The JET Programme aims to promote internationalization at the local level by inviting young overseas graduates to assist in international exchange and foreign language education in local governments, boards of education and junior and senior high schools throughout Japan.
A twice-monthly newsletter that lists teaching positions in Japan at conversation and public schools, colleges and universities.
Safe Jobs In Japan
1. Collects detailed application information from job seekers
2. Advises how the application and presentation materials can be improved for the best advantage
3. Accumulates information on potential employers including interviews with current staff to determine their credibility
4. Recommends job seekers to potential employers
TEFL Professional Network
TEFL Professional Network provides registered professionals and subscribers with a weekly jobs newsletter detailing all the current vacancies (with hyperlinks) available on the website.
They do the initial pre-screening of all JET application forms. They have a merit system where they award points on the basis of suitability for being a JET ALT. For example, if an applicant has a deep interest in Japan, they are awarded points. If they are really interested in teaching, if they have had experience of living abroad, if they have Japanese language qualifications or TEFL qualifications, they all receive points of merit. Therefore, the applicants with the highest points are then invited for an interview. The thing is the point system is not as rigid as it sounds; there is some leeway and bosses can usually also tell just by reading applicants' essays if they would be a suitable candidate for a JET ALT or not.
Then comes the interview. The interviewers consist of a panel of five people, usually consisting of ex-JET ALTs, Japanese Embassy staff and other Japanese natives. These interviews take place in January and each interview lasts about 25 minutes. It is then decided if a candidate is suitable to go on the JET program. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]
I very much enjoy my job - so much in fact that I am staying on for another year. The reasons for my staying are necessarily the teaching of English but more the friendliness of the students that I teach. The trouble with the English teaching system in Japan at the moment lies with entrance exams that rule the lives of Japanese students. From the universities down to the high schools there is no emphasis on speaking the language. Hence the majority of school lessons concentrate on written grammar. While this is important, the students lose sight of why they are learning English without the use and practice of English in real life situations. I am quite lucky in the fact that I work with some teachers that like to try and encourage the students to speak English and I also teach the students before the reality of university and entrance exams set in. Until the universities and downwards change their opinion on the spoken language, students will continue to be scared to use their knowledge in speaking English and hence the standard of English in Japan will never improve. Now don't get me wrong - some students are excellent at English but we need to encourage these and others to use their knowledge in a real and practical way! It is obvious from the lessons that I am involved in, that the students enjoy being able to speak English much more than sitting in their desks doing book work! If students are enjoying themselves, they are learning the language in a much more effective way!
I would also like to put another point across. When I teach the students in elementary school, they are so enthusiastic! I know that Monbusho (the Ministry of Education) are doing pilot schemes to teach English in elementary schools and I applaud this idea! At this age the children soak up knowledge - this is the perfect age to begin learning English!!
I may have some complaints but the benefits of my job here in Japan far outweigh the bad points (by at least 100 to 1!). I love my job and the kids that I teach - I'm even learning a bit of Japanese in the process!![Paul Sharpe: Ena, Gifu, JAPAN]
We feel taking 'nenkyu' or paid leave is our RIGHT not DUTY. We do take as many nenkyus as possible when necessary. It is sort of our "conventional wisdom" that we take them only when we need them. Civil servants are guaranteed to take 20 nenkyus each year and if they take less than that, another 20 nenkyus are added to the original ones the following year. Since most Japanese take less than 20, that adds up to 40. Foreigners can take as many nenkyus as possible because it's your right or even 'DUTY' to take up all the nenkyus that are guaranteed to you. However, if you work in the same place with Japanese coworkers, we may feel distant from you especially when we have our noses to the grindstone. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]
She suggested that Western cultures and Japanese culture have a lot of good things to teach one another, and that perhaps Japan could learn how to relax a little. She thought it would be a good thing for me to use my nen-kyu to go on vacation and get some rest to show the Japanese teachers that it is not shameful to get away from work to prevent burnout or to spend time with their families.
In my current position, people make the choice to either stay late to try to impress their boss or work the hours required. Often those who stay late are trying to win favor with their supervisors but don't accomplish as much as those who work hard during the hours during which they are required to be there.
