Essay 3: The JET Program

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The JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) program is the Government-run system for putting young and aspiring native-English speakers in Japans schools.

Apparently, somewhere along the line, someone has decided that Japans flagging economy is linked to it's social distance from the outside world. So, as well as helping to teach English throughout the school system, the main goal of the JET Program is "Internationalisation at the Grass Roots Level", a concept that is drummed into you again and again during the initial training and seminars.

The JET program requires no prior TEFL training or experience or any Japanese language ability. Their requirements are that you have graduated with a degree, that you are under 36, (which they seem very flexible on) and that you have a strong interest in Japan and teaching English.

The JET Program employs a huge amount of westerners. To give you an idea, in the year that I participated, just short of 1500 people were taken on from the UK. Add to that the numbers taken from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many other countries, you get an idea how big the system is.

They take very good care of you in-deed. Sometimes it can feel like too much care. You are looked after from the moment you arrive in Heathrow to catch your plane until you get on the plane when you leave the JET Program. You are found at check-in, herded on board your aircraft, guided by an army of current participants out of Narita Airport in Tokyo to your hotel, nearly led by hand through the first days of induction, taken to your destination prefecture for more orientation, met by your supervisor who takes you to your host school and then will go with you to the bank, the post office, local immigration, gas and electric companies and shopping with you. On top of all this looking after you are paid very well too.

For most JET participants their duties are as assistant English Teachers. Basically they follow the lead of the students' normal English teacher in class and help with the preparation of the classes, although the amount of responsibilities vary. Some people have found themselves merely human tape recorders, others have been asked to take control of all the communicative classes.

The requirements of each local Board of Education can vary quite a lot as can a JET's working environment. For example, some BoE's will require you to take the local town hall English club, some will require you to teach at one or 2 schools several classes a week, others will require you to teach occasional classes but at 20 or even more schools.

I think that if you are thinking about a year or 2 of doing something a bit different and you don't have much experience travelling or much expendable cash, the Jet program is a great idea. You are never far from help if you get into trouble, and Japan is a great jumping off point for travelling in Asia.

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