COVID-19 INFORMATION What you need to know about the coronavirus if you are living in Japan or planning a visit.

Here
and
Now

opinions

Is the JET Program really necessary for Japan?

61 Comments

Recently, I wrote a short piece titled, “Is the JET Program right for you?” This was a short article, just intended as a very brief primer on the JET Program, based mostly on my own experiences and the experiences of other JETs I’ve personally known. Some of the comments on that piece questioned the validity of the JET Program and it got me thinking — is the JET Program really necessary for Japan?

As the official website states, JET “aims to promote grassroots 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 elementary, junior and senior high schools throughout Japan. It seeks to foster ties between Japanese citizens (mainly youth) and JET participants at the person-to-person level.”

Over the years, especially in recent times, the JET Program has fallen under criticism. One of the major critiques is that the English level of Japanese has not improved much since the JET Program began in 1987, and this is true. But this is a larger problem with English education in Japan as a whole. The JET Program is also quite expensive to maintain — over 4,000 participants who make over three million yen a year and may also receive housing and transportation subsidies, as well as their airfare to and from Japan at the beginning and end of their stays. There are some problems with the JET Program and reforms that can be implemented.

For starters, the aim is quite broad. Promoting grassroots internationalization at the local level certainly sounds great, but what exactly does that mean? And how will this grassroots internationalization be implemented? While many JETs participate in community events, run English clubs or English conversation classes outside of their regular work duties, this isn’t true of all. There are some JETs who become very involved in their communities and become quite proficient in Japanese, but there are also others who rarely interact with the locals outside of work duties.

Another issue is the teaching of English itself. As I stated in my previous article, JETs who work as assistant language teachers (ALTs) can have a variety of different classroom experiences. Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) are across the spectrum on ALTs — some love working with ALTs, some have little use for them, and some would like to use ALTs more in class, but don’t know how. English instruction has expanded to elementary schools as well, but without much thought given to properly preparing the teachers for it. Sometimes, the instruction falls to the homeroom teacher who frequently won’t know much more English than the students or it falls to the ALT. And while there are some ALTs who may have had teacher training in university or in previous careers, it’s by no means a pre-requisite for the program.

The root of these problems comes down to one of JET’s famed acronyms, ESID — Every Situation Is Different. The more one thinks about ESID, the more it seems like a crutch. If the schools don’t know what to do with the ALT and the ALT isn’t trained to perform properly, then naturally there will be problems. The JET Program has made some strides recently, such as by offering grants for ALTs who wish to get certified in an online TESOL course. But more could certainly be done. New ALTs arrive in late July and early August, and after two or three days of orientation in Tokyo, head to their host prefectures and cities. The students, however, are on summer vacation until the beginning of September.

So for these ALTs, their first experiences in Japan usually consists of “office days,” where they go to their local board of education or their base school and sit at a desk from 8:30 in the morning until 4:15 in the afternoon and have nothing to do. There may be some local activities or English camps that they’re asked to participate in, but these can vary a lot based on location and based on contracting organization. There are some contracting organizations that won’t allow an ALT to participate in outside English camps or speech contests, even if they don’t administer any. Perhaps that two or three day orientation should be two or three weeks of TESOL instruction. Now, of course there are a whole host of issues involved with that, such as where would the instruction take place, how would it be paid for, would it be handled by CLAIR or by the contracting organizations, but it’s one suggestion. Perhaps this could be simplified by changing the requirements for JET and mandating that prospective ALTs have some training.

Another would be to have clear guidelines for the ALTs duties. Should it be mandated that they teach a community class or English club, how are they to be utilized in class, what is the role of the JTE and the ALT, etc. There needs to be more direction from the program as a whole and if Japan really wants to utilize native English speakers in the classroom, then both the JET Program and the method of English instruction should be reformed so that native English speakers can be utilized effectively.

I don’t mean this as an attack on the JET Program or its participants. The program is well-intentioned and its participants are more often than not very great people who want to live up to the aims of JET. But what I do know is that if Japan wants to improve the English ability of its citizens as well as help them develop good relationships with the rest of the world, it will take more than dropping recent graduates from English-speaking countries into the middle of the country.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

61 Comments
Login to comment

I always thought that it would have been better to have the native English speaking teachers teaching the Japanese English teachers rather than the kids.

8 ( +11 / -2 )

Too early in the morn for another rant about the Jet program.Everybody but me gave their opinion on it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

If there's one thing Japan definitely doesn't need, it's yet another English 'teacher'!

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

Good idea Bertie.

