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Some ALTs have a background in education, while some never even studied a foreign language before. Some are doing it just to earn money, while other ALTs are working because they really want to teach

60 Comments

Kensaku Yoshida, a professor of English at Sophia University. (Japan Times)

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Some are doing it just to earn money,

working just to earn money! the nerve of some people...

18 ( +21 / -3 )

I guess that's a fair statement, so the converse must also be true. Most ALTs don't teach just to earn money. I've been an ALT working for a major corporation in Japan for nearly six years now, and I love it. In fact, one of the trainers (I hope she reads this) said it best "If you're not having fun in the classroom, you're doing something wrong".

12 ( +12 / -0 )

'If English becomes a proper subject' Maybe then they'll start paying proper wages and giving people proper conditions.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Native English speakers who come here to teach are hardly digging deep to use much intelligence are they, its something so natural its all on the surface

I take it you've never taught.

Being able to speak your native language is not the same as being able to teach it. Most of the ALTs who come for an easy gap year between uni and a 'real' job back home have little idea of what teaching entails and are unable to moderate the language they use into appropriate levels. The ones who stay for 5 or 10 years tend to be those who do know what they're doing and know from the start that it isn't the easy option. I taught for 4 years and have no intention of doing so ever again. I enjoyed it, but it was darned hard work. Translating is much easier.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

@StormR When I study Japanese I want to learn from a native speaker and I don't really care if they are "digging deep to use much intelligence" (whatever that means). I'm sure that the native speaker of Japanese doesn't have to use much intelligence to answer questions about grammar or translate words because they are a NATIVE SPEAKER. Common sense. Now, I'm sure there are some people who "take the easy route" in any job or career choice and there are some who don't. To assume that all teachers of English are taking the easy route is being simple minded. I know teachers at universities that have degrees in teaching yet do jack and I have known eikaiwa teachers with zero education or experience in teaching that have busted their asses and made a lot of kids happy while improving their English skills greatly. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers. Some teachers use there qualifications to the fullest and some don't. Some teachers come to Japan just to support their vices and some for more noble reasons. Why would someone come to Japan and stay for 5 or 10 years teaching English? Well, they may love teaching. They may love Japan. They may have found someone they love in Japan. Perhaps all of the above. And finally, StormR, what is a real job and what is real money? If I say I have a job training flying monkeys and I earn rainbow-colored Monopoly money I'd say I have an unreal job earning unreal money. If you don't know already, teaching is the most important job in the world. How do other people learn to do any job? Someone teaches them. That's a "real" job. And if the money you earn pays the bills and supports whatever lifestyle you enjoy then that's "real" money.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Stop treating ALTs like disposable dirt and you might get somewhere. Show them they can have a future as a real teacher with all the real teacher benefits (and downsides as well). But assume they are disposable and will ultimately leave and lo and behold, they will.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

I was a JET in 92-93 and most of the JETs I met were from very good universities and very interested in working hard to teach English and learn about Japan. Unfortunately, the system tends to use them as tape recorders, which may be why many quit. An intelligent person soon learns that a job has no future.

This man can say the exact same thing about any new Japanese teacher in any subject as well I am sure, but it is easy to disparage foreigners who can't say anything back.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

From the Ministry of Educations point of view, were you to give foreigners full benefits then they would be expected to join a Teachers Union! Oh! what a can of worms that would be. Would they join the completely insane right wing union, or the slightly less mad left wing union??

Would they start to bring their zany foreign ideas to Japan?? Would they block vote to bring about change?? What happens if a foreigner gets to be a Principal?? Would he (most likely she, were it to ever happen) start hiring like minded foreigners into their school and start a foreign teacher run ghetto school??

Japanese Ministries, being renowned for their wild risk taking, will most likely be debating till long after we are departed this earth.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

If Japanese want English to be a "proper subject," they're going to stop having to rely on foreign speakers, and get some Japanese teachers that are FLUENT in English AND have no problems SPEAKING it.

OR

They're going to have to spend some REAL CASH to hire some CERTIFIED TEACHERS.

Either way it's going to COST them a lot of money. They can't just get by by importing charisma man any longer.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

The original quote is mostly correct, with the exception of this line:

The less responsible ALTs just quit in the middle of their contracts.

There are many reasons to quit in the middle of a contract. Of course sometimes it will be due to a lack of responsibility. But these ALT companies are horrible, and don't treat their employees well enough to keep the good ones. Often an ALT will leave because they get an offer for a job that actually gives them a living wage, and decent circumstances. If these companies weren't trying to get as much as possible from their employees, for as little as possible, they would have more success at keeping ALTs for full contracts.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

While I've not worked as an ALT I have known many good ones. Guys who work at HS and JHS out in the areas that most foreigners find too unfashionable to live. They've worked hard, been responsible and reliable employees and been on annually renewed contracts year after year with tiny incremental wage increases.

