The end of the JET program?

August 23rd, 2010By Category: Teaching in Japan

As part of the cuts being driven by Renho, the government minister in charge of reigning in Japan’s huge public spending, there is a possibility that the JET program may be canceled, ending over 20 years of government-sponsored English-language teaching in Japan.

If the program does survive the cuts, then it will likely be in a drastically reduced form. This will in turn have a significant effect on the position of other English teachers working in Japan.

The case for JET was made recently by the U.S. alumni of JET calling on the Japanese government to continue the program, citing amongst other reasons, that it is essential for maintaining mutual understanding between Japanese and foreigners and to help folks in Japan open a little more to the outside world.

Some alumni have also gone on to have a huge impact at the grassroots level in Japan, including Anthony Bianchi, a city assembly member in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, and Toby Weymiller, who is currently creating an innovative environment cafe in Hokkaido.

With the future of the program still unclear, it is difficult to see what the effect will be on the job market. However, if JET does end, it does not mean that the English teaching positions it helped fill will close for good. Each public school is legally obliged to offer an English language class, though of course, there is no obligation for them to be taught by a native English speaker.

Another factor which will impact the employment situation in Japan shortly is the change in primary school education. Starting from the next school year, English language education will begin for students aged 7 and up.

Currently there are several Japanese education institutes jostling for position in how this will be handled, each suggesting their own method of teaching, with their own set of text books and teachers – some foreign and some not.

Other small changes are to be expected as well, but as of now, are still to be defined. GaijinPot will keep you updated as soon as we hear more.

Photo credit: Nisiguti / Wikimedia

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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  • James Reeves says:

    Actually, “your sitting” is correct, he has used the gerund form. 

  • Mono_locco says:

    Geez, this guy here makes me ashamed to be called an Australian.
    I myself am and Aussie as well, who is working in Japan as an ALT. But compared to this guy (I have less anger issues towards people on here and to the rest of the world). I agree with alot od his points , but then again (I know for a fact that there is a lot of lazy ass Australian) so the “ue blue hard yakka (labour)“ won`t really apply to all of them, as I have seen alot of migrants tend to work a lot harder than the tru blue aussies , Australians like to refer themselves like. I think he needs to calm down and tell us his story so others might be able to learn from it, instead of just going nuts and crazy while flaming people on here. Oh yeh mate also boasting about how much you earn and living it up…..just makes you sound like a wanker and a tool.
    It`s good to see that you a doing well and you are proud of your accomplishments, but going on and ranting about it just makes everyone care or listen to you even less.
    Be humble and stay humble, because if this is how you are then no one would want you to work for them and I would feel sorry for the kids you are teaching right now.
    Having a BA or BS is usually for Visa purposes. Alot of companies these days overlook that sometimes as long as you have experience in teaching or some other qualifications like TOELC. The Jet program is abit over priced and this is one of the reasons why it might go down the drain as towns are getting a bit tight with money and prefer to go to dispatch companies who hire ALT and so they towns also won`t have to worry about accomodating the ALT`s (the company will worry about that).

  • Uni grad says:

    It is “you’re” not “your”, in the case where you mean “you are” as you did above. Also, one exclamation point per sentence will do.

    As a BA from Uni who landed a really great job in the travel industry right out of school, I only have to say: why should we work in a factory and in a restaurant when four years in Uni will do? I’m sorry you had to go the long way – but there IS a short way. And many students in Uni will take turns as teaching assistants or volunteering in public schools. Such skills may translate better to teaching in a classroom than say, salting french fries.

    And to “teacher” – There are many jobs in English speaking countries teaching English, especially in public schools teaching recent immigrants, or in large cities where newcomers want to learn the language – just as there are schools to learn Japanese in Japan. But more importantly, JET is a chance to learn a lot about another culture, stretch yourself to your limits, and grow as a person, and THAT is useful in any job you take afterwards.

    …whether that is useful to the Japanese kids you’re teaching is less clear.

  • skullcracker says:

    @ our verbose host with the most

    “While [your] sitting around moping about failed interviews” (correct: you’re)

  • teacher says:

    You have the right idea however you could have replied in less than 5000 words. Basically English teaching shouldn’t be your ultimate goal for the main reason that you can’t make a living out of it when you go back to your home country. You should lever any such teaching position in Japan to get into a different field such as translation or IT. Note however you can’t do much with speaking Japanese in your home country so you should stick with a universal trade such as IT. Arigatou.

  • arbitrator says:

    Yes it should motivate students and make them more curious towards the world. Sadly, it falls short in that category even when it is one of the only benefits of having the JET program to begin with. Also please elaborate on how a JET ALT’s lucrative salary is earned for the what the students get out of the it. That said, it is not the ALTs fault, but the government and how they run their education system. Some ALTs spend their money back into the Japanese economy, but I know many who just save up and go back home. Japanese taxpayers deserve better and more efficient spending of their money. However, I suppose the same should be said for all taxpayers around the world (especially in Canada – HST).