I think that JETs as most English teachers are paid over free market prices. Personally I think that they should do away with me (I am not a JET but similar) and hire 5 Philippians or Indians with at least half of the English language ability at one fifth of the cost. The Japanese are not up to the level where they require native speakers. The pronunciation thing is snobbery. If they could speak English they'd be talking to other Asians in English mostly anyway. In those cases where pronunciation is important, if English teaching was freed up - and visas were awarded to teachers earning less than 240,000 yen monthly, then they could have British graduates here for a couple of years anyway, for about half of current salaries. The reason why salaries are maintained at 24man per month is ostensibly to protect Japanese teachers of English. But I think that if they had a sudden influx of folks from the Philippines or India, with a few pronunciation teaching native speakers, then the current Japanese teachers of English would be needed to liaise, and teach the non-Japanese how to teach.

When cheap workers arrive it usually means that the current workers become their bosses, not laid off, at least in my experience of seeing the opening of the UK to the EU.

-11 ( +7 / -17 )

I think if they want the program to be more successful they have to eliminate the JTEs that have no idea what they are doing. There are so many JTEs who can't speak the language. Unfortunately for most Japanese the English Teaching License is super easy to get.

There's a special Japanese word for some Japanese that love to pass tests to get licenses. A secretary in my office has a HS teaching license. She's never worked a day in the profession. Then there are those English teachers who teach my son who can't speak a lick of English to describe his weak areas. The usual response I get is "He has to study harder".

I still remember when that guy pitched a Juku to us. I was there to talk about how my son was doing in class and he's talking to us about how wonderful Benesse is. Of course, not in English. I've never had the opportunity to speak with the native English teacher there from Canada. Apparently they have no say in administrative roles.

All in all, I think we should start corrective measures with the overpaid who aren't realistically qualified for their jobs and pay more to those who actually speak the language.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I don't think that one need speak English to be able to teach the English required in Japanese schools. School students are aiming to pass tests. Until there are a lot (a lot) of English speaking examiners that can interview students, or at least read and listen to large amounts of their English (as in the TOEIC speaking writing test), then school students will continue to need to know conventional test passing skills, which can effectively be taught by non-English speaking Japanese teachers of English.

-7 ( +4 / -10 )

Another problem is that the use of contracting companies is illegal. You did mention these companies, but it should be pointed out they are external to the program(. Some boards of education are trying to circumvent the law here. This is being fought by several labor unions.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

JETs serve no purpose to the Japanese. The program was created to open up Japan to foreign markets, by "softening" them up the idea of foreigners at the grassroots level.

It wasn't something that Japan came up with and initiated. It was a "black ship" kind of thing.

There's no English speaking requirement for the vast majority of High School and Uni students here. If they need to learn English for their job, that's up to them, their job, and their boss.

JET and any English conversation NOT talk by a Japanese teacher is a pointless waste of time.

Sure, they have foreign langauge in the west, but remember the WHOLE PURPOSE of high school here is to prep kids for entrance exams. Anything that's NOT on the entrance exams shouldn't be taught in school.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

I'm a first year JET teaching in 5 schools, and I understand the programme is seen as expensive. I didn't come to Japan based on the salary, there are far more lucrative post graduate positions available in the world.

Could it be done for less money, probably. Would you get the same calibre of applicants? I don't know, but if people are on the programme just for the salary, then they are surely not the sort of educators anyone, globally, is looking for. Are JETs from around the World the same, no, but everyone has been selected for a skill set they can offer Japan. Is this always utilised, I think not, but that falls on both parties, I think. Do I work far in excess of my contract? Sure, but doesn't everyone I Japan? I choose to do this though.

For me, communication and community interaction are the most important parts of my role.

I teach at Elementary Schools and Adult Classes, at Junior High School I assist Japanese Teachers of English. I am lucky, my teachers are good teachers of English, but in my opinion, we are still within a system where Junior High students are taught to pass an exam, rather than to 'learn' English.

Often I think JET's are under-used, we have diverse skills sets, but all to a high level, which could be better utilised. But we are here to encourage communication.

I was told recently, by a Japanese Teacher of English, that the most important thing a JET can do in Junior High School is communicate effectively in English with the class teacher about a wide range of topics. When the students see this, they realise effective communication is really possible, when the students can understand some of the conversation the potential desire to learn increases exponentially....

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

As a former ALT, I can only say that there was just one Japanese teacher who actually put himself out to have the students work together with me in an English club activity. He worked hard finding materials that could be used to produce conversation practice. Almost all other Japanese teachers were only concerned with getting through the textbooks to the next lesson. I'm sure other ALT have experience the same situation. Having an English club activity which activates conversation in a relaxed way might be what is needed more.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Is the JET Program really necessary for Japan?

No. Anyone with a brain knows this and this topic has been done to death. Next.

-8 ( +7 / -15 )

I think the effectiveness of the ALT depends heavily on the JTE and his/her structure of the class. One of my school's I'm just a tape recorder, whereas in the other school I get to run my own weekly culture/natural conversation class. The main difference between these two JTEs is that one actually took the time to apply my skill sets/special abilities into class, and believe me, its way more satisfying by the end of the day. I think JETs have to set, or at least fight for, teaching responsibilities going into the year.

