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I'm an AET in a small village in Aomori.

 

The nearest foreigner to me is about 40km away.

 

Although I'm not a qualified teacher, I feel that me being here has had a good thing in a variety of different ways.

 

Some of the kids become interested in English, they (and their parents and the teachers) had never had the chance to meet a "real" foreigner, they have welcomed me to their village in an amazing way.

 

It's not just a case of teaching English, but so much more. And in my case, I think it is a great thing.

 

Over to the blasting from that Ocean bloke....

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talisker, what conditions were you offered to stay on? Were they comparable with those of Japanese teachers (including pay, benefits and responsibility)?

 

What do communities that opt out of JET get instead?

 

I don't mean to belittle the personal efforts of all JETs. I certainly met some very naiive and ineffectual ones however, and some who just didn't give a shit at all.

 

But as I'm sure you've noticed by now, I don't think the goals of the program are nearly far-reaching enough, and I firmly believe that more and better language education, starting with Japanese teachers, would lead to 'internationalization' faster than doing things the other way round. It would also be possible to achieve that without breaking the law.

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The money used for JETs could well be used to employ qualified, professional educators, I think that's the main point. (ignoring, of course, the need for institutional reform) Where that happens, great, where the luckless recruit has enough problems getting his/her head around the isolation, rice three times a day to even contemplate starting the long road to teaching competence with no qualified mentor... In many cases, JET appears to be little more than a subsidised homestay (snowboarding for some lucky B's) program for, as they say 'international understanding, peace, love and nauseating fluffiness'.

 

Being a taxpayer of Japan, it seems a strange way to spend money the country doesn't have. An extravagant leftover from the bubble era.

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I think the whole program is little more than throwing money at the problem.

 

I believe AETs are not given TEFL training because Mombusho does not want to give them any authority and to have them demanding wider changes in English education in Japan. Training AETs for a TEFL certificate would not significantly increase the cost of the program. Since a large number of AETs have not been trained, it should be no surprise that some of them end up being used as human tape recorders or entertainers.

 

Obviously when people come together, great things can occur. On a personal level, I'm sure many students are inspired by AETs. However, this does not mean there are no other factors encouraging Japanese people to study English. AETs should not overestimate their influence in this sense.

 

On a positive note, the salary scales of British educational authorities treat any TEFL experience (AET, Nova included) as teaching experience, so being on the JET scheme may not do you that much harm if you want to be a British teacher.

 

While the entrance exams are not the only problem, it would be interesting to see what would happen if Tokyo University (i.e., the top) decided to start conducting interviews in English for any internationally related course.

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Again, let me stress, that the JET program is based on a breach of its nation's own laws, a breach that has a knock-on effect on other, far more important areas of education. That is no basis for 'internationalisation'.
On the contrary, every nation in the world legislates for 'exemptions' to its own laws. This argument that 'its illegal, so it should be stopped' is patently wrong. It is not illegal - but if the Japanese teachers union felt passionately enough that it WAS wrong, and actually protested or went out on strike against it, that would be a very definite sign of internationalisation. In the meantime, we try in our individual ways to help this process. You say I'm being condescending when I talk of interntionalisation. Far from it. I defy you to find another more culturally homogenous, xenophobic country in the world. I cant really see how 'internationalisation' is a bad thing - especially when the only other people apart from you that I have heard object to this are ultra-nationalists with their own agenda. I actually find it extremely condescending of you to presume that Japanese people are passive recipients of this insidious 'foreign' concept, and are generally too simple minded (unlike you)to see how futile this programme is.

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We can all feel good that 'we made a difference', and needn't feel obliged to quantify that in any way.
OK, how can we quantify it? Hmmm. Well, I guess you have to start by deciding what you are trying to quantify. Are we trying to create a grammatically perfect, bilingual society? Not as far as I'm aware. Are we trying to create a better quality of language and multicultural education to enhance mutual understanding of the different ways of the world? Thats certainly my goal. Given this premise, theory driven exam results represent a poor method of quantification. How about this? A quick check of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website shows that during the period that the JET programme has been running, there has been a greater than 4 fold increase in the number of Japanese students choosing to studying overseas. Sure, you cant directly attribute it to the existence of the programme, but I wonder how many of your average 17 year olds would have been willing to leave the safe confines of home to live overseas if they hadnt at least had a taste of 'Westerners' in the security of their own school environment?

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...developing international exchange at the community level....by instituting a national program from which no community can exempt itself if it so wishes, in order to develop systems according to its own requirements (as some clearly do).
Plenty of communities do develop systems according to their own needs. The Ministry of Ed. stats show that for every two JETS, there was another foreigner employed under private teaching contracts with regional organisations. You seem to think that the existence of this one programme requires the elimination of all other possibilities - a narrow minded view that has no basis in reality...

As far as having more qualified teachers go - I'm all for it. But I doubt that Monbusho could find sufficient qualified teachers willing to move themselves wholesale to Japan for years at a time. The suggestion to offer TEFL courses to all JETS is a great one, but I dont know that this would be financially or logistically possible - should the Japanese government start paying for teachers to teach the teachers?