They are dedicated, build relationships in the cities they live in and are all (to a man) released from their dispatch companies after a maximum of 4 years.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ Strangerland - totally agree with what you wrote. The scam that is "outsourced ALTs" has driven down the standard of teacher along with the wages which haven't changed in 20-30 years for the majority of ALTs (excepts downwards).

When I was an ALT in the mid 1990s it was on the back of a degree plus a post-graduate degree... I enjoyed the time in Japan but hated the job (mostly) as my function, and as far as I could tell the function of 90% of ALTs, was to sit in the staffroom and maybe go to a class to act like a monkey 4 or 5 times a week.

When I eventually returned to my country after years of working in a large multi-national I decided to give teaching a go for real and re-trained. Now I am a fully registered and qualified teacher. I was originally the Head of Languages for my school but recently changed and am Head of Music and Performing Arts. It is a good job with major perks etc.... My point is that I now engage in school-wide curriculum design and responsible for staff and a major department. The thought of returning to Japan with my Japanese wife and child (who luckily is almost all 'gaijin' now) fills me with dread. Within weeks I would 1/4 my salary and have a status just slightly lower than the caretaker... or perhaps have some 20-years old 'manager' at Interac tell me 'how to teach'. This is patently ridiculous when I could design and implement a world-class English teaching curriculum at any Japanese school.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

"The less responsible ALTs just quit in the middle of their contracts."

I have a problem with this line. While there ARE responsible and irresponsible people working in every walk of life (not limited to ALTs), responsibility is ultimately up to the employers. What's more, as Argus mentioned, there ARE valid reasons for leaving during a contract period, and not just for better jobs. A friend of mine in the city I used to live came home from her ALT stint at JH to find one of her third year students naked in her room, having broken in, and wearing her underwear on his head. Fortunately his attempt to sexually assault her (beyond that) failed, and she ran to the superintendent of the building after which the kid ran away. The police did nothing beyond help set up a meet between her, the BOE, and the kid's family, after which the BOE insisted she be satisfied with the family's apology and drop it, no suspension, no punishment. She quit then and there, and I stand behind her actions.

There are a lot of great, hardworking teachers here, many of whom go above and beyond what should be expected, particularly because there is no system in place for teaching English in elementary schools and local BOEs expect the foreign teacher to make up guidelines. Yeah, there are some bad apples as well, but take into account they by far number fewer than their Japanese counterparts in general (not just teaching). You don't hear about foreign teachers taking up the skirt photos of students, or bullying them until they commit suicide, do you?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

'If English becomes a proper subject' Maybe then they'll start paying proper wages and giving people proper conditions.

Exactly. They will never attract 'serious' teachers with the dismal conditions offered.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Isn't it?

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

I'm not sure ALT is the correct title. Most teachers I know don't do any assisting. They design and implement curriculums. Team-teaching is a nice way to say we'll have a watchdog in your classroom to make sure you don't poison our children. They need to get rid of this title and simply say ESL Teacher, or Teacher. The idea of "assisting" makes it seem they don't work full-time.

The government needs to really embrace the dedicated teachers and provide a clear pathway to obtaining a license after JET Contracts or Direct-Hire Contracts have expired. As for the out-sourced Eikaiwa jobs, they need to be cut altogether. Cut out the middle-men and hire these dedicated teachers full-time, too.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I find the quote that is the title of this piece both ignorant and disgusting for the following reasons:

(1) Japan has chosen not to teach English properly at elementary school, relying instead on 'Genki English' style fun and games rather than a real syllabus with clearly-defined and tested language goals. Schools insist on silly, fun lessons from the ALTs.

(2) Japan has chosen to employ graduates who do not necessarily have language teaching skills from right back when the JET Programme first started, setting the trend, opting instead for good-looking, fun and 'genki' gaijin who won't upset the status quo. If you want teachers, seek out teachers, not blond toys to amuse the kids and the locals.

(3) Japan allows dispatch companies to operate illegally, in spite of asking BOEs not to use them. Most of these dispatch companies are out for money alone. Most do not train teachers, offer them poor support, bully them etc. If an ALT quits it isn't always the fault of the ALT! There is only so much you will put up with! ALL dispatch companies bar none skim off money that should be going directly to the ALT!

The irresponsibility lies more with Japanese expectations and decisions than with the ALTs who are exploited and then criticized when some professor in an ivory tower decides to express an ill-informed opinion. Has he not read the complaints from ALTs all over the Net?

The answer?

(1) Make dispatch genuinely illegal. Close them down.

(2) Set up a proper English program at elementary school from 1st grade.

