three Sisters retains its own sports teams and school clubs, these groups compete and collaborate heavily. School plays, sports and cultural festivals, tournaments, public lectures, science fairs... wherever possible, the Sisters will make their big events open to one another somehow. Working together, student council members from each school draw up rotating schedules for hosting events. For instance, in 2012, the sports festival was held at Infinity Institute, and students from Ohtori and Juuban spent the school day there, in the company of their teachers, forming new friendships and rivalries with members of their Sister Schools. All three schools look forward to the future of the program, and finding new ways to benefit from their sisterhood.
What does the Sister Schools Program mean for you, the player?
- While they will still compete against less familiar schools, the primary competition for the players' sports teams and clubs will be the other two Battle Fantasia schools. No need to justify prioritizing schools that actually have players in them!
- Many major school scenes, such as the cultural and sports festivals, will be open to the entire MUSH!
- Cooperative ventures between all three schools are easy to run. If you don't think a single school has enough interested bodies to fill your water polo event, make it a Sister Schools scene!
- Schools will retain independence; if you want to run a scene for just one of them, you will generally be able to.
Uniforms - For your descriptive pleasure, a guide to the (mandatory) fashions of the Sister Schools.
Guiding Principles - Can't decide which school to send your character? Check out this comparative guide for some ideas.
Coursework - Details about classes and grades.
Schools: Clubs - After-school activities at the Sister Schools.
Schools: Student Councils - Student body governments at the Sister Schools.
Schools: Faculty and Staff - Who's who at the Sister Schools teachers' picnics.
For more information, please see: Theme