Making a good salary in Japan is great and all, but I think being a part of the JET program and going through the rigorous application process, we owe it to Japan and ourselves to contribute to the classroom/cultural exposure. Like I said, I experience both sides of the "ALT responsibility spectrum", if you will, so I know where the writer is coming from.

Lastly, if there's something that JET does offer is its intangibles. One of the intangibles is that by being a foreigner in Japan we can encourage international traveling/interest meanwhile dissuading foreign cultural presumptions. I told my students from day one, because English is the most used language around the world you could travel and communicate with Canadians, Australians, the English, Americans, even people in Singapore. I worked with international students for four years back in college and every quarter there were hundreds from Japan eager to try new things. Maybe their English wasn't great or anywhere near perfect but they had the right attitude, the right curiosity in learning about a culture, as did their ALT most likely showed by living in their country at one time. They carry those stories to their friends and family, and help promote internationalism in a country where 99% of the population is the same race.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@jimmyp

I was told recently, by a Japanese Teacher of English, that the most important thing a JET can do in Junior High School is communicate effectively in English with the class teacher about a wide range of topics. When the students see this, they realise effective communication is really possible, when the students can understand some of the conversation the potential desire to learn increases exponentially....

I agree. I often told my JTE that it was far more important for the students to see and hear him speaking English than to see and hear me. Realistically, they couldn't hope to sound like me or speak as fluently as a native speaker, but they could aim to sound like their teacher, and they might realize that he was able to communicate with me in English and they could too. The JTEs must be role models for their students.

On another note, it's sad to see that 22 years after I was a ALT things haven't changed at all. The same situations, the same problems, and the same complaints just go on and on.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

The question is not whether is it necessary (answer: no) but is it even useful?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The JET programme is/was well intentioned, and CAN work well in some situations (yes, ESID), but I agree the aims are too broad, and with the current economy it's not very practical. What's more, thanks to said economy, many of the people who come over are being assigned a lot more than the workload should require, are having their paid leave cut to levels below what Japanese get (from the original 20 to 11 now, I believe), and are being forced in many cases to go to elementary schools and basically make up a curriculum for the school there since the schools must teach English now but have no way or ideas of doing so on their own, despite the ALTs being 'assigned' to junior highschools or highschools in many cases. In other words, under the current system in a lot of cases it's not really worth it for either side.

It's a shame, really, and much of the problem is the usual red-tape here. I came over on JET long, long ago and whenever I tried to join a club or create an English club of my own (and hence try to have them actually use the English they study and get used to doing so), but I would be told by the school that unless I was willing to do it every single day since students have to sign up 'officially' for a club then I could not do it, and I couldn't attend other clubs regularly (once in a while was okay) because it interfered with their practice.

These days, from what I've heard, a lot of BOEs have opted out of JET, or cut down on the numbers, and offer their own private contracts that cut the salaries, lessen the holidays, and increase the job requirements. Ultimately, though, it's up to the person recontracting or coming over here to begin with, so whatever.

I do think the CIR job (or whatever it is), is quite valuable and worthwhile. As for AETs, I think they need to change the program and come up with a more uniform job requirement and contract (especially given that Japan prides itself on its nation-wide uniform education), or else they need to ditch the programme (save the CIR positions) and start hiring foreigners as regular teachers in the Japanese education system (if they have an education background, know the system, and have a relative fluency in Japanese).

2 ( +5 / -3 )

It's not that it's not useful, but its use is completely different to its purported aim. Similarly to what gaijinfo said, the purpose of JET has nothing to do with teaching English and improving students' English ability, it is to boost the business prospects of Japan in the future by softening up foreigners and Japanese alike to be predisposed to each other. Why else would there be an age limit on being a JET? It's all about money, business, and Japan's future.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Without the JET program, the interwebs would be sorely deprived of bento photo essays.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

There are some contracting organizations that won’t allow an ALT to participate in outside English camps or speech contests, even if they don’t administer any.

Am I the only one who thinks this is strange? If the BOE doesn't administer such things, then why should they be bothered to tell the JETs they can't go to something that doesn't exist in the first place? 'New JETs, please be aware that you can't have free rides to Mars in our rocketship, even though we don't have one.'

As to whether the JET Programme is of any value, it depends on what the goal of JET is. If the goal is to provide each town with at least one pet gaijin to play with and coo over, then I think it's doing just fine. If the goal is improvement in English education it has been a massive failure, and a very expensive one at that. No, it's not sour grapes. I was a JET too and had a great time getting paid a lot of money. I do have an educational background and tried to put it to good use at the elementary schools, but I just found that English class was not taken seriously and anything I thought I had taught was just wasted when the students started junior high school.