(3) Spend the money setting up a programme to replace JET that hires only qualified, reliable teachers and not just young, blond, smiley, sporty types.

(4) Pay your new teachers properly, then you'll get better people doing a better job and the kids will get a better English education.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Translating is much easier.

Cleo, I totally agree with you. I worked on JET as a CIR for five years. During that time, I met a lot of hardworking ALTs. Of course, there were a couple of people who shouldn't have been considered for the job. Thankfully, they were in the minority.

After JET, I worked for an IT firm as an in-house translator. My plan was to work for them until my wife received her Canadian PR. Unfortunately, my contract ended before that. Out of necessity, I had to find another job. The school I was placed at was fantastic. The students and my co-workers were great. I had no issues. I did have issues with the dispatch company. They treat their "employees" like garbage. I quit halfway through my contract. I was not going to work my butt off and get paid less than some guy who did the bare minimum. Also, I found them very dishonest when it came to contract negotiations. Promises made, promises not fulfilled. I felt bad for my students and co-workers, but my family's well-being takes priority.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Well said Cleo and Gaijininfo.

'If English becomes a proper subject' Maybe then they'll start paying proper wages and giving people proper conditions. Proper teachers, be it Japanese or non-Japanese DO get proper wages here though. Go to any university or any private Ele/JHS/HS that has FT foreign teachers hired directly by the school and who teach alone and find out their wage. They are paid well and on par to what a FT teacher "home" makes. ALTs are not "proper" teachers, they are assistants and paid accordingly. No different than public school teacher assistants in many western countries.

Stop treating ALTs like disposable dirt and you might get somewhere. Show them they can have a future as a real teacher with all the real teacher benefits (and downsides as well). But assume they are disposable and will ultimately leave and lo and behold, they will. They are not real teachers though. Could they teach back home in a public school? No? Well then they are disposable as basically, to be an ALT here you need a pulse. You don't even have to be a native speaker of English these days.

If people want a future in teaching, perhaps they could invest in themselves and learn how to do so and get the proper qualifications? The article that accompanies this quote (Japan Times) puts things in a better perspective as to why ALTs are not taken seriously, nor should they be.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

I've seen both extremes on the spectrum, but on the whole I would have to say that most ALTs are doing the best they can in very trying conditions, especially the dispatch company ones.

When I first came to Japan, I worked for a private dispatch company that assigned me to a low-level private high school (the 'dumping ground' kind, where the students who fail to get in public high schools and good private schools end up - shame on their lazy mothers!). Although I was on an open-ended contract, and the pay in those days was basically quite good, I was dissatisfied with the classroom chaos, and I was also being badly sexually harassed by a fellow dispatch worker (a situation which neither the school nor the company would take responsibility for).

I hated to behave like a spoiled gaijin, but I ended up quitting with an ulcer after only six months. When I told the head of the English Dept. that I was leaving the next day, he actually cried, and offered to give me money out of his own pocket if I would stay! I must have been doing something right.

On the other hand, I have had the pleasure of observing classes and extracurricular activities at a high-level public school, and was deeply, deeply impressed with the synergy between the full-time ALTs - who were respected and loved as teachers, not human tape recorders - and their Japanese colleagues. Needless to say, the students benefitted immensely from this situation, and school morale was extremely high. I think it's very telling that the Principal and all the senior teachers were fluent in English, and enthusiastic about promoting it.

Good management counts for a lot!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@jforce

Team-teaching is a nice way to say we'll have a watchdog in your classroom to make sure you don't poison our children.

For legal reasons there always needs to be a Japanese teacher in the classroom. ALTs are not insured, but I see what you mean.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Team-teaching is a nice way to say we'll have a watchdog in your classroom to make sure you don't poison our children.

Not if done right. Effective team-teaching can be very strong. The problem is that teachers are not taught how to team-teach effectively, and are not given time to discuss prior to the lessons. So they essentially walk into the classroom without a plan on how to teach the lesson. Not knowing what to do, the Japanese teacher generally takes over the lesson, and the ALT sits there waiting to be told to do something. This leads to the 'human tape recorder' situation that we hear so often. My best friend, who was an ALT for a decade, had the other situation happen however. He'd walk into the classroom, and because he was a good teacher and spoke Japanese, the Japanese teacher would generally sit back and let my friend do the entire lesson. But again, this is not effective team-teaching.

It's an institutionalized problem. Bureaucrats decided that ALTs were needed in the classroom, but never actually hired anyone who knew what they were doing, to put together a plan to ensure it was done right. This has led to decades of ineffective team teaching, bitterness on both sides, and generations of Japanese people who study Japanese for 6 years but still give you a blank stare when you ask them a simple question such as how their day was.

