Teaching English in Japan is a popular employment option among Gaijin for a reason. It’s well known that usually, the only jobs a foreigner can get in Japan are the jobs a Japanese person either can’t do, or won’t do. This is where English speakers come in, and get paid a decent wage for it too. English is taught to Japanese school children from a young age, but the average level of English in the country remains poor.
The JET program (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) is a government run program in Japan. The “Exchange” part refers to the exchange of language, not an actual exchange of individuals between Japan and another country. The program was started in 1978 under the name “British English Teachers Scheme”, where it was initially open to British University graduates only. Today, the program is open to a range of different countries around the world, with students from as many as 41 different countries participating in recent years.
The aims of the programme are 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.” This aim is met by recruiting University graduates from around the world, and bringing them to Japan to assist in teaching English to school kids of different ages.
Assuming you are a citizen of a country which takes part in the JET programme, the only main requirements are that you have a Bachelors degree (in any subject), and be a native speaker of the English language, or have excellent skills in English if not a native speaker. They also do not allow anyone over the age of 40. If you are accepted on to the programme, you are assisted with finding accommodation and are given a reasonable salary of 300,000 JPY a month – not bad, considering the requirements of eligibility.
Contrary to other English teaching jobs, such as with GABA where the teaching environment is a 1-to-1 scenario, JET usually involves teaching a class of pupils. With JET, you are asked to state a location of preference. A common choice is Tokyo, or any of the major cities and as such, these places are difficult to get. While other teaching companies focus their efforts in one particular area, Tokyo being GABA’s main focus, JET’s could potentially be places anywhere within the country, anywhere that has a school – basically.
JET is probably the most highly regarded English teaching opportunity in Japan, but as with seemingly every ALT (assistant language teacher) position in Japan, there are numerous horror stories of poor treatment as an employee, long working hours without pay, etc, etc. As the overused JET term goes, every situation is different (ESID) and you’d be better ignoring the more negative stories, if you hear them.
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