So what are JETs for? Is it so the students can meet foreigners and just get to sample games, songs and various things from a western culture? I think that the cost of JET is ridiculous just for that, especially in these days of supposed austerity. And what about the many ALTs who work through dispatch companies? Are they worth the money spent on them by the BOEs? I don't think so. English in Japan just isn't improving at a rate that justifies having foreigners in the classroom. Furthermore, in this day and age you can have easy access to foreign speaking partners through Skype etc. In fact, that could easily be set up as a business opportunity, or even for free as an online exchange scheme between schools.

The role of ALT is a white elephant.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Could it be done for less money, probably. Would you get the same calibre of applicants? I don't know, but if people are on the programme just for the salary, then they are surely not the sort of educators anyone, globally, is looking for.

Hello jimmyp. To answer your question, it already IS being done for less money through dispatch companies. If you come off JET and go to work for one of those companies, you will see an alarming drop in salary and perks, such as the subsidies on housing your get on JET. Dispatch ALTs are paid a lot less, are expected to do a lot more in terms of number of classes, eating with the students etc. And the expectations are a lot higher. Look at some of the sites and you will see that they often are expected to have teaching experience and conversational Japanese and on top of that, the job is no where near as secure as it is on JET. A disaptch ALT is as discardable as pair of waribashi, and can be replaced on a whim by the parent company if the ALT is not doing exactly what the school wants. Read some of the stories on the message boards on various forums. JETs are far more difficult to get rid of as they work for the BOEs and are treated more like staff.

Do I work far in excess of my contract? Sure, but doesn't everyone I Japan?

Japanese people do, yes. JETs are probably expected to do because they are well paid and are considered part of the BOE. I had to do things I didn't want to do. As a dispatch ALT with the parent company creaming off a wad of the money I should have been earning, and with excessive lessons at elementary school (I'll bet you don't do 6 classes plus obligatory attendance at lunch) then no, I wouldn't and I didn't.

For me, communication and community interaction are the most important parts of my role.

You've been well indoctrinated at 'Orientation'. Pity they can't teach JETs how to teach as well.

I am lucky, my teachers are good teachers of English, but in my opinion, we are still within a system where Junior High students are taught to pass an exam, rather than to 'learn' English.

I agree with you here. I think that there are a lot of very good English speaking JTEs. Put it this way, I've met more good ones than bad ones, by far!

Often I think JET's are under-used, we have diverse skills sets, but all to a high level, which could be better utilised. But we are here to encourage communication.

There's that word again - 'communication'. What does that mean exactly? People keep using it, yet when asked to explain what it actually means in the Japanese English-teaching context, no-one can. It's a buzz word, like 'internationalization'. What does that mean?

I was told recently, by a Japanese Teacher of English, that the most important thing a JET can do in Junior High School is communicate effectively in English with the class teacher about a wide range of topics. When the students see this, they realise effective communication is really possible, when the students can understand some of the conversation the potential desire to learn increases exponentially....

More buzz words and clap-trap, and there it is again - 'communicate'. The JTE told you nothing apart from what he or she has had to learn to believe, but it is as vague as anything else in the JET programme. This teacher has been indoctrinated too. I've heard the nonsense about students seeing us communicate with Japanese in English before too. It simply isn't true. A few will learn English well; the rest won't. Those who learn it well will have done so because they want to and they like languages. These people then become the English teacher of tomorrow who will be talking about 'communication' and 'internationalization' with the ALTs of tomorrow...unless someone at Monbusho wises up and abolishes JET and ALT dispatch.

But of course, I couldn't possibly comment.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

We can gauge how serious the Education ministry and various boards are when it comes to teaching English by the very job title of the teachers they hire. Whether it's JET or some ALT dispatch service the native speaker is only an Assistant Language Teacher. As long as a foreign language has to be passed through a Japanese cultural and linguistic filter, they'll never really be any good at it. I think sadly that's the intention.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

budgie, I might be wrong but I think that a foreigner can only be an 'assistant' in a Japanese school by law. A misnomer, I'll grant, because at elementary school the ALT leads the classes, and in every way the HRT is the 'assistant' in these cases. Recent exceptions include the few teachers who are trying to teach the new grade 5 and 6 courses themselves.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Two comments.

The first comment is that it takes more to be a good teacher of anything than being born in an English-speaking country. Some JETS are teachers. Others are not. Blaming JETS for the state of English instruction in Japan is ridiculous in any case.

The second comment is that JETS have been successful at their stated purpose of internationalization. Ten to fifteen years ago, there were areas of Japan where foreigners were rarely seen, and some Japanese students were often absolutely freaked out by them. Now, foreigners are just another part of the landscape. That's progress, and the JETS helped.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

my skill sets/special abilities into class

Um, having English as your native language isn't any sort of skill nor special ability...

