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Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme

Join the Leading Program for Teaching English in Japan

The Borobudur temple complex in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

I have lived for a year now in Japan, as a participant in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), one of the largest work abroad programs in the world. The Japanese government arranged my visa, my flight over, my housing, and my job. I have regular conferences around the country to help me improve my work skills, deal with culture shock, and get plugged into the social support network. The JET network includes over 4,900 other assistant English teachers on the program from over 50 countries around the world, with the vast majority from the United States, followed by the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Ireland and others. From the moment I arrived in Tokyo I have received all the support, both material and otherwise, that I need to live comfortably in Japan.

The Importance of English Knowledge in Japan

Teaching English is a big business in Japan. In addition to public and private schools, the country is filled with schools specializing in English conversation for students of all ages. And all are still looking for native English speakers to teach.

The Japanese government takes the position that English is essential to Japan’s economic success, and internationalization is embraced zealously by Japanese popular culture. To ESL teachers, Japan offers high wages, a comfortable standard of living, and a deep cultural experience. And at the forefront of the Japanese ESL community is the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme.

Participants can choose from two types of programs (for both the age limit is 40): Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) and Coordinator of International Relations (CIR). The ALT position is available for those with limited Japanese language ability and involves English language instruction. CIRs, who are involved with international exchange activities and translating duties, must speak Japanese. All positions offer pay ¥336,000 to ¥396,000 per month. ALTs work for local boards of education or prefectural offices and are generally placed within public junior and senior high schools. JETs have very little say as to where they are placed or in which type of school they work. However, uniform standards are ensured with respect to things such as working hours, insurance, and vacation time.

Applications are due at the end of November for positions commencing the following summer. To be eligible, you must have a university degree. Successful applicants are offered one-year contracts that are renewable for up to three years. If you work is deemed remarkable, you can remain two more years. You can read the latest detailed eligibility requirements on the Jet website.

The JET Programme is more than an exchange program; it is a very special expatriate community. Participants have access to a staggeringly extensive support system: local independent chapters of AJET (Association of JETs), special interest groups, and Internet newsgroups. The well-organized program even supplies a handbook for JET participants. Local JET alumni chapters aid participants upon their return home.

Despite all the help, the program does not isolate you from the culture. JETs are placed all over Japan—in small rice-paddy towns and thriving metropolitan areas alike. I am the only foreigner working in my schools, and I am enchanted by Japanese culture every day. When today I proudly discovered that I could read an eye chart in Japanese, I was grateful that I had been given the time and luxury to live here.

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