So WHY NOT just admit full time is full time and sell it as such to the teachers. Not beat around the bush with dodgy 'supplemental' contracts that appear after you have signed on and bought into the job.

Because the second they start doing that, they get undercut by another company that doesn't pay the insurance. It's another institutionalized problem.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@tmarie

ALTs are not "proper" teachers, they are assistants and paid accordingly.

They are classed at assistants because no foreigner is allowed to be a teacher at a publish school in Japan I believe. Also, while they do team-teach at JHS and SHS, at ES they often do fulfil the role of main teacher, i.e. they have to plan and deliver the entire lessons in many cases. True, few are equipped to do this.

You don't even have to be a native speaker of English these days.

That is an economic decision, surely. There is a huge increase in Filipino teachers I have noticed. They are hard-working and willing to work for a lot less, but some of them have (how can I put this?) 'questionable' English. They are also unlikely to have been trained as language teachers, so there is no extra pay-off there either. Wouldn't schools be better off, in this case, with native Japanese who speak English well to act as instructors? What is it about the magic foreign face anyway? It's a fad rather than anything else, surely.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wouldn't schools be better off, in this case, with native Japanese who speak English well to act as instructors?

100% agree but many believe that a foreigner will help motivate the kids.

Very few of the ALTs I have met or worked with in my time in Japan would be able to develop a decent curriculum, let alone deliver one. Very few have the knowledge, nor the motivation to become fully trained and qualified teachers.

Yes, the system is a mess but where is the responsibility on ALTs who have been here for years who feel entitled to job security and the same pay as someone who is at work from 8-8 each day? (You'll notice I didn't say working). ALTs come in, perform and go home. Very few do more than the minimum - and I don't blame them for that but when they are crying about pay and respect, laughable. They do not do the job of a Japanese teacher - homeroom, lunch time, meetings, dealing with parents... If ALTs want better pay, better conditions they can easily do the training that will give them all of this, be it here or home.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

They are classed at assistants because no foreigner is allowed to be a teacher at a publish school in Japan I believe.

Close, but not exactly. Teachers in Japanese public schools must have a Japanese teaching license. Theoretically foreigners could get a Japanese teaching license, and I believe I've even heard stories of it happening, though I'm not entirely confident about that. So it's not foreigners that are barred, but rather foreign teaching licenses.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Theoretically foreigners could get a Japanese teaching license, and I believe I've even heard stories of it happening, though I'm not entirely confident about that.

Yes indeed, they can and they do. I know three foreign nationals (although one is a bilingual so-called "haafu" of American nationality) who obtained Japanese teaching licenses here in Japan. It's interesting to me that they all ended up teaching in the private sector, though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Strangerland Oh I see. Thanks for the clarification. I just know ALTs are not supposed to be in class on their own.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Tessa

It's interesting to me that they all ended up teaching in the private sector, though.

State school teachers are civil servants, and so must be Japanese citizens. The only schools where a foreign national can work are all private.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The only schools where a foreign national can work are all private.

Ah, thanks for that. Didn't know that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sadly, one of the most qualified ALTs I know (an English language major with an American teaching cert) finally quit and left Japan. Here's why:

Basically, he told his contract company to stop giving students answer keys which were verbatim copies of the actual test.

He felt that while his students were progressing levels, they weren't becoming anymore capable in English because they only studied the answer key, not the course content.

They stopped letting him teach, and turned him into a human billboard in 2 local shopping malls, one of which was a 90 minute commute each way.

6 months later, they lost one of the most driven young teachers I know, ALT or otherwise.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@tmarie

100% agree but many believe that a foreigner will help motivate the kids.

Yes and no. But why do they believe it? Where has that belief come from? Is it not from the 'Genki English' school of 'teaching'? This seems to be all the elementary schools want ALTs to do, in my experience. Of course a happy, smiley, clown who jumps around and plays games with the kids is going to be more fun (and therefore a lot more motivational) than in instructor teaching a curriculum that requires learning and proof of that learning via tests. The two don't always go hand in hand. If schools taught math or Japanese the way they approach (I shy away from the word 'teach' in the context of ES English) English, they kids would learn very little, and everyone knows it. They might have a good time though, but that isn't the goal in these classes.

Very few of the ALTs I have met or worked with in my time in Japan would be able to develop a decent curriculum, let alone deliver one. Very few have the knowledge, nor the motivation to become fully trained and qualified teachers.

So some do, then? I went to Japan as a fully qualified and experienced language teacher, and when I tried to develop a real syllabus it was met with such resistence from the schools, you wouldn't believe it! They didn't want that. The ES wanted fun and games because that's what they had been told to want. Don't criticize ALTs for giving schools what they want If they are willing to pay 300,000 per month for what amounts to playtime, then hat isn't the fault of the ALT. Of course, that is on JET. The dispatch worker can expect a lot less.

