From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (also JET Program) is a Japanese government initiative that brings college (university) graduates--mostly native speakers of English--to Japan as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs), Assistant Cultural Exchange Teachers (ACETs) and Sports Education Advisors (SEAs) in Japanese elementary, junior high and high schools, or as Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) in local governments and boards of education. JET Programme participants are collectively called JETs.
Participants come from a total of about 40 countries. As of 2005, roughly 6,000 people a year are employed on the programme, making it the world's largest exchange teaching programme. Of that number, about half are from America, with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand making up most of the remainder. Holders of Japanese passports may participate in the programme, but must renounce their Japanese citizenship to do so. In principle, participants must be under 40 years of age when hired. About 90% of the participants on the programme are ALTs, and the remaining 10% are divided between CIRs and SEAs.
History and aims of the programme
The English Teaching Recruitment Programme was started in 1978 and initially was exclusively for British university graduates, hence the British spelling of programme. As more countries were included, it became known as the JET Programme and its aims changed to "increase mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations, to promote internationalisation in Japan's local communities by helping to improve foreign language education, and to develop international exchange at the community level."
The programme is run by three ministries: the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in conjunction with local authorities. The programme is administrated by CLAIR, the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations. The programme has an annual budget of over US$400 million.
Prospective participants must submit a detailed application including a statement of purpose and medical form, usually in November or December of the year before their departure. Those who pass stage one of the process are invited to interviews which are conducted in major cities, usually in February. Interviews are conducted in English or in the language of applicant's country and, in some cases, in Japanese, by JET alumni, embassy or consulate representatives and people from the business community. Interviewees are then rejected, become "Alternates" (who may participate if positions become available), or are offered a position. Participants usually learn their placement details several months before their departure in late July or early August. Alternates may receive very short notice, sometimes only a few weeks, if a placement becomes available.
Participants are required to attend pre-departure and post-arrival orientations as well as conferences, including mid-year conferences and returnee conferences, during their tenure.
Participants are placed with a local authority in Japan (the Contracting Organization) which is the employer. There are 47 prefectural governments and 12 city governments, as well as numerous individual city, town and village governments and some private schools designated as Contracting Organisations. While applicants can specify up to three preferred locations, and can request urban, semi-rural or rural placements, they may be placed anywhere in Japan, and placements may not match requests.
Participants sign a one-year contract, which can be renewed up to two times, for a maximum of three years. Some positions now offer the option to work for more than three years.
Participants receive 3,600,000 yen, after taxes, per year. In addition to this, participants may receive housing subsidies or other benefits. Participants are generally forbidden to take paid work outside of their Programme duties.
The programme has not been without its problems. Some Japanese teachers have complained that participants, who are not required to have formal teaching experience or training, or to have Japanese speaking ability, are ill-equipped to handle working in the Japanese school system.
For their part, JETs have complained that the Japanese education system, with its focus on rote learning and memorization, is ill-equipped to provide students with the skills necessary to master English to any level of competence, despite the stated aims of MEXT. Others have bristled at the focus on American spelling, expressions and forms of speech in the official texts.
Another issue is money: the remuneration amount for participants has not changed since the programme's inception, and remuneration is the same regardless of placement: participants in villages of fewer than 2000 people earn the same as those in major cities such as Osaka, one of the world's most expensive places to live. In addition, while all participants are on the same programme, JETs receive a wide range of benefits, or sometimes none at all. For example, there are JETs who pay nothing for housing while others pay market prices; some JETs must pay key money (a kind of non-refundable deposit for rental accommodation) while others do not; some JETs are given cars to use during their tenure, while others must buy their own or are forbidden to drive for work purposes, and so on. Even the permitted number of paid holidays per year varies, with some JETs allowed as few as 12 days and others more than 20. Typically, the standard JET contract calls for 20 days of leave.
Working conditions also vary widely. Some JETs teach 5 classes a day, while others are rarely in the classroom. Some participants are used as "human tape recorders," doing little more than reading aloud from the textbook, while others more or less run classes themselves. (Note: while somewhat commonplace, it is technically prohibited for an unlicensed teacher to teach classes alone in Japanese schools. JETs are assistant teachers, and a teacher must be present at all times during class).
Despite these issues, many JETs have elected to stay for the maximum three years and even beyond (JETs are sometimes hired on privately by their Contracting Organizations when their three year tenure is finished), and the JET Programme continues to receive funding and attract applicants. Recently, JETs have begun to be placed in elementary schools, reflecting MEXT's plan to raise the English ability of Japanese students. Some contracting organizations go further and have ALTs periodically work with kindergarten students teaching basic English vocabulary as well as exposing them to non-Japanese people (something the markedly homogenous Japanese demographics often lacks). JETs may also teach in special schools.
JET Programme official
The Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching (National AJET)
JET Alumni Association
Big Daikon Bulletin Board
I Think I'm Lost JET Forum
JET Alumni Association of British Columbia
Blog of JET Programme participant (showcases cultural differences)
Another Blog by JET Programme participant (also known to have an internet following)