Well said Farmboy. I don't blame most JTEs for not wanting to babysit JETs. More so when most JETs don't have a clue about education, don't speak Japanese and yet, think they know it all with regards to language education.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@tmarie

More so when most JETs don't have a clue about education, don't speak Japanese and yet, think they know it all with regards to language education.

It is true that most JETs don't have a clue about education, let alone language education, but some of them do come from Japanese Studies degrees with a high level of Japanese. The Japanese only have themselves to blame that they choose JETs from any Jack or Jill who has any degree in any subject. So many JETs don't know anything about education, but why should they, if their degree is in something like science? I also don't think that JETs think they know it all. On Orientation they taught us nothing about teaching classes. It was all about integrating with society. After a few weeks there was an area meeting for my area where 2nd and 3rd year JETs were presenting and the quality of what they were passing on was pitiful! They can't possibly have thought they really knew what they were doing. The upshot was 'Sing the ABC Song. Do Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and play karuta and criss cross'. Maybe you're right, come to think of it! Maybe they did think they knew it all. I couldn't possibly comment.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I don't think that a lot of internationalization is achieved by importing JETS. People get to see them and occasionally touch them, but at best it is like a mobile petting zoo. The Japanese get to see a gaijin. Is that "internationalization"? They often keep to themselves, and paid as much as they are, it would be surprising if they had anything but pretty elitist attitude, that does not require them to get down and dirty with the natives. The dispatch system sounds far cheaper and also better but I think that it needs to get a lot more painful for the English speakers before we are going to see improvement in Japanese English.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

timtak, dispatch isn't better from the ALT's point of view because he or she is being paid a LOT less and being fleeced by the dispatch company. It's good news for the BOEs though because they can get rid of unwanted ALTs easily and they don't have to provide a supervisor to look after ALTs when they get into difficulty. All that is done by the dispatch company. Some are worse than others. The ALT has little recourse. An ALT can be replaced for not being 'genki' enough! Seriously.

If the Japanese genuinely wanted to have improved English across the board, they could do it without the help of ALTs. I think the 'foreigner in the classroom' is just a gimmick anyway. Nowadays, many ALTs from western countries are being replaced by Filipinos with questionable English. How is that helping?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Francis, very few have decent Japanese language skills and those who are decent usually end up as CIRs, not ALTs.

I 100% agree the locals have only themselves to blame but I sure do wish they'd stop wasting my tax money on such tripe and either hire decent native teachers or better yet, send the JTEs abroad to learn how to actually speak and teach English. But that's be like asking for a unicorn...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Nowadays, many ALTs from western countries are being replaced by Filipinos with questionable English. How is that helping?

Cheaper internationalization and more chances of an international marriage and kids??

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@tmarie You're right, of course, and it's definitely a money thing. Why pay for an ALT when you can get the Filipina wife of a Japanese man, already settled and with citizenship to come in part-time and do a bit of 'teaching' for a few hundred yen a day? The wife is happy for a bit of extra cash, and she's willing to work for a lot less. That's what is happening.

Quite a few of the JETs I knew did have Japanese skills. Dispatch ALTs and required to have them. And then they are paid less. Doesn't make sense!

Even if Japan did hire native speakers with qualifications and training, the elementary schools would still just want songs and games and no real English teaching. There is nothing in place to justify it. Monbusho is telling them that having fun playing in English is the way to go, so they (the schools) stick to this policy with rigidity. Just try to teach anything and you'll incur wrath!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have known people from the 90's 00's and now 10's who have been on the JET program. Great experience for them. Nothing happens in Japan. From a Japan perspective it should be scrapped. Then, learn language as it actually occurs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Dispatch ALTs and required to have them (language skills)" Wow. Dispatch ALTs are sounding better and better.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

And what's the problem with that Francis? Do you have any understanding of "World Englishes"?

What doesn't makes sense is bringing over a bunch of recent uni grads, many with no teaching experience, little to no Japanese, and placing them in the role of "teacher". I'd much rather a mature Filipino with some Japanese skills in the classroom than what usually gets hired for JET. There is no need "justification" to it - I agree - but you don't actually have to go after those who are also native speakers, in many cases, just because they might be cheaper and just as effective as white ALTs.

You might also like to look into the the majority of people Japanese speak English with - it isn't white recent uni grads. It's Asians. So in that case, having the local kids learn to deal with Asian accented English is far more beneficial to them.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I have a Japanese graduated scale. It has Let's Cooking! on the front. Japan is a joke with English so it's hard to take language training seriously. Stop the fake education

1 ( +1 / -0 )

don't think that a lot of internationalization is achieved by importing JETS. People get to see them and occasionally touch them

I've heard the stories too. Apparently being "touched" is a sackable offence for these JETs though - if they get caught that is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem with the JET programme is that those who do it are totally inexperienced. It takes years of experience to be able to teach English effectively to children.

You ought to be qualified and yes very good at Japanese.

