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About JET

"JET" stands for “Japan Exchange and Teaching Program”. It is a program in which college graduates can teach in Japanese public or private schools for one to three years. JETs are recruited by CLAIR (Council of Local Authorities for International Relations) and MONBUSHO (the Ministry of Education in Japan) primarily teach linguistic pronunciation and bring cultural awareness of the West to young Japanese students. Japan is such a homogenous society that the average Japanese citizen has no contact with people from foreign countries. Starting in junior high school, students are required to study English and it is an important component of the curriculum and high school, college, and university entrance examinations.

The JET Program is all about “team teaching”. In “team teaching”, the JET teaches with an accredited Japanese teacher and usually acts as his or her assistant, hence the associate term “ALT” or Assistant Language Teacher. Together they plan and execute English lessons as well as teach them about the cultural idiosyncrasies of the JET’s home country. The JET is sometimes the first foreigner the students have ever had contact with!

To become a JET you must have (or will have at the time of appointment) a degree from an accredited four-year university. You do not have to have a teaching credential or even speak any Japanese. There is an application that must be sent into CLAIR the December before you would like to start on the JET Program and an interview in February or March. If you are accepted into the JET Program you are notified in April. There is an orientation in May or June and then your appointment begins at the end of July.

JETs are divided into two main classifications: city or prefecture. This generally denotes the level of students you will teach. Each city or town’s board of education oversees the teaching of the junior high schools and the prefectural government handles the senior high schools. During my stay in Japan, I taught at junior high schools and so was overseen by the city’s board of education.
As a JET you may teach at anywhere from one to fifteen schools, depending on how many schools and JETs are in your area, and on what the city or region needs. In Wakayma City where I was placed, there were eighteen junior high schools and five JETs so each ALT was assigned to three or four schools. I knew one ALT who was placed as a “one-shot”, meaning he was rotated between 15 schools. There are not too many “one-shot” situations now, all to the better for the ALTs and the students.

The JET Program has its problems. The Japanese school system has its problems. There are not enough JETs to go around. Some JETs are overworked while some are given no work to do at all. Some JETs give the program a bad name among the Japanese and some situations of the placements of JETs give the JET Program a bad name among prospective JETs. There needs to be some cleaning done at both ends and those means should be put into action soon.
A JET Thanksgiving

At many schools, to be a JET is to be an instant celebrity! Students will beg to get your autograph or shake your hand. People on the street or the train will want to start up conversations with you. An ego boost in the extreme, it is exhilerating and exasperating by turns. The trick is to take it all in stride and you'll learn to love it.

For the most part, being a JET is a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to do something a little different. There are very few opportunities out there that allow you to travel, get to know so many local people, and do something as worthwhile as teaching.If you are qualified and are thinking about applying for the program, stop thinking. Just apply. It’ll be one of the best things you’ve ever done in your life if you work the system and get the most of your experience while you’re in Japan.


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