ALTs come in, perform and go home.

Yep. Perform is right!

Very few do more than the minimum - and I don't blame them for that but when they are crying about pay and respect, laughable.

I don't blame them either, espcially now pay is so low, but I refer you to what I wrote above - they are doing what the schools want them to do!

They do not do the job of a Japanese teacher - homeroom, lunch time, meetings, dealing with parents

This isn't entirely true. Many ALTs, especially in ES, are required to do lunch with the kids too. Also, ALTS are not employed as homeroom teachers so they have no business acting out that role. There are also cases where the ALT is used as a practice-bot for the teachers to practice their English.

You seem strangely harsh on ALTs. Don't you think they should get a decent wage for their time? The way you think sounds a lot like the owner of a dispatch company!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Who would want to teach english in Japan anyway?? Totally dead end existence to be a Japanese pet gaijin!

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Who would want to teach english in Japan anyway?? Totally dead end existence to be a Japanese pet gaijin!

People who would like to experience Japan for longer, and in a different way from, a two-week vacation? It used to be a good gig, even if you are a pet gaijin and the kids are really nice for the most part. I wouldn't do it now, though.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It used to be a good gig, even if you are a pet gaijin and the kids are really nice for the most part. I wouldn't do it now, though.

Exactly, nicely put.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Teachers in Japanese public schools must have a Japanese teaching license. Theoretically foreigners could get a Japanese teaching license, and I believe I've even heard stories of it happening, though I'm not entirely confident about that.

It is a matter of filing out paper work - on the schools account. I had one. The issue, as stated above, is that public schools are not able to do this, nor do they want to.

Many of you seem to be forgetting that many JTEs do not want an ALT. Period. It is forced on them. Would you like to have a sidekick by your side all day who isn't qualified for your job but for some reason seems to think they are and goes on to make suggestions and complaints? I wouldn't. I think this is a major part of the issue here. Some JTEs want ALTs, many do not. I feel for the ones who don't and then end up with some of the above posters who seem to think ALTs are hard done by.

Fukuppy, the "Genki English" notion of foreigners is a rather new thing. JET is not that old, dispatch companies even younger. Before JET, most Englsih teachers were Japanese.

Ele schools wants ALTs because ele teachers, for the most part, don't speak a lick of English. MEXT turned around a few years ago and insisted that they teach English lessons without offering them any training or support - besides a foreigner clown who will come one day a week and sing and dance. All things that a Japanese teacher could easily do on their own if they actually had a clue about English songs.

I would believe being qualified and not being respected. Many of us on this board were ALTS in the beginning.

I am not criticizing ALTs for giving schools what they want. I am criticizing them when they dare think they are teachers when they are assistants, and most often unqualified ones. I am critizing them for thinking they are owed better pay and better conditions than they have. Speaking English as your only qualification should not entitled you to a FT job with benefits and job security. Part of the reason conditions for qualified teachers is becoming worse is because of the number of these folks walking around willing to take any job because it pays better - I don't blame them for it, I blame the system that allows it. However, some personal responsibility would be nice. A guy that comes without a clue for a year or two I don't mind. What makes me laugh at the guys who have been doing it for years who haven't bothered to pick up a book and invest in themselves all while expecting Japan to invest in them.

Right, eating lunch with kids should equal better pay and better conditions? Really? I agree they have no business being involved in the daily running of a school - because they aren't qualified to do so, let alone lack the language skills in many cases.

You seem strangely harsh on ALTs. Don't you think they should get a decent wage for their time? I believe they ARE getting a decent wage for their time. Hence my comments.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

State school teachers are civil servants, and so must be Japanese citizens.

I can't say anything regarding them being civil servants or not, but I'm quite confident that foreigners with a Japanese teaching license can be teachers in Japanese schools. I'll see if I can track down an example on the net.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'll see if I can track down an example on the net.

Please do. As for non-Japanese nationals being allowed to work (or not work) for the state, I've heard that at the municipal level, different cities have different policies regarding this.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

People who would like to experience Japan for longer, and in a different way from, a two-week vacation?

Exactly. I had a great time teaching when I first came to Japan. Probably one of the best times of my life in retrospect. I got out after a couple of years though and moved on to better pastures.

Seeing as most foreigners here only come for a year or two, it's a great job to be able to enjoy the country.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I got out after a couple of years though and moved on to better pastures.