  • Czh2004 says:

    I think the whole point of the JET program is motivating students and helping them to be more curious towards the world. In that sense, I think it should still continue. You guys are so bitter…and yes, I am a currently in the program right now.

  • receivedpronunciation says:

    Dear Jenny ,
    You are , or were , one of these JET’s weren’t you ? And from your misconstruction of the phrase “couldN’T care less” , I guess you are american .

    Am I wrong ?

  • work harder says:

    The main purpose of having a BA is for your visa sponsorship. Otherwise, it is merely a token requirement for many institutes, but still mainly for the aforementioned reason. It is not the magic juice to make you gifted at teaching English. As the fellow says below, all you serious people out there better work your ass off to build your work experience and qualifications and stop hiding behind a piece of paper.

  • Arbitrator says:

    Unfortunately your situation describes a minority within JET or English teaching in general. That said, your points are equally valid. An easier way to summarize the problem could be to argue that it is a motivation and personality/culture problem. Both are systemic problems, but the former is easier to deal with. When Japanese students realize they are learning English that they can actually use and communicate with, their motivation usually goes up. This is partially limited to students who are neutral and open to learning English to begin with, but even then many students who hate English change their minds later. Sadly most potential learners of English give up because of the way it is taught by most schools. Ask almost any Japanese person, even those who are studying English and living abroad, and they will tell you they hated English back in middle school and high school. The seed of interest or desire to learn the language is certainly not planted in school (beyond an anomaly).

  • Mitsuya says:

    I don’t think keeping JET, losing JET, or emphasizing communication over grammar will have much of an impact on the level of English in Japan as long as people a.) feel they can’t learn English “because [they’re] Japanese” –I’ve heard this so many times; b.) feel they have no need for it; and/or c.) just don’t care. People like to forget that as long as you don’t feel like doing something, you won’t do it, at least not well. It doesn’t matter what system you put in place to reach a goal; if people have no interest in the goal they won’t get there.

    For the record, I’m a 2nd year JET. I am not a human tape recorder. I interact with my kids outside of class in clubs, in the halls, or if I happen to see them while I’m out and about. I’m not reading off of a textbook while bored either. I know some JETs are, but that’s not every JETs situation. I do think both JET and the way English is taught here could be made better and more efficient. One could say that as a JET I’m biased, but everyone’s biased and they don’t always state what their particular conflict of interest is.

  • Nil Sine Labore says:

    To jobless crybaby Duc,

    Could it be that your English isn’t acceptable enough to even be considered for the now defunct NOVA?!!! (I have been/gone=correct, I have went=wrong)!!! For crying out loud, my private Japanese HS students would be on your case all lesson with pathetic grammar like that!!! I’m not at all threatened by any of you current or would be teachers who are too dumb to realise that a BA is not your get out of jail free pass into legit English language institutions. Japan doesn’t need naive newbies fresh out of uni thinking that they’re god’s gift to teaching just because they’ve got a BA (mostly in some obscure subject mind you, such as horsehusbandry/garbology etc & speak native English (so they claim) However, are illiterate in most cases, probably wasted their mummies’/daddies’ cash to get them through uni & cheated their way through uni & thus have no practical skills & very little to offer theoretically!!! These foolish newbies end up over here bringing down the whole rep of the industry & ruin it for those who choose to stay & try to make a legit quid!!! Any dipsticks fresh out of uni stay home & learn HOW to teach or even speak/read & write your own language before you come over here!!! If you are a naive fresh grad with only theoretical abilities & no practical skills you’ll be rudely awakened to & overwhelmed by the real world!!! I started at the bottom. I’m not a uni grad (my family isn’t rich so it was better for my sis to go to uni as she wanted to be a vet)!!! I’m a 32yr old Australian who is sick & tired of the sadcase uni grads complaining that they can’t get work because of not having enough experience, the economic downturn, saturated English teaching market!!! The list of excuses is perpetual (similar to their student status)!!!While your sitting around moping about failed interviews, other polished & skilled instructors (like myself) are taking the jobs that you haven’t applied for right from under your nose!!! There are plenty of other menial jobs out there for the taking & if you don’t have any practical work experience in anything then, you should realistically start by taking on some of these kinds of jobs e.g. waitperson, cleaner, kitchenhand, production line worker etc!!! Many other non-native English speaking foreigners take on these jobs for less than minimum wage!!! Just because you got lucky & were born in the developed world, went to uni, got a BA or any other degree for that matter doesn’t entitle you to a free ride!!! Everything in the real world is earned!!! All you uni babies should get your heads outta the clouds & learn how to do some real true blue hard yakka (labour)!!! Start living in the real world & not in fantasy land!!! Like I said before I didn’t go to uni but I’m highly educated (Mainly self-educated) who needs an overpaid underworked fatcat professor to decide whether you have enough knowledge in a certain field to be issued a piece of paper that states so!!! I am an elite high school grad success story!!! If you have common sense, initiative & develop your skills using resources available to you (the net, textbooks, dictionaries, educational TV etc) You can self-educate yourself better than any professor at a uni!!! Heck, I have secretly sat in on a few of my friends’ lectures at their uni (QUT BNE AUS) & it’s as if the professors are talking to a brickwall!!! Half the students are sleeping, non-attentive & chatting to mates etc!!! It’s totally a teacher centered/focused/oriented class with very little student interaction which will definitely not get the job done in any occupation but hey they’re professors, their knowledge is above any meager student & so they are elite & have immunity to any negative judgement which is usually brushed off as propaganda!!! Like I said earlier I’m a self-educated non-uni grad (& mighty damn proud of it) I worked menial jobs & gained lots of life/work experience like all you current & would be JETs/ALTs griping about not having jobs should!!! I worked at fast food joints, cleaned, was a kitchenhand, car windshield/safety glass technician/factory worker etc. Whilst doing all this I gained a lot of knowledge about many industries & was also able to attain a lot of very valuable experience & eventually landed a shoddy live-in English language teaching job paying ¥150,000/mth!!! I persevered in that dreadful scumbag language school waiting for my chance to come!!! As I kept a squeaky clean rep & a relatively low profile whilst building up my network of friends & contacts in my community!!! Just as I was going to move to Tokyo & work for GABA Language School, I was basically headhunted by a multi-nat corp in my city looking for an interpreter. I currently work at that multi-nat corp from Mon-Thur 8am-5pm (4 contact hrs/day), teach privates & semi-privates in my apart on the side & have another lucrative Biz evening class contract(classday is today, actually) paying¥10,000/hr!!! So I’m living it up on ¥500,000/mth working a 4day/wk!!! So all you moaners & groaners out there quit making excuses & use some initiative like I did!!! No corporations want losers who wait around for things to happen. Japan only needs & wants winners!!! So to all the clown teachers out there who haven’t got the faintest idea about teaching go back home or don’t even bother coming over here because you’re ruining the rep of those who choose to stay here to make a quid & as a result causing schools to lower the benchmark salary of the English teaching industry (doesn’t affect me, though) But ruins it for my mates!!! So if you have no practical skills but think your uni BA & theoretical skills are gonna get the job done take a hike. P.S My self-education led me to learning the language as well so any of you morons out there should learn the language of the country you plan to stay in before you get here!!! I’m now the language consultant/interpreter/translator at my multi-nat corp. Anyone with any common sense whatsoever should realise the convenience/requirement of the host country’s language especially, uni grads but then again only a handful of uni grads possess common sense!!! P.P.S So quite frankly I’m glad the JET program is going to be abolished because it’ll create an opportunity to weed out all those over paid human CD players & leave just the skilled teachers who can really teach here. Only the strong survive!!!

  • Duc says:

    Haha. Thanks.

  • Anonymous says:

    The failure of JET is nothing to with JET, its the dysfunctional education system with poor school management and the generally useless BOEs, let along the general failed education philosophy. That is why Japan has the second worst English TOFL rating. North Korea is last. But if they reform English teaching then they’ll have to the same for all other classes. Japanese children get an education from everything but standard schoolling. In first term at a senior high school, I saw all the children of my grade once except for one subset who I saw twice.

  • Shirou says:

    Doing it for a year is pointless – you won’t have been around long enough to even scratch the surface and by the time the kids learn anything about you you’ll have left and they will have to start all over again with a new ALT.

    The JET program needs to be redefined for the 21st century, JETs need to be paid less if it’s to survive as other (cheaper) companies are swooping in and taking their placements.

  • JLC says:

    I was a JET for three years, and the experience was valuable for me. Most of the Japanese teachers I worked with were amazing and not afraid to use me in class. Towards the end of my time at the school, I was going to at least four classes a day. I worked with students after school and made myself available by hanging out in the hallways. I still keep in touch with many of my students and co-workers even though I left the program three years ago. I know they have made a difference in my life, and I would like to think that I have made a difference in theirs.

    In addition, the JET community in our prefecture had a great reputation. We regularly were involved in community service projects. In my opinion, people that are chosen for JET are amazing people. It is still quite selective in many regions, and while many JETs do not have prior teaching experience, I have seen firsthand how much students can benefit from having a native speaker in the school, not just in the classroom.

