It is common wisdom in English teaching circles that direct hire positions are better than dispatch positions. This can be the case…or not. While direct hire positions can have great benefits, they also carry responsibilities many teachers don’t consider and aren’t always as well paid as people think.
Within Japanese schools there are different types of teacher; “Sennin,” “Jokin” and “Hijokin” which translate very roughly in order to “full time, full responsibility,” “full time but without the benefits or responsibility of the Sennin” and “part time” teachers. If you are offered a direct contract it is vital to check what kind of teacher you will be employed as. Some teachers find themselves shocked as they go from an out-the-door at 4pm ALT position to being expected to work overtime, work on weekends, and take on school responsibilities that have nothing to do with subject teaching like their Japanese counterparts (for example, one teacher was put on the groundskeeping committee and asked to spend hours of overtime analyzing how to have less dirt tracked into the school).
This is sometimes for less starting pay than a school would offer a dispatch teacher as direct hire teachers often come under the “salary in accordance to seniority” pay scale used by the Japanese staff. While not all dispatch companies are created equally, it is false to say that all direct hire contracts are better paid and better for the teacher than dispatch contracts.
The issue of responsibility is one of the reasons many schools don’t offer to hire directly, more than the issue of money. If a teacher is the employee of a company, it becomes the company’s responsibility to find a new teacher quickly if the current teacher decides to return to his or her own country, and it is also the responsibility of the company to speak to the teacher should things not be going well at school and to handle matters like visas and contract translations. Many schools aren’t willing to risk hiring a teacher directly and handling the extra paperwork with no guarantee the new teacher will put in the work and the years that the Japanese staff will.
When would direct hire be a good option for you? If you’re serious about staying in Japan for a long time, want to be a real teacher with real responsibilities, and have a lot of experience in the Japanese school system, you will find direct hire is a better career option than being dispatched. If you prefer flexibility, having someone to intervene when the school is demanding too much of you, and are not intending to make teaching in Japan a lifetime career, dispatch with a reputable company may actually be preferable for both you and the school you are working for.
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