Filipino Teachers Paving the Way for Montessori Education in Japan

Cesar Santoyo

In this edition of Showcase, Cesar Santoyo shares with us how Filipino teachers are paving the way for Montessori Education in Japan, and how they are contributing to rebuilding in the Tohoku region.

Filipino Teachers Paving the Way for Montessori Education in Japan

In the aftermath of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami came the Tohoku reconstruction that resulted in the formation of Filipino migrants initiated Social Enterprise English Language School (SEELS)—a Montessori English program aiming to provide Filipinos living in the disaster-stricken region with the English teaching knowledge and skills to start their own English language tutorials within the neighborhood training programs. SEELS was registered as a limited corporation under the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau on May 18, 2011.

From July 2011 to March 2014, SEELS have trained 166 Filipino teachers. In addition to this number, SEELS have trained a number of Japanese as well as immigrants from Chile and Cuba to become teachers of English as a second language (L2). Most of SEELS training certificate holders are living in the coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures where the 3/11 tsunami caused so much devastation. 

Montessori English School commenced L2 English programs for preschoolers, high school, and adults in Fukushima during August 2012 and in Sendai in March 2013. JALT has made significant contributions to the SEELS-Sendai School with JALT-SIG members involved in the organisation and held the Free Campus Fair on March 3, 2013. This event contributed to the school’s enrollment recruitment drive and also raised awareness of the SEELS’ language teaching and learning programs. 

Since its creation, SEELS has been dedicated to continually improving the training and services it provides. This has been evident through the implementation of both innovative teacher training and school curricular programs. The results have been remarkable and have contributed to the current objective at SEELS which is to “Teach English the Natural Way” using the Montessori system of teaching. SEELS is reintroducing the language and phonics teaching method developed over a hundred years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori.

In 2018, English will become a regular subject in elementary schools across Japan. As a result of these new Mombusho English learning objectives, SEELS is now tailoring its language teaching and learning through its SEELS Montessori English phonics program towards preschool children and their parents interested in English learning and teaching programs for their children. SEELS vision and mission is to implement the Montessori English Phonics program prior to entering elementary school to help children build an English foundation in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that will contribute to their L2 learning in elementary school. 

This year is a milestone year for SEELS with the launching of several new projects and programs. In April 2015, the biggest initiative to date is SEELS in partnership with various jukus offering Montessori English Phonics for children between the ages of seven and ten. In addition, the Montessori English phonics and English language course for mothers and parents is being offered as a way to help contribute to and enjoy their child’s language learning. Another milestone is the launching of the “10 Days English Phonics Spring Holiday” being held between March 25 and April 4, 2015 by SEELS-Montessori English Phonics School in Tokyo. The ten-day spring holiday program is a three-hour daily program that includes phonics reading, writing, speaking, and listening activities. The SEELS-Montessori English Phonics School in Fukushima and Chiba Prefectures will also offer the same courses as in the Tokyo SEELS schools. Included in these SEELS initiatives are the SEELS-Montessori teacher certificate holders located around Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka, and Gifu who are permitted to conduct home tutorials and community school program anytime using SEELS-Montessori brand, teaching system, materials and company license. SEELS is dedicated to ensuring that all their teachers obtain the Montessori Teacher Diploma which includes online and practical classroom training that incorporates the philosophies and teaching methods of Dr. Maria Montessori.

As a result of the excellent service being provided by SEELS, a milestone in their short history has been the acknowledgement by the Japanese government through the awards and support that they have received. Most notably has been the recognition awarded through the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and the Cabinet Office of Michinoku Kigyo that is leading the Tohoku reconstruction. Such recognition serves to increase peoples’ awareness of SEELS and dedicated people like Cesar Santoyo, who has played a major role in the establishment and growth of SEELS and the development of language teaching and learning in Japan, especially in the areas that were devastated in the Tohoku region.


Cesar V. Santoyo is the President of SEELS, a language teaching initiative that provides middle- and low-income families with English language teaching services by Filipino migrant women as well as opportunities to become certified teachers. Since the Great Eastern Earthquake on March 11, 2011, Cesar has led SEELS and been committed to improving the lives of both Filipino migrant women and Japanese people across disaster-stricken regions including Fukushima and Sendai, Japan.

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