May 09

Seisen International School Review


Seisen International School is an all-girls, K-12, Catholic School in Setagaya, Tokyo, offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. For the 650 girls that attend Seisen, the primary language of instruction is English.

Known as one of the big 4 international schools in Tokyo (The American School in Japan, Seisen, Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s), Seisen is a popular school with a good reputation. The school was founded in 1949 to educate the children of United States Air Force personnel stationed in Tokyo, but now accommodates girls from over 55 countries worldwide. In 1986, Senisen became the first girls school in Asia to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program. 

Backed by science from the National Coalition of Girls Schools, Seisen operates on the philosophy that students at all-girls schools are more able to bring their best effort each day, and take away the maximum amount of learning from each lesson.


According to the Seisen admissions policy, applicants must belong to one of the categories listed below to be eligible for admission, taking into account prior educational and linguistic background and the applicant’s ability to function and succeed in an English-medium curriculum:

  1. Children of expatriate families who are moving to Japan where at least one parent speaks and writes English fluently.
  2. Children of bicultural families where at least one parent speaks and writes English fluently.
  3. Children who are fluent in English and speak English at home.
  4. Japanese students who have spent at least two years abroad in an English medium school.
  5. Local Japanese children who are transferring from an international school and need a minimum of support.
  6. International students transferring from another international school in Japan.

Of prime consideration in the admissions process is the student’s ability to benefit from the Seisen’s academic program. The School exists primarily to meet the needs of expatriate families whose children require an English-speaking education and for whom, due to lack of local language acquisition, other schools may not be a viable option.

Siblings of currently enrolled students, children of Seisen International School alumni, children of Faculty and Staff, returning students and children coming from Catholic families are given priority placement when applying to the school, although final decisions always rest with the admissions committee.



Seisen is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Continuum school, meaning that students follow the IB Primary Years Program (PYP) in Elementary School, the IB Middle Years Program (MYP) in Middle School, and the IB Diploma Program (DP) in High School. In July 2020 Seisen became authorized to offer the IB MYP, making it the first all-girls IB Continuum school in Japan.

In Elementary School, the Primary Years Program is designed to provide a balanced curriculum that addresses students’ social, emotional and physical well-being, academic growth and development. Designed around the IB learner profile, elementary students study core subjects alongside Art, Music, Dance, Physical Education, ICT integration, Library integration, second languages (Japanese & Spanish), Religious Studies, counsellor-led lessons. 

In Middle School, the curriculum at Seisen expands in line with the IB Middle Years Program, encouraging students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world. The IB MYP is a 5 year program, with classes broken down broadly into categories of Individuals and Societies, Mathematics, Physical Health Education, and Sciences. Also in the Middle School, Seisen students join an advisory program which provides each student the opportunity to choose a faculty advisor. Students meet with their advisors in groups or individually for guidance and mentorship, and this presents an excellent opportunity to begin to build meaningful relationships with staff before High School.

Grade 9 and 10 students continue to learn within the IB MYP framework, culminating with the MYP Personal Project which allows students to connect classroom and personal experiences. In Grade 11 and 12, students follow the IB Diploma Program

Students enrolled in the Diploma Program will take six IB subjects over two years, and are required to offer one subject from each of the six groups. The groups, and the 2021 complete Seisen IB course listing in each group, is given below:

  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
    • English A Literature (Mandatory)
    • Japanese A Language and Literature
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition
    • Japanese B
    • French B
    • Spanish B
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies
    • Economics
    • History
    • Psychology
  • Group 4: Sciences
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
  • Group 5: Mathematics
    • Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches
    • Mathematics: Applications and Interpretations
  • Group 6: The Arts
    • Visual Arts

At least three and not more than four of the six subjects are taken at the Higher Level, the others at the Standard Level.

Additionally, Diploma candidates take a philosophy-based course called Theory of Knowledge, they must write a 4000 word research paper called the Extended Essay in a subject of their choice, and must be involved in Creativity, Action, and Service programs throughout the two year Diploma program. At the completion of each IB course, students take exams which come from the IB Organization. All IB students around the world take the same exams, and they are marked by people from outside of this school.