Some of us are excellent teachers.

You have to be dedicated and probably a business owner and you can't do it in the public school environment.

A large number of native English teachers in Japan are terrible and those are the people who say Japanese kids don't need them because they have never seen success in teaching.

I didn't know the JET programme still existed.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There are some contracting organizations that won’t allow an ALT to participate in outside English camps or speech contests, even if they don’t administer any.

Am I the only one who thinks this is strange? If the BOE doesn't administer such things, then why should they be bothered to tell the JETs they can't go to something that doesn't exist in the first place?

What he's saying is that there are some organizations paying your JET salary that prohibit you from doing anything English-related outside of what they're paying you to do. I imagine this stemmed from problems where someone was teaching in a "camp" in addition to teaching for the contracting organization.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If you want your kid to be proficient in english, send them overseas for a school semester. When I was working in J-land at one of the big conversation schools, the one with the pink bunny I ran across a few students, high schoolers, one who went to Canada, a few to Australia and were there for a school year. When they came back to Japan, it was like night and day.. they were speaking extremely well, full of slang and idioms and could really hold down a conversation. Mind you, this option is definitely not for everyone barring the high costs involved but its an option...

I think it comes down to each person's desire to learn a language - and try getting a class room full of 16 year olds motivated to learn - I was probably the same when I had to learn French in high school, didn't give two craps about it. Now as an adult, I can kick myself in the behind wishing I actually applied myself in that class

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is the JET Program really necessary for Japan?

Let's call it what it is. It's essentially a welfare program paid by the Japanese government hence tax payers to English speaking countries' citizens. Granted, some JET/ALT's are aware of this and take every opportunity to learn the host country's language to better themselves but in my experience, most are under a delusional mind set that they are "worthy" or even go far as to perceive themselves as "elite". Then of course, after their term is up, they realize that they can't get a job due to the fact that they did nothing to improve themselves while they're there so they end up working in the "Eikaiwa" industry which I equate to "hostess" in the Japanese pub establishements. Not to demean these "hostess" job but at least their expiration is about three years while the former can last for decade and beyond.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Immersion is the only sure way to thoroughly learn a language. It's how you learned your native language so well. I've taken four college semesters of Japanese from a native speaker. Sensei wa Toukyou ni kimashita. Yet because I am not in an "immersion" environment, the only chances I have to practice is on the rare occasion I encounter someone else who speaks Japanese. So when sensei sends me an email completely in Japanese and using grammar and vocabulary we've already covered, I still have to go back and look stuff up before knowing how to reply. It's worse if she's speaking at her normal pace (she usually slowed down her pace while we were learning new things.) This situation will not change as long as I am allowed to spend most of my day in an English environment. I'd like to visit Japan this summer and try to get people to speak Japanese rather than try to practice their English with me. At the least it should help with my listening skills, if not with my comprehension. The problem with vacations is that at some point you are going to have to leave - and lose most of what you've gained.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have a Japanese graduated scale. It has Let's Cooking! on the front.

Ah yes! Mr. Let is famous, you see.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@tmarie

Do you have any understanding of "World Englishes"?

Wow! The buzz-words are really coming thick and fast now, aren't they? 'World English' is the excuse BOEs now use for hiring staff who, coincidentally, happen to come from poor countries and are willing to work for peanuts. You might say that's a coincidence, but I couldn't possibly comment.

And as for 'World English' we get at least one annoying phone call a day from India with someone trying to get me to talk about PPI or fire up my computer and give them details fro no particular reason. A few - very few - of these speakers of a variety of 'World English' speak English very well. The others are difficult to understand. Would they provide a good model for Japanese students just because they speak English, supposedly as a native language?

And what's the problem with that Francis?

Well, you be the judge. This guy says far more than I could:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cApytEX1yx4

Aside from the unfortunate speech impediment, would you really want your children to be repeating 'loolah' for 'ruler' or being asked how many 'razors' (?) they have in their pencil cases? I'm sure he's a very nice fellow, and very 'genki' and nice with the students, but if you are learning a foreign language from a native speaker you really don't want to be following one who can't pronounce the words any better than a Japanese person. Those children would be far better off learning from a Japanese specialist English teacher or instructor. In spite of all the ALT's efforts, the students are lacklustre and have no real interest in learning English. That says a lot! I said above that Japan doesn't need ALTs, JETs or dispatch slaves - they are unnecessary.

What doesn't makes sense is bringing over a bunch of recent uni grads, many with no teaching experience, little to no Japanese, and placing them in the role of "teacher".

I agree. It's just a well-paid jolly for new graduates. It helps them pay their loans off, but for the Japanese, well, you might say they are being taken for a ride. It was a foreigner who instigated the JET programme, and it's foreigners who have influenced the way English is 'taught' in schools, i.e. Genki English. It has become so far ingrained that fun and games are what is needed that elementary schools won't hear of proper language classes at that level.