You were one of the smart ones!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The problem is that there is a severe lack of JTEs capable of teaching or speaking English even at the most rudimentary level. There is also a severe lack of qualified people who want to be ALTs. And guess what? There is also a severe lack of people qualified to train either of them! There apparently are not any people in the Ministry of Education with a clue about English or English teaching either, and that is the worst of it. The books they provide are all garbage, and I can only conclude that the contracts are awarded on basis of cronyism with no serious concern about quality. But even if there were, who in the Ministry knows anything about language education to properly choose?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Ok, I've found out more. It's a little complicated. Unfortunately I can't type Japanese on this computer, so forgive my romaji. It appears that we were both right. Foreigners cannot become kyouyu (teachers) as kyouyu are koumuin (public servants). But foreigners can become joukin koushi (lecturers). To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what the difference is, but I'm thinking it's the type of license.

公立小中高校の教員 公立小中高校の教員資格要件については、教員免許法や地方公務員法、学校教育法で定められており、そのいずれにも国籍条項はありません。 1991年から外国人に対する教員採用試験の受験が認められ、外国人教員は「常勤講師」として任用されることになりました。 県によっては外国人の教員採用を常勤講師ではなく、教諭としての採用に途を開くために県教育委員会に対しても教諭として採用するよう要請するような動きもあります。

Link: http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1491788929

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I didn't just quit in the middle of my ALT contract. The company I worked for went bust!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japan continues using dispatch companies, then the quality of English education will always be hit and miss. A lot of ALT's working for such companies are severely underpaid, are heavily micro-managed with very limited freedom, have zero job security (let alone social security), and varying levels of actual English proficiency, in equally varying accents. It's no mystery why ALT's, even those with a genuine humanitarian interest of enhancing Japan on the global stage through language and cultural exposure, leave mid-contract. Unless the Board of Education directly hires without the dispatch company element, properly assesses English proficiency of the candidate ALT, and actually treats and pays ALT's with the same standards and benefits afforded to other Japanese educational professionals, training and confusion with teachers will not be the only issues the government will have to deal with regarding English as a formal subject by 2020.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I would imagine the training to be "Japanese-style" which would still leave the Japanese handicapped outside of the classroom. People would still have poor listening and communication skills.

Using English as a communication tool has the cultural components of being direct, stating opinion with reason or logic and discussion(debate). There needs to be a shift in thinking to be a good communicator in English. Speaking English words in the right order(SVO), and perfect grammar is not enough. Speaking English well doesn't equal communicating in English well.

The truly bilingual Japanese whom I've met admit to having to think differently when communicating in English.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Some are doing it just to earn money, while other ALTs are working because they really want to teach the language"

Common sense...you are not writing because you want to write, but you want to earn money.

"If English becomes a proper subject in 2020 and the education ministry doesn’t provide some kind of training, it may cause confusion with the teachers".

2020 is actually to late, why don't start it as soon as possible? And besides, government should make a clear standard of teaching. Some ALTs are just decorations inside the classroom while some are working harder than the homeroom teachers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Tessa said "Speaking English as your only qualification should not entitled you to a FT job with benefits and job security."

I think this is spreading misinformation regarding the JET program. When I was a JET recruited from an Ivy League with an A average GPA, most of my colleague JETs were also from top US universities with high GPAs. A college degree was mandatory, not just being able to speak English.

If Japan was smart it would already have a huge supply of world class English teachers by choosing excellent JETs for further training and licensing. I and many others may have eagerly pursued such an opportunity to teach as a professional with further training after on the job training as a JET. As we see over and over however, the xenophobia of Japan is its worst enemy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Quote unfairly targets ALTs.

What is an ALT to begin with?

ALTs are just that, ASSISTANT Language Teachers, they are SUPPOSED to be assisting the primary English teacher is Japanese, but in reality, in lots of cases they are the primary Japanese English teacher, can't even speak English to teach the subject to begin with. I knew a Japanese English teacher spoke horrible English. So if the person making the quote wants to set standards, start with the Japanese teachers themselves, and rebuild the actual system of how it's really supposed to work.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Some ALTs have a background in education, while some never even studied a foreign language before.

Trying to teach your own native language in a foreign country is a daunting task. Even with a background in education. Never having studied a foreign language oneself limits one's horizons. Having little knowledge of the culture of the target country is another serious handicap. It's dedicated Japanese teachers that will have to do the job. It's society that will have to create the need for those, not a standard by bureaucrats of a ministry. It's society realizing the need and create an environment in which people are more comfortable than with just 'this is a pen'. Starting with English lessons in lower elementary grades, which actually should be a choice between English, Chinese or Korean, is not really necessary. Upper elementary is soon enough, if presented well. Why are people of some western European countries good at speaking foreign languages? For one thing they have more exposure, more need and more interest, hence motivation. Introduce these criteria and you have a start. Putting an ALT in every class even starting with 7 year old kids won't cut it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What is the supposed educational point of an ALT? I'd love to find out, and I am one. The entire existence of "ALT"s is simply ridiculous.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

**I think this is spreading misinformation regarding the JET program. When I was a JET recruited from an Ivy League with an A average GPA, most of my colleague JETs were also from top US universities with high GPAs. A college degree was mandatory, not just being able to speak English.