  • ALTer says:

    could be because your english is all weird

    i have went -> i have gone

  • KrisinJapan says:

    I never used JET – Watched other “teachers” go off to far lost towns..haha… I just went direct to Tokyo, where there are lots of people and opportunities. Unless you WANT to see the Japanese country side – better to be in a big city and balance an eikaiwa (regular eng school) with private lessons, then do other work on the side like web design to make ends meet.

  • Mono_locco says:

    lol mate what drugs are you taking…. I’ts not easy to get a job in Japan these days. Even with a degree. The economy here plus job seeking is low. Even Japanese friends who have qualifications, experience and can speak the language have problems finding work.
    So don’t be talking crap of you don’t know what you on about. As for English teaching for foreigners it’s getting hard also to find work. Unless your willing to sell your soul and work for a very low low pay. I work as an ALT and I can tell you, some of the people I have met …..are struggling just to pay their bills and rent.

  • Seriously says:

    Don’t aspire to be an English teacher in Japan when you have the opportunity to do something valuable with your life still!

  • Duc says:

    I have went to a couple of ALT interviews, but failed to get accepted for whatever reasons. I do have a BA; however, I lack in Japanese. It maybe just bad luck and or timing. I was going to try the JET program this year when enrollment starts.

  • Jenny says:

    Bored is right!!!!! Most teachers will treat you as nothing more than a human CD player, tell you to take a rest in the teacher’s room. You’re also ignored when other school activities take place so you never get to learn about Japanese culture.

    After talking with some students, most could care less about learning English, but would like a choice in learning other languages.

  • Scramjet says:

    I was a CIR in Kobe for the first JET intake in 1987. There were about 30 CIRS and about 800 ALTs. Maybe they could scale the program back to 1987 levels instead of abolishing it.

  • Arbitrator says:

    Spot on. As I state below, the system really needs an overhaul. The way ALTs are used in the classroom right now is a waste of time and money. The cultural exchange argument for keeping JET is a bit of a weak one – especially at the generous salary JET ALts get paid. There are already plenty of foreigners in Japan, and it would be far better to represent foreigners through those working hard at a company. Some Japanese companies are demanding English to be their standard, which is a bit much, but at least they are promoting a ladder system to entice innovative English speakers from abroad.

    Having a bored ALT droning off a textbook does not do much to represent the Japanese people’s image of foreigners – especially those shy ALTs who do not converse with their students outside of the classroom, and thus remove the only exposure point (as talking in the classroom is limited).

  • guest says:

    Seems like a good idea. If they really wanted the youngsters to actually learn English, it would be far better to replace fresh out of college, adventure seeking, experienceless “teachers” with either Japanese teachers, who can actually speak English, or Japanese speaking foreigners with a teaching licence.

    Of course, nothing will change unless the university entrance test system is overhauled. It will probably happen, but not for a long time.

  • Arbitrator says:

    Do you have experience with GABA or are you basing your comments from others’ experiences? I’m not attacking your comment – I’m merely curious. Anyone can find negative experiences pertaining any company – including a government program like JET which isn’t exactly a “business,” but it does include a teaching experience. On the flip side, I’m sure many people have great experiences – shown by the number of people who stay in Japan after their stint is up (especially JETs who love it there. It’s one of the main positives of a cultural exchange).

  • Arbitrator says:

    There is already an overflow of overqualified English teachers in Japan who have actual teaching experience. Cutting out the JET program will cut out a lot of wasteful spending by the government and will do adept ALTs justice in giving them opportunities to teach beyond reading from a textbook like a cassette tape. I have nothing against the people who join the JET program, but I do have problems with program and the government. Until they wake up and realize communicative learning is the only way to master a language, people will continue to excel only at textbook grammar English necessary to pass a formulaic university entrance exam. As of right now the best speakers aren’t those who have studied English from middle school to University – it’s the people who work hard in other learning environment styles and experience living abroad in English environments.

  • aussieblah says:

    Don’t stess, it’s very easy to get work in Japan (once you have a degree). Just because you would’nt be coming with JET doesn’t mean you couldn’t have an amazing time. There are plenty of trustworthy companies that hire from overseas. Just don’t go with GABA and you’ll be fine. 🙂

  • paraselenee says:

    This worries me. I’m still in college, but I planned to do JET for a year once I graduate. I have no idea what I’ll do if they discontinue it. That and this article dashes my hopes for becoming an English teacher. Great. =/

  • Omicronda says:

    Cant understand the logic of not continuing JET program while planning to require the pupils from age 7 and up to take up English classes in the future. Arent they going to need more teachers for this?

  • Spangalang says:



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