Ocean11, You clearly hold an extremely dim view of all JETS in Japan. Apparently we spend all our time getting drunk and collecting our pay while happily sitting in a corner with a thumb up our backside. You throw many stones in the direction of the participants and the programme, but choose not to suggest any viable alternatives (I cant take seriously your suggestion that 'Japanese teachers should just go overseas and live the life' - almost as simplistic as Nancy Reagan telling everyone to 'just say no'). If this is your preferred way of looking at the issue, so be it. In the meantime, I'm trying to make a difference with the resources I have available.
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snowhaus, you want me to name other countries as xenophobic as Japan? try the US for starters...

 

Japanese need incentives to travel abroad? Ummm, despite being, per capita, one of the most travelled peoples on this planet.

 

On the Q of TEFL. Of course anyone getting a pro salary doing a pro job should be qualified. It takes years to be an effectual teacher, and generally its only ineffectual novices that think otherwise.

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 Quote:
A quick check of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website shows that during the period that the JET programme has been running, there has been a greater than 4 fold increase in the number of Japanese students choosing to studying overseas.
You probably could attribute that to JET - the kids couldn't get a language education at home, so the ones that could afford it had to leave the country to get it.

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how many of your average 17 year olds would have been willing to leave the safe confines of home to live overseas if they hadnt at least had a taste of 'Westerners' in the security of their own school environment?
The JET program as vaccine. Actually I often hear that version. Inocculation by hokey-cokey. Again, I think seeing a Japanese teacher who had survived and thrived overseas would make the same point equally well. I recall that my French teacher, Mr Smith, a brilliant French speaker, impressed me by his ability to come home from his university education in Paris not having been eaten by the Frogs.

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I dont know that this would be financially or logistically possible
If it's financially and logistically possible to keep an international press gang operation going funnelling JETs into the system, bringing them in on planes, buying them all fridges, keeping them in hotels, ferrying them back home after even only 1 year, then don't you suppose the answer might be "yes"?

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but choose not to suggest any viable alternatives (I cant take seriously your suggestion that 'Japanese teachers should just go overseas and live the life'
See? I didn't think you'd be able to keep up the honesty for very long. I'm not suggesting Japanese teachers go and do it off their own bat and on their tab, as should be quite obvious from all my talk of using the resources more effectively. If some (not necessarily all) Japanese English teachers could go and study abroad, as my Mr Smith did using government money, then they would be better speakers, more effective teachers, and better cultural ambassadors.

Trying to lump me in with right-wing thugs for suggesting such a course just shows how shallow your civilization goes. I note you've stopped saying 'Peace' now the debate gets out of cloud coockoo land.
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Once again, you miss the point. You take superficial viewpoints in order to get a jibe in, without giving any real thought to what is being said.

 

First, Miyetaks statement that Japanese are some ofthe most travelled in the world. Sure they are, if going in groups of 100 or more for three day holiays with a Japanese tour guide attached to their hip the entire time doing the rounds of the '50 most important sights of the city' followed by a frenzied trip to the Japanese owned/Japanese staffed duty free store counts as travel.

 

I actually happen to agree with statement that it takes years to become an effectual teacher. You know nothing about me, and have no idea whether I am an ineffectual novice or not. Presumably you deduced that from my profile, which neglects to mention that I have only listed my second degree. It also neglects to mention that my mother is Japanese, and I grew up both here and overseas, experiencing the Japanese education system as a student, a privately employed teacher, and as a JET over the course of 30 something years. I have taken at least a passing interest in developments in the system for many years, and have seen both positive and negative changes.

 

You're right - anyone getting a pro-salary doing a pro-job should be qualified. JETs are not doing a pro-job. Their role is broader and more abstract than 'English Teacher'. Note that the quote said that their role was to 'help improve foreign language education'. Nowhere does it say their role is to substitute for existing teachers. I'm sure that there are plenty of AETs who would love to become TEFL qualified. Makes you wonder why it hasnt been done before - perhaps there is a reason...

 

As for Oceans crack about the students going overseas. Yep, I could see that one coming a mile away. Another example of point scoring being more important than a meaningful attempt at dialogue. Amongst the many things that I can only presume you are deliberately misrepresenting (as you dont sound stupid), is the thing about teachers going overseas. At no stage did I suggest it was simplistic because teachers shouldnt have to pay for their own trip.

 

Rather, the way that the employment system operates, anyone taking time from their careers to go and live/work/study overseas is immediately viewed with suspicion upon their return. Whether privately or government funded, the overriding view of colleagues would be that the teacher was going on an extended holiday. With the seniority system, promotional prospects for these teachers go down the tube in relation to their geography, math and science colleagues who stuck around to 'work' while their colleague was off galivanting the globe. Its not about the money. Its about what happens to the teacher when they get back. I have had this discussion with several Japanese colleagues and the unanimous view is 'it would be great, but it would just make life too hard'.

 

Peace.

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Snowhaus, that wasn't a crack about people having to go overseas for an education. It's a serious, straightforward observation, and I happen to think more plausible than any influence from meeting a JET.