The stresses on a foreigner living in Japan can be tremendous. The language and culture are very complicated, highly-developed and confusing to an outsider. I'm sure you have seen foreigners struggle to understand how to speak, behave, even eat. Though many Japanese people are very hospitable and friendly to foreigners, sometimes Japanese shyness makes Westerners feel unwanted and disliked. Many Assistant English Teachers are disappointed with the limited role they play in teaching English. They are called "Gaijin," which is a pejorative term that is based on race. They are always reminded that they are not Japanese, nor will they ever truly be accepted. That is why they use their nen-kyu - to escape from a society that will not accept them. [Jason MacBeth]
Your "when in Rome" argument only makes sense when you know what is expected in Rome. If the teachers who were induced to come over to Japan upon the promise of receiving certain leave time knew that the cultural pressures meant that they would in fact be expected to take far less leave time, there would be no problem. But in almost all cases (I know for a fact), they do not know that prior to coming to Japan. They only find that out after arriving here -- usually through complaints from the Japanese teachers. When the foreign teachers are told, after getting to Japan, that the expectation is that they do not use all the leave time they have accrued, they feel as if they have been cheated.
The obvious solution to this quandary is for the schools that bring English teachers over here to clearly spell out the expectations in advance. As a practical matter, this will probably not happen because it will reduce the poll of qualified candidates. Schools know that if they tell foreign teachers the true working conditions and benefits, many of them will not come. I do not know of a single English teaching school in Japan -- not one -- that tells the teachers they are recruiting about the real expectations of vacation time usage prior to their arrival in Japan. [David Snyder]
Finally, I still have a bad feeling on the screening system of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). I wonder why the Ministries (Education, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs) have begun to give them the privileges of all Saturdays off though the schools they work for or visit have classes every other Saturday. I think the Ministries' policy is weak-kneed and ALTs are well treated under the policy. I can easily guess they have reached the decision for fear that ALTs might not come if they had to go to work on Saturdays. If they are told less attractive working conditions and benefits, the candidates will sure decrease, but that way we can screen them more carefully and narrow them down - those who really want to teach at Japanese schools and exchange with Japanese people though their working conditions and benefits are not fully satisfactory. I hear the conditions and benefits are much worse in China, but still there are Westerners who want to go to China to teach students there and exchange with the locals. They are REAL educators. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]
Another thing, the JET program does not hire teachers in the strict sense of the word. It hires 'assistant teachers' and expects them to behave differently than native teachers. This is one of the reasons they are there. If a foreigner wants to become a 'teacher' in Japan then they can do so without joining the JET program and many do. JETs are part of a cultural exchange, and if I am not mistaken, exchange is a two way street. They do not come to Japan to become 'English teachers', they come to Japan to experience Japan and share what they can with those they meet and teach. Being stuck in schools 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year is a poor way to engineer an exchange. A five minute talk to a stranger on a train is often richer cultural exchange than an hour in a classroom of kids who don't want to learn or in a staff room full of people who ignore you. [David Byatt: Zamami, Okinawa, JAPAN]
Ask not what we can do for you. Ask what you can do for us.
This is part of behavior you are expected to take for us here. I've heard you earn nearly 300,000 yen every month with all Saturdays off guaranteed. Do you think you deserve to get paid that much? [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]
But that doesn't mean that we deserve to be paid so much...unless Japanese teachers are to be paid substantially more, and that is not going to happen. I feel guilty about the amount of hard work my fellow teachers put in, and even though I have offered my services they refuse them. I think that the vast majority of schools could use their ALTs to much better effect, we are being paid a lot but I personally don't feel that my schools are getting their money worth...and it is a two-way thing. As ALTs we need to realise that we are being paid a tremendous amount for what we do, and should be more than happy to give up our time. I would love to feel that I am earning my money. I would love to be treated more as a teacher and less as a guest, or a tape recorder, as I have been on various occasions, but I am painfully aware that the problem lies more in myself than in the schools. It's up to us to realise how valuable (in a literal sense) we are and to earn that money by giving our all to the job. The selection process is supposed to choose candidates who have that in mind, surely? I can't explain how they would have selected me otherwise, as I have no teaching qualifications, no English or Japanese qualifications, just some experience working (outside of schools) with young people and a bagful of passion for positively impacting the lives of the next generation.
A further point...if Monbusho wants to seriously improve standards in English education, then they need to take measures to ensure that ALTs are there for the right reasons. It IS a fact that we are attracted in part by the pay and conditions. I would have come over here to work for half the money, or double the hours, or maybe even both, but I can't say that would apply to all ALTs. Whilst I'm sure that the majority of ALTs have an interest in teaching to some extent, too many are in it more for the cultural aspect, to earn a lot, pay off their debts, and travel Japan and East Asia. Considering all the perks of our job, the opportunities to travel, the fantastic amount we get paid (as a recent graduate I have never seen so much money in my life and I don't know what to do with it), we should certainly not mind being asked to work longer hours, or Saturdays, or holidays. Surely those best suited to teaching are those dedicated to improving the lives of young people.
