I am a JET alumni, and I loved it more than anything. It was an amazing experience, and I would recommend it to anyone that is crazy about Japan. It's a rewarding job with short hours and a very decent pay. However, one of the main reasons I quit the program was because of my conflicts with the Japanese education system.
I can't even count on my fingers how many times I've discussed with the JTE (Japanese English teacher) about changing a useless English lesson, or trying to correct some wrong English in the textbook. I look at their English tests (the one they need to pass jr. high and high school) and it makes me sick (because it’s so utterly useless). I don't think JET is a flawed system, but ironically, I think the Ministry of Education is a flawed institution.
I would bet that over half of the JETs are not being used to their full capabilities, and probably 80% of the JTEs don’t even know where to begin when it comes to pairing up with the ALT and planning lessons. It doesn’t help either that the ALTs are fresh out of college and know absolutely nothing about teaching. In fact, it’s a horrible combination that leads to poorly taught classes or the JTE completely abandoning the use of the ALT.
JET has been in Japan for… how long? And if I walked up to a random Japanese high schooler and asked where the nearest train station was in English, do I honestly think they could tell me? No, I don’t. So after thousands of Japanese government dollars being poured into the JET Program, we still have a country where a majority of its citizens are simply terrible at English. JET is a good idea, but for the last few decades its implementation has been terrible.
I remember fighting with my elementary school to allow me to teach the kids how to write the alphabet, but they absolutely forbade me to do so because it was against the ministry of education’s guidelines. They said ABCs would interfere with their hiragana-katakana learning. Puh-lease.
I live in Shanghai, China. There are no JETs here. And a good majority of Chinese people can speak a rather decent level of English. In fact, almost all young people I meet can have simple conversation with me, and their country hasn’t been open to the world that long. And is communist. And doesn’t even have access to normal internet.
So my point is: JET is great, it introduces kids to foreigners and teaches about cultural exchanges and accustoming yourself to foreigners—but in terms of English education, unless someone whips up a proper JET-JTE-English implementation curriculum ASAP, then 10,000+ JETs for Japan ain’t gonna do nothin.
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