 

Nor am I misrepresenting anything, although you still seem not to be able to get my very, very simple point about teachers going overseas. If it was systematic, say every year 20, 40, or 70% go off on approved courses of study, they come back and are given credit for having gone, then the problem you mention would go away like a hangover. Just like in every other country that doesn't import hordes of foreigners as a whacky alternative.

 

As for your other points, I believe where local Boards do hire teachers other than JETs, the Ministry makes a requirement that goes something like 'similar to JET, only worse'. Am I wrong there? That was definitely the problem that vexed the Board in Osaka. Certainly nobody gets officially hired as a teacher, although I know plenty of people who would love to be.

 

Regarding the illegality of the JET contract, you don't have a leg to stand on. There's as much wrong with Japanese teachers' unions as there is with Japanese teacher training and Japanese education as a whole. That they don't object to the JET program is just one more sign of their sheer uselessness.

 

Finally, I haven't wasted a moment in trying to guess what your history as a teacher might be. It's totally irrelevant to all of the points I've made, so I haven't even looked at your profile. I'm only interested in your arguments and whether you present them honestly or not.

 

I think I'm just about done here. I have friends who are ex-JETs and they're good people, but most of them (not all, but most) go through life here taking a very superficial view of everything. I think the fact that they were brought here on a magic carpet has coloured their view permanently. Their motto is 'don't rock the boat, there's too much to lose'. Coming to Japan often before doing any real work anywhere else, far from 'internationalizing' the Japanese, they themselves have actually been Japanized. Most are certainly not 'international' either, just by virtue of coming from an English speaking country.

 

So from all points of view, JET is a bad thing, notwithstanding the good intentions of many of the people involved.

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All very interesting but what is to be gained form this discussion...other than filling those long hours between the occassional lesson.

 

It is not as if things will change. we all know that ALTs have no power whatsoever!

 

Anyway here is my 2 pence worth.

 

I agree that Japan is spening a great deal of money on Jets that are very often under used and under qualified. However, if they want to finance my holidays, snowboarding and paying off my student loan then that is fine with me. For most JETS that I speak to we are not here to teach. for me teaching is fun and I enjoy it but it is a means by which I can live abroad, travel and earn money at the same time.

Elementary teaching is the key. The kids love to learn and love to see me. I can get more results in one lesson at elementary than a whole term at JH. Those kids that are now my ichi nen at JHS can now speak english much better than they can write it! I put this down to their exposure to ALTs at elementary school.

So, Japan will continue to throw money at me, I am will will take it happily. I will return home and think what a wonderful time I had in Japan!

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Have to laugh. Finally - something that we can agree on. Yes, the teachers union is lame. Hence my observation that protest action from them would at least show that they gave a damn.

 

I am pretty much done here too. I have enjoyed the thread though, because it put into sharp relief the reasons I choose to be here. I honestly dont think change in this country will ever come from storming the barricades, and I'm happy to work on a micro scale to achieve my aims. For now though...really. Peace \:\)

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Sorry snowhaus, didn't check your profile because that post wasn't related to your experience.

 

As for the stereotypical view of Japanese travel, ummm. The company I work for sends hundreds of youngsters on homestays every year.

 

About being 'international' lets not confuse the word with 'western'. As for western, lets not think of ourselves as the average westerner. The town I come from is definitely not more international than a typical small town in Japan. The only Chinese in the town take abuse every night as they serve takeaways, and any non white visiter to the town can expect at least a handful of ignorant comments.

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Miyetak,

The post was addressed to me, and ended with something along the lines of 'only ineffectual teachers think otherwise'. My apologies if I misread the implication.

 

As for homestay students - I also used to work for a college that had homestay placements. Those students were the lucky few whose parents had the wherewithal to send them, and the courage to take it on. The vast majority of Japanese though, do NOT travel like that.

 

In regard to the 'Western' vs 'Internationalism' thing - I believe this is one of the strongest points of the programme. In my prefecture alone, we have several Russians, Koreans, Chinese, and even a Mongolian JET. There are people from Hispanic, African-American, Indian, and Japanese ethnic backgrounds whose presence as American, Canadian, British and Australian citizens is one of the most important concepts to introduce to students. You dont sound as though you are taking pride in the fact that your small town is insular. It doesnt sound like something the Japanese should take pride in either - fortunately there are a lot of Japanese who would like to see this change too.

Again... Peace \:\)

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Your last comment leads me to believe Japan to be less xenophobic than where I come from, at least they're somewhat accepting to foreigners, and as you say, want to do something about it. On the whole, I think many Japanese are more accepting of foreign ways than many other nations.

 

Good discussion, shame I've got to keep checkin' o'er me shoulder for the boss...

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JET was never primarily about teaching English for me. It was about a lot of snowboarding, a fantastic opportunity to live in another culture with my wife and children and a break from work, after a dozen years in IT.

Like yamalova I enjoyed the primary (elementary)school and kindergarten visits the best.

I had a lot of time off over winter, but gave a lot during the rest of the year.

I certainly don't think JET was bad for me, rather that it was the best job I've ever had, ever will have.

 

cya out there.

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