As ALTs we are entitled to take our leave. It's in the contract. It is essentially acting under false pretenses to get us to sign a contract without the knowledge that in actual fact we are expected to work much harder. If we are not supposed to take all our leave, then we should be told. Speaking personally, I think that giving ALTs longer hours or less holidays would discourage many from coming, which could be a good thing. The Japanese teachers of English can be more sure that those who DO come are dedicated and are aware of their expectations. Teaching is not just about doing what you are contracted to do, those with that kind of lazy and selfish attitude would be advised to forget any thoughts of pursuing a career in teaching (well, certainly in England anyway) and stop wasting their fellow teachers' time and the government's money.
It's important for us to have some holidays, to explore Japan, do the internationalisation thing, and more importantly just to keep ourselves in good shape mentally and physically. ALTs must be told what is expected of them...this might mean changing the contract, or it might just mean leaving the contract as it is but toughening up on the selection process, and most of all EDUCATING us on what to expect. If our presence causes resentment, then something has to be done...there is good internationalisation and there is bad internationalisation.
Well, that's my ha`pennies worth (`two cents` to those who have only experienced American internationalisation). Feel free to mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be fascinated to hear what people think about this...especially people with experience in the fields of youth work or teaching from anywhere around the world, who might be aware of the non-contractual obligations of their job... [Bobbins: Tosa, Kochi, JAPAN]
First of all, let me say clearly that I think there are still many problems with the JET Programme. However, I agree with ALTs who say that their holidays belong to them. They are NOT hired according on the same terms as Japanese teachers of English (JET). They are not in Rome to become Romans, quite to the contrary, in fact. In any case, I think a lot of Japanese teachers could benefit from taking leave.
Many Japanese believe they are working hard, but often they just work for a long time. By many western standards they are inefficient. Just two nights ago, I was talking with a Canadian, an Italian and a Croatian, all who are businessmen in Japan. One is assisting Yamaha to write programs for music in keyboards, another is selling automotive technology, and the Italian is selling machinery to Japan Tobacco. What did all of them say about their experiences here? Japanese take too long to do things.
To compare salaries is unfair. For example, do ALTs get bonuses like JETs? If you would like to do world comparison, you will find that Japanese teachers are well paid.
He wrote, "Ask not what we can do for you. Ask what you can do for us." I believe that most ALTs are more than willing to help, but, the fact is, ALTs are here to expose children to their culture. What they are supposed to do, in broad terms, has already been decided.
I DO agree with him that any person with good English should be allowed to be an ALT -- Indians, Filipinos, Malaysians, Israelis, Dutch, Swedes, Germans. This would be wonderful, but as you know, the Monbukagakusho (and most bureaucrats actually) is a very conservative ministry, just as Japan is still a very conservative country. [Gregg McNabb: Fukuroi, Shizuoka, JAPAN]
1. Taking leaves
I just wanted ALTs to understand our work environment in which it's rather difficult to take all the paid leaves with our heads high. I should say this is sort of our 'culture' that has long influenced our society. There is no doubt we can take all of them as it's guaranteed to do so. However, the tradition I mentioned above makes it difficult for us to do the same things as ALTs do. Some colleagues may gossip with others about such teachers (even ALTs) who are rare by our standards. People rarely take all the leaves simply because we don't think we need so many days off as we have more national holidays than other countries, plus we have the complete five-day work week and because it hasn't been widely accepted to take all the leaves in our society yet.
2. Japanese work inefficiently
I almost admit what you and your friends said about this. I have seen some colleagues who stay at school late at night, enjoying chats with their colleagues for quite a long time. However, it seems to me that not all their chats are meaningless; they seem to try to share their experiences and problems with others and often ask them for their advice. Besides, many junior high school teachers tend to stay late at school to prepare for their lessons or mark the papers. They cannot find time to do so by the time they are to leave school. After school many of them go straight to the gym to coach students in extracurricular activities. Back to their staff room after that, they can finally take time to do chores around school. Some even take their work home with them.
3. Salaries or bonuses
I wonder how many ALTs know their salaries are higher than those of Japanese English teachers who are fresh from college. They come to Japan as assistant English teachers and are not responsible for their teaching no matter how they teach. I guess you once worked as an ALT and now you must be in more responsible position. You can easily understand the difference between the two in terms of responsibility. Didn't you feel you were like a guest when you were an ALT? Did you 'seriously' worry about teaching English like many inexperienced Japanese English teachers or try to talk to them and understand their situation? Furthermore, we do a lot more work than they do. Did you feel you worked more than your colleagues? Unfortunately, I have never ever seen such ALTs. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]
However, I should say Japanese students' interest in their studies is gradually decreasing nowadays and that they are losing their interest not only in English but in English-speaking people and their cultures as well. Unlike the times when we could see few foreigners walking down the street, students can now see them even at school who vist to teach English. Due to the development of communication technology that has narrowed the gap among the nations around the world, we can get ample information on them (especially on Western nations) through media. I feel sorry then for the JET teachers (we call them Assistant Language Teachers) who come to Japan with much hope for teaching English.