If Japan was smart it would already have a huge supply of world class English teachers by choosing excellent JETs for further training and licensing. I and many others may have eagerly pursued such an opportunity to teach as a professional with further training after on the job training as a JET.**

Being from an Ivy league doesn't make you any more qualified than someone from a two bit university in the middle of no where. Your GPA also isn't any indication of your teaching ability.

Could you please explain to me why taxpayers should fund "further training and licensing" so you and others could purse teaching? If you went to an Ivy league school, it appears you or your family have the ability to pay for the training/qualifications on your own. I know of many former JETs who went home to become teachers - and paid for it themselves. The entitlement in this post is shocking.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

These jobs are an easy option for many. What people should realise is that the education system is set up to fail in the first world. Innovators are not wanted unless from the elite or helping the elite. Most teachers are part of the problem, yet are blind to it. Modern education including these ALT jobs are for mediocrity, the posh schools for the elite are run very differently.

Good teachers do not come from the current education systems in the west, they are flawed and the teachers from those countries are just as flawed for the most part even though many mean well and care about their job.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

the posh schools for the elite are run very differently.

Actually you'd be wrong on that one. Many of the elite private schools have ALTs from dispatch companies, including their universities.

I guess you home-school your kids...

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

You commented on elite schools in Japan. I am rather aware of which ones are considered elite but go on, list them if it makes you feel better.

Yes, I am sure they'll be in much better hands with someone like you educating them. Yes, god forbid your daughters view themselves as equals. I wish them the best of the luck in the future.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@tmarie

Right, eating lunch with kids should equal better pay and better conditions? Really?

Are you asking me, or commenting on something I wrote? If it's the latter, would you mind pointing out where I stated that eating lunch with the kids should equal better pay and conditions? What I wrote was, "This isn't entirely true. Many ALTs, especially in ES, are required to do lunch with the kids too." I was merely pointing out your error. Maybe you are wrong about other things too, although judging by the attitude you are adopting, I doubt you'd want to hear that.

Would you mind stating how long you have been an ALT for and at what level? I just wondered so I can get some context on your side of the argument.

Fukuppy, the "Genki English" notion of foreigners is a rather new thing. JET is not that old, dispatch companies even younger. Before JET, most Englsih teachers were Japanese.

Yes. And?...

Ele schools wants ALTs because ele teachers, for the most part, don't speak a lick of English.

I would say that is a small part of the issue. Most of them don't want to have to do English at all. In my humble opinion, elementary schools want ALTs because they are 'fun' and that is what English should be. Apparently.

All things that a Japanese teacher could easily do on their own if they actually had a clue about English songs.

You are assuming that songs make any real difference to English education at elementary school. I don't think they do. They are just part and parcel of the 'fun' theme that is helping impede the learning of English. With a proper program implemented from the beginning of kindergarten, the children would learn English with or without songs. ALTs like songs because they are easy to do and fill up lesson time.

What makes me laugh at the guys who have been doing it for years who haven't bothered to pick up a book and invest in themselves all while expecting Japan to invest in them.

With respect to English education Japan has got what it deserves, I'm sorry to say. For all the years they have invested huge sums of money in JET, hiring fresh-faced graduates in a penchant for backpacking, they could have implemented a state-of-the-art English program that would see many of them virtually bilingual now. The fact that they didn't can only mean that they didn't want to.

I believe they ARE getting a decent wage for their time. Hence my comments.

Seriously? You think that 180,000 for a dispatch gig in Tokyo is fair? I wouldn't do it. So Japan is going to get the backpackers doing the Ingrish unless they rethink the entire thing and reinvest in it. But now there is no money to do that. A chance wasted!

Anyway, the money that is being wasted is that part that is going to dispatch companies for providing nothing really. Cut them out of the loop and hire directly and money will be saved!

@oikawa

What is the supposed educational point of an ALT? I'd love to find out, and I am one. The entire existence of "ALT"s is simply ridiculous.

Agreed. I was an ALT for years and I never really understood what the point was, even though I was happy to do the job to stay in Japan. If you ever find out, let me know, will you?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

elementary schools want ALTs because they are 'fun' and that is what English should be.

Actually, it's been shown that when the learner is motivated to learn, they have a better retention rate. And when learning is fun, it increases motivation. This is true of any subject, not just English. The problem is when the fun precludes actual study, or is done in an inefficient manner so that while the students are having fun, the actual amount of learning is minimal. But this is not a problem with making English fun, it's a problem with ineffective lesson plans that while fun, are only minimally pedagogical.