More details about the Diploma Program, and specific details and requirements to achieve it, can be found on the International Baccalaureate website.


Leadership, Extracurriculars and Sports

As an all-girls school, Seisen prides its extracurricular program on affording leadership positions to women. Student Council provides a mechanism for Middle School and High School students to take on leadership roles within the classroom, and the large variety of clubs and student organizations provides opportunities for students to take up leadership amongst their peers. Such clubs include TEDxSeisen, Anti-Racism Education Alliance, Worthy Purpose Club, and more.

The Seisen ‘Firebird’ International competitive science team takes entrepreneurial students around the world to Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Maths(STEAM) competitions, including the CONRAD Innovation Challenge. A number of other STEAM clubs, such as AI, UI/UX, Medical Careers Club and Environmental Action Initiative, provide excitement for students on campus.

Seinsen offers the Duke of Edinburgh Award program which encourages young people to develop skills, gain confidence and spend time in nature. The school’s debate program is considered to be a premier competitive team, and Seisen also has very strong choral and instrumental programs. In sports, Seisen runs a competitive athletics program with participation in local and international leagues. The volleyball and tennis teams are particularly strong, and the full list of sports on offer is given below:

  • MS Cross Country
  • HS Cross-Country
  • MS Volleyball
  • HS Volleyball
  • HS Tennis
  • MS Basketball
  • HS Basketball
  • MS Futsal
  • MS/HS Badminton
  • HS Soccer
  • MS Track & Field
  • HS Track & Field

Many teachers at Seisen overlap with sporting teams or extracurricular opportunities, presenting an excellent opportunity for students to get to know faculty personally in advance of letters of recommendation for applications to college or university.

Like several other international schools in Tokyo, Seisen operates a house system to create a sense of spirit and belonging across the school and to give students the opportunity to build vertical and horizontal friendships within the school. Each school (Elementary, Middle and High School) has two House Captains per house (Grade 5, Grade 9 and Grade 12 students), presenting yet more opportunity for students to adopt leadership positions. The house system comes to play in various school events, theme dress days, global mindedness day, Sports Days, House Picnic Day, and divisional student led events.


Typically, 50% of Seisen graduates will matriculate to North American Universities, mostly in the U.S., 25% will stay in Japan or Asia, and 25% will attend universities in Europe, mostly the U.K.

88% of Seisen’s high school students sit for the full IB Diploma Program, and of these students 89% are successful in obtaining the Diploma. In 2020, the average Diploma score at Seisen was a 34 (out of 45), compared to a mean of 30 for all candidates globally. 10% of Seisen students scored 40 or higher. Overall, these results are strong and demonstrate that Seisen students perform better than the average IB candidate globally.

With regards to standardised testing, in the most recent cycle Seisen students averaged a 620 on the SAT® Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW) sections, and a 654 on the Mathematics Section (1274 total score). This compares to a 528 average on the ERW and a 523 average on the Math section (1051 total) across all SAT® candidates globally.

Finally, regarding college matriculation, Roughly 60% of the most recent class will attend college in the US & Canada, 20% in the UK & Europe and 20% in Japan & Asia.

Notable universities that Seisen graduates went on to attend include:

  • University of Hong Kong (China)
  • Keio University (Japan)
  • Waseda University (Japan)
  • Durham University (UK)
  • Imperial College London (UK)
  • University of Oxford (UK)
  • London School of Economics (UK)
  • Brown University (USA)
  • University of California, Berkeley (USA)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (USA)
  • Dartmouth College (USA)
  • New York University (USA)
  • University of Pennsylvania (USA)
  • University of Southern California (USA)

The information in this report comes from the experiences of Seisen students, the expertise of Tokyo Academics educators who work with students from Seisen on a regular basis, The Good Schools Guide International and the Seisen International School in Tokyo webpage.

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