You might also like to look into the the majority of people Japanese speak English with - it isn't white recent uni grads. It's Asians.

The majority don't want to speak English with anybody, full stop. Only a small number of students use their English with the ALT outside class. The ALT's Japanese comes on in leaps and bounds! A few teachers in the staff room will try and eikaiwa the ALT, as will various strangers outside the school environment, but most Japanese resist studying English to any worthwhile level. So I reiterate: ALTs are a waste of time and money. They can learn their accented Asian English from the JTE.

So in that case, having the local kids learn to deal with Asian accented English is far more beneficial to them.

See above.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

One more point.

Given the choice, money no object, would a BOE rather have the Filipino ALT with his loolahs, or a white, western, American, native-English-speaking ALT with similar experience and Japanese language skills?

You know the answer to that! Funny how the 'World English' argument would dissolve in such a situation.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@timtak

"Dispatch ALTs and required to have them (language skills)" Wow. Dispatch ALTs are sounding better and better.

They are. They are just paid a lot less, expected to do a lot more and have no job security beyond the yearly contract.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Fadamor

What he's saying is that there are some organizations paying your JET salary that prohibit you from doing anything English-related outside of what they're paying you to do. I imagine this stemmed from problems where someone was teaching in a "camp" in addition to teaching for the contracting organization.

Oh, I see. Well, it could have been worded better for clarity!

Dispatch companies don't want you doing other teaching either because they sponsor your visa.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Anyone who thinks "World English" is a "buzz word" really isn't worth my time in terms of picking holes in their argument as to why white, privileged recent uni grads are the best for this kind of job. Sorry, not playing. If you want respect, decent salary and opportunities in the teaching world, you'll have to earn it like everyone else.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

In other words you have no counter argument, so you are trying to bow out gracefully. Not that you were up for any sort of discussion on the subject in the first place because, as you point out, this topic has been 'done to death'. 'Anyone with a brain' (your words again) wouldn't have taken their time to participate in a discussion he thought unworthy, yet you have made several posts on the subject. Rather amusing, really.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Readers, please do not be impolite to one another.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Speaking as a JET for 3 years in mid 1990s in Akita; - Now I am a fully trained teacher in 3 curriculum areas and am a senior teacher in my native country and I realise now that the JET programme would be far more successful if they targeted 'actual, trained ' teachers from the respective countries. JETs are essentially little more than teachers aides. Now on saying that - some fine teachers I know are actually just teachers aides and vast experiential knowledge can bring that about. But 1-5 years out of college, untrained teachers is not ideal for teaching.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I 100% agree the locals have only themselves to blame but I sure do wish they'd stop wasting my tax money on such tripe.

Don't think of your money as wasted. I had an absolute blast for three years.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't think of your money as wasted. I had an absolute blast for three years.

We all did (do) but WE reap the benefits, not the Japanese learners of English.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Francis - Excellent investment, ha ha lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It takes four years for someone to become a teacher (in any subject) in some countries! I don't see how and ALT or JET could help in anyway... What? Armed with a copy of JUMP and several action figures from childhood isn't enough? Oh my God!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No. Anyone with a brain knows this and this topic has been done to death. Next.

Ranting and raving on the Internet about JET ALTs has also been done to death, but apparently you have no problems with that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A big problem with English teaching in Japan is that many or most Japanese English teachers cannot speak English themselves.

I think the solution is in sending people the other direction. Take the money being spent to bring the JET people to Japan and use it instead to send 3rd year Japanese students who are studying to become English teachers abroad to English-speaking countries for a year of study.

When they return, they will be fluent in English and ready to teach conversational English to their students.

Doing this, for the price of bringing one foreigner here for one year, you'll get a Japanese English teacher who will be effective for about 25 years.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have a Japanese graduated scale. It has Let's Cooking! on the front. Japan is a joke with English so it's hard to take language training seriously. Stop the fake education

Hahaaaaaaaaaaaa.....the famous NHK tv, has that poor lil Japanese cooking idol girl saying, "Let's cooking!" every weekday morning. No doubt that influenced the writing on the scale. Then to think of all the English speaking foreigners I see appearing on their morning program and nothing is done about it. Every time I hear her, I go to school in fear lest a student uses the expression with me. Once it's learned that way it's kind of hard to unlearn. Japglish?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I was told on several occasions that students in elementary schools are not supposed to learn the English language, even though they are expected to communicate in it (don't ask me how that would work. That's what I have been told). Students are just to have fun with foreigners and better understand other cultures, as most won't leave the country. Therefore, monkeying around is acceptable at the elementary level. Some teachers tell their students it's not a real subject as they are not tested, so it doesn't really matter. If they are interested, ok. If not, ok. When these students reach junior high school the attitude remain with them, even though they will be tested this time around. "But what the heck! We won't need it anyway. Why learn something we are not going to use?"