You are assuming that songs make any real difference to English education at elementary school. I don't think they do. They are just part and parcel of the 'fun' theme that is helping impede the learning of English.

This is incorrect. Of the seven learning styles, music is one of them. Some people learn better through music, and have a better retention rate. I cannot speak French at all, but I can still sing the French songs I learned as a child, and as an adult I actually know some French words from those songs. When used effectively, for musically inclined students, music is a very strong learning tool when it comes to languages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multipleintelligences#Musical.E2.80.93rhythmic.26_harmonic

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many of you seem to be forgetting that many JTEs do not want an ALT. Period. It is forced on them.

Yep. I was supposed to work once a week with a young, male Japanese teacher of English. Every week he'd tell me "Don't come to class straight away, I've got to do some grammar practice with them first; wait in the staff room and I'll send a student to get you when we're ready for you."

That mysterious student never appeared once in three years....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@strangerland

Actually, it's been shown that when the learner is motivated to learn, they have a better retention rate. And when learning is fun, it increases motivation. This is true of any subject, not just English. The problem is when the fun precludes actual study, or is done in an inefficient manner so that while the students are having fun, the actual amount of learning is minimal. But this is not a problem with making English fun, it's a problem with ineffective lesson plans that while fun, are only minimally pedagogical.

I agree that people learn better when motivated in any subject however the emphasis given to singing songs in Japan seems suspect to me. I know we learn songs in our native language as children, but there are thousands of hours when we are learning and interacting in that language without songs/ Take away the songs and we will still learn our own languages.

This is incorrect. Of the seven learning styles, music is one of them. Some people learn better through music, and have a better retention rate. I cannot speak French at all, but I can still sing the French songs I learned as a child, and as an adult I actually know some French words from those songs. When used effectively, for musically inclined students, music is a very strong learning tool when it comes to languages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoryofmultipleintelligences#Musical.E2.80.93rhythmic.26_harmonic

Learning styles are just a theory, like Brain Gym.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Fuku, Ele/JHS/HS ALT (public) and alone JHS/HS (private) for half a decade.

I would say in the grand total of ALTs, very few eat lunch with their students - it isn't in most contracts and many refuse. I know I did.

You are assuming that...

That would be a large assumption on your part as I have said no such thing. I don't support English in ele schools here because of the notion of happy, fun, English in which everything is singing and dancing. Jazz chants and the like has it's place but certainly not the crap I see happening here - be it Japanese or foreign teacher playing the monkey.

With respect to English education Japan has got what it deserves, I'm sorry to say. For all the years they have invested huge sums of money in JET, hiring fresh-faced graduates in a penchant for backpacking, they could have implemented a state-of-the-art English program that would see many of them virtually bilingual now. The fact that they didn't can only mean that they didn't want to.

I agree.

**Seriously? You think that 180,000 for a dispatch gig in Tokyo is fair?

I wouldn't do it. So Japan is going to get the backpackers doing the Ingrish unless they rethink the entire thing and reinvest in it. But now there is no money to do that. A chance wasted!** Seriously. You just called them fresh-faced graduates with a penchant for backpacking. Why on earth should they be paid the same as a qualified Japanese teacher who has undergone training (as poor as it is) and has passed tests to be able to get the job they are in? For making that in Tokyo are silly as they could easily live in inaka and live a happy life but then they wouldn't get to claim to have lived in Tokyo. The qualified teachers are making a very nice living at international schools, private schools or universities.

Anyway, the money that is being wasted is that part that is going to dispatch companies for providing nothing really. Cut them out of the loop and hire directly and money will be saved!

Or perhaps just hire qualified teachers - heck, even a CELTA would do - and pay them well and keep them happy? I think we're on the same page that Japan reaps what it sows but I don't see why clueless ALTs should be paid anymore than they are.

If you actually read up on the guy who made this quote, I think you'd respect him.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Jazz chants and the like has it's place

Sure. But students need to focus more on the basics, like subject-verb number agreement, and the correct use of apostrophes....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@tmarie ["Could you please explain to me why taxpayers should fund "further training and licensing" so you and others could purse teaching? If you went to an Ivy league school, it appears you or your family have the ability to pay for the training/qualifications on your own. I know of many former JETs who went home to become teachers - and paid for it themselves. The entitlement in this post is shocking."]

I did not say that Japan should pay, but they have already invested a substantial amount to bring highly competent persons from abroad to Japan, and it would be one option to use these individuals as potential candidates for future permanent teaching positions.

I got all scholarships and loans to the Ivy League and no apologies to you about that.

I am sorry you did not get accepted into JET and clearly cannot understand what some of us are saying above.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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