It seems to me, however, from now on they will be expected to have more desire, originality and ingenuity to teach our students. Therefore, I personally feel that we should hire ALTs with diverse backgrounds. In that sense, Asians such as Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indians and Filipinos who have a good command of English and diverse cultural background should also be hired. They could teach their cultures that are similar to ours but still somewhat different as well as English. Unfortunately, many Japanese are not so familiar with their cultures as they are with Westerners'.
English is now an international language and there are no boundaries among people who use the language. I guess our students' interest in English, foreign people and their cultures would be a lot more increased if they were taught by such people from Asia. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]
Frankly, as an American thinking of going to Japan, I'm very pleased that the Japanese are our allies in Asia. But the Philippines, Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese aren't big friends of the Japanese. But Americans have a deep sense of forgiveness and, it appears so do the Japanese. We are civilized, Japan and America. We understand that peace is better than war, that countries that trade together live together in peace.
First, Americans go to Japan because we are very much alike, our systems, that is, and the Japanese government knows that ties to America are much, much more important than ties with Malaysia or Indonesia or the Philippines. Economically, we share similar abilities -- technical abilities and notions of law, land ownership/property, etc. Not that the Japanese found their way naturally to these things but that they were basically forced on them via the Meiji Restoration and, later, the Constitution after the WWII.
So for a man like me, going to Japan for two years of teaching and living in Japan -- and leaving with some understanding of your culture and language -- is a good thing for everyone. I will take knowledge and experience back to the US where I will work for an American company. I might come back to Japan -- in fact, probably will. You see, American companies cherish men and women with those special skills, the ability to bridge the gaps, make friends all over the place. In the end, we develop new business, transfer ideas, technologies and protect each other from what will certainly over the next few decades be the economic onslaught of the Chinese.
What I'm saying is that this notion of a pan-Asian love is nonsense. There is no love lost between Japan and the rest of Asia. Japan's greatest ally in the Pacific is still the USA. [Philip Hayworth: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA]
I've encountered a lot of English teachers from various countries in and outside of Japan so far, and I have reached a conclusion myself that it's not countries they come from but people themselves that counts, especially in term of teaching English. Their own teaching techniques and zeal toward teaching are actually their assets, and not only students but their colleagues feel attracted to them.
People from the countries you mentioned have their own cultures that are somewhat similar to ours. Many Japanese students, however, do not necessarily understand the people and their cultures, though they belong to Asia where Japan also does. They could introduce these in the classroom as well as teach English, and their own language if possible.
English is an international language that plays an essential role in communicating with other people who don't speak the same language. It's not the language of the United Kingdom. It's not the language of the United States, either. It is the common language that people around the world share as a means of international communication. So I have a thought that it would be possible for nonnative speakers of English to teach English in Japan as long as they have a native command of the language. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]
Of course, anybody can argue that most people don't have an appropriate accent or command to teach English, but many do. Many foreigners in Britain have a better knowledge of the English language than those who are born here, and the only clue that reveals they were not born on these islands is their peculiar accents.
But in Britain itself there are many accents. Which one is best or correct? In this world of international communication, it is extremely important to adapt to different world Englishes. In international business it is pointless for a native English speaker of the inner circle not to understand others because his/her listening is only tuned to his/her community accent. [Amadeu Gilabert: Chester, Cheshire, United Kingdom]
Everyone I met in Japan was there for the money or woman. No one is there for the culture. That is the problem. But everyone will say that is why they are there except for a few. Can they teach? I know that there are so many fake degrees in Japan it would make your head spin. I know a couple myself. The Japanese do not check. Why not?
An example. In Amagasaki there are teachers there who don't have qualifications. They are making 500,000 yen a month, bonuses, 2.5 months holiday and no responsibility. Most teachers have been there 10 years. I think that their culture experience is now over! They are there for the money. Hire real teachers or only hire young students on 3 year contracts only. And don't pay them so much. They will still go. 500,000 yen a month for uneducated assistants is absurd. No other country does this. These people stay all their lives. Almost all the teachers in Amagasaki now are married for the visa so that they can stay.
As for the people saying that they need more money because the language is hard and the country is not comfortable to live in. Forget that. People go and live in a lot harder conditions for a lot less money and support. Africa, China, etc. People will still go. [Been there done that]