For change to really occur, MEXT has to revise its approach to English learning and the classroom teachers also have to realize that times have changed (call it globalization if you may) and it's very likely students will have real need for the language later on in their lives. To be fair for most of the schools I have taught at, the teachers encourage the students to really learn English. Don't know what MEXT would do if it found out.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I suggest

1....Lessening the workload of Japanese teachers (take out non academic work, for example, sitting in after school doing nothing until 8 at night) This will give them more time to be able to rest, sit and plan lessons properly with ALTs. The average ALT/JTE relationship does not include even an hour of planning. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Furthermore, would it kill to hire some coaches from outside???

2...Teachers should stop making English education all about the grammar. The average Japanese English teacher probably knows more English grammar than any native speaker, and many still cannot carry a meaningful conversation. The same goes for the students.

3.. JTEs should quit talking to the students in Katakana English. For example "I canto playie taburu tennisu" The kids, who actually are very good at phonics, will spell the words exactly how they are heard.

4.... JTEs should stop telling the kids that English is difficult. STOP IT!!!!

5...lastly, maybe teaching English in ENGLISH wouldn't be a bad idea.

There is just so much a powerless JET can do.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Healthy children have incredible brains that are almost like memory sponges (that's why you never swear around kids). Even if they do not understand you they heard it and will remember it. -A sort of pre-learning that is very helpful when it is demanded that they know or speak English later. =You are building logic frameworks that are very helpful.

The JET program was probably demanded from businessmen that were forced to learn English and had a very hard struggle. =They didn't want the younger people to experience the same embarrassments that they went thru and knew most likely English would be demanded in the future.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a former JET, Tottori 95-97, and as a current professor of EFL, I long came to the conclusion the JET program should be, and perhaps now is, mor selective about who they hire. That is to say, rather than hiring mostly people who look at the program as a lark for a few years before moving onto better things.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

*As a worker at BOE and a citizen of a small city, i am really frustrated to see the waste, the waste which the money our city could have spent in better way goes to the people who can't even teach our children.

I know that JET program started out as a bogus international relation program to kiss aXX of the american government. (it was ok in 80s and 90s,we had money) nontherless, now japan need some realistic results from the money we put in. JET program is way too expensive for just let these uni grads to have fun so that they may have a chance to like japan????

our ALTs are only talking about their vacations and complain about how little their vacation time is. (i call them "paid backpackers") Never study nor prepair for their classes. their excuse is the teachers dont utilize them well. (which is true in this case.) but no motivation nor initiation. " hellooooo, dont forget u are getting paid!!!!!" even though they dont show any motivation to improve their teaching skill, they claim that they are underscored.

i asked the person in charge of JET program at BOE " why we are using JET program?" he said he didnt know. because previous person dicided he continue with it. he is too busy to take care of JET.

after all, BOE is the one to brame, Japanese government is the one for responsible to leave this free ride program go on and not too terminate JET program or change the system so that we can invite only these who are qualifide and motivated and passionated to teach children.

now people dont want to spend money just because we have "gaijin" in our town, or for vague cultual exchange. 4000 jets through out japan? please someone gotta stop it!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ive been an ALT on the JET Program for 6 months and I really resent the insinuations by multiple people that graduates come here and use it as a taxpayer-funded holiday. Personally I care deeply about teaching, so much so that I did a one-year TESOL teaching course before I came here so I would be adequately prepared. Most of the JETs in my prefecture put a lot of effort into their lesson planning and genuinely care about their jobs and making a positive impact on the students. Its only a few who use it as a free-ride, but from my experience these people are the exception not the rule. The confusion lies in the purpose of JET - its supposed to be a program aimed at internationalization and English exposure but it is assumed that we will teach English. Exposure, certainly. But how we teach effectively when we are only given limited time with the students? I teach at a high school and plan/deliver all my own lessons but I can hardlyteachwhat is needed when I only see the students once a month because Im rotated around schools, classes etc. I only teach one lesson out of every four and I was specifically asked to teach lessons outside of the curriculum. Its unfair to blame me when the students get bad grades as I was never given the chance to help teach the curriculum. Also municipal JETs are only allowed to stay for 3 years then must move elsewhere so most end up leaving. So the Program loses a bunch of semi-experienced people who may otherwise stay if they were offered to recontract with the same CO for another 2 years. The JET Program should be for 5 years in all cases to get the most out of the people who really want to be here. They should also be more strict about who they renew. Those who are clearly using it as afree rideshould be kicked out and there should be more evaluation of our performance throughout the year. There should also be more clarity about what our role as JETs is. In writing, its internationalization but in practice were expected to teach English and this is what everyone assumes. As teaching is the main goal of JET there should be more focus on this in the interview, orientations, and in the way were utilized by our COs.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites