LDP looks to double JET Program’s ranks in three years

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

The number of teachers hired for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program would be doubled in three years under a proposal drafted by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to boost Japan’s global competitiveness and nurture international talent.

According to the draft of a midterm report by the LDP’s economic revitalization headquarters obtained Monday, the number of JET teachers would be increased to 10,000 from about 4,360 in 2012. The teachers also would be dispatched to all elementary, junior high and high schools within 10 years.

The JET Program was targeted for wasteful spending by the Democratic Party of Japan’s “shiwake” government revitalization unit before the young party was kicked out of power in the Lower House election in December.

The LDP views the use of native English speakers as vital to improving English-speaking ability at a time when it is moving toward making a passing score on the Test of English as Foreign Language mandatory for entering and graduating from college.

The proposal is in line with the growth strategies Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mapped out last Friday ahead of the July Upper House election. The strategies include globalizing the Japanese workforce and increasing the number of women in it by extending the length of maternity leave to three years from 18 months.

The proposal will be part of Abe’s real basic economic policies, which are being compiled by the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy for release in June — just a month before the House of Councilors election in July.

Fleshing out Abe’s pledge to fight the nationwide shortage of day-care centers, the LDP’s plan will also propose tax breaks for spending related to housekeeping, including baby-sitting and housekeeping fees.

According to media reports, the LDP will also try to lure back Japanese companies that have moved overseas to escape the strong yen by offering tax breaks for closing any factories built abroad and for building new ones in Japan.

Halting the manufacturing exodus will help prevent the hollowing out of Japanese industry.

  • Max Erimo

    Increasing JET participants is not the answer. A total overhaul of the English education system is necessary. Is the government game to tackle that issue head on?

    • Michael Radcliffe

      Max, you are completely correct. And in answer to your question: No.

    • Ben

      my guess is they’re putting together a panel of professors from very prestigious japanese universities to do exactly that right now. after all who better than a bunch of people not born in a foreign country or even having lived in a foreign country for a decent length of time, let alone any fluency to decide how best to teach a foreign language?

    • Oni

      You can’t overhaul the English system without changing the examination system itself, challenging all institutions (Employers, Colleges, Cram Schools…) that rely on it. Employers and colleges are the only ones with enough flexibility to start changing in that way. Hopefully Todai gets its way and changes to a Western semester system. Others will follow. But the conservatism will take decades to undo.

    • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

      If by overhaul, you mean abolishing the system, then, okay. Pressing the “restart button” ultimately boots you back up to the same place, with the same problems.

  • 賢司 笹原

    I remember in my school age, I was a little xenophobic. But getting along with JET teachers will let children much less hesitant and more sophisticated in international world.

    • disqus_tf3kFiQqyK

      I’m glad to hear that. I was a JET program teacher and really enjoyed connecting with my students and showing them something new from outside Japan. But we do wish the focus on communicating and not passing tests.

    • Greg Beck

      This! This is real point of JET. If a student doesn’t have a reason or きっかけ want to learn, the best system ever will still fail.

    • byejapan

      I disagree. Jet teachers are basicaly like zoo exhibits. Children can “interact” with foreigners in a, safe, controlled environment. How about Japan gets rid of the JET program (which is a waste of time and money for all concerned) and hires properly qualified teachers on good contracts? IMO,the JET program really is a honeytrap to lure foreigners into taking poorly paid, exploitative jobs in the (much needed) eikaiwa sector. Foreigners are not coming to Japan to teach becaue they are increasingly being ripped off and badly paid, and word is getting out.

  • Ben

    they can get 100k teachers if they like and it won’t change anything if they’re still all told to teach the way that doesn’t work.

  • C Bannai

    If indeed English competency is their primary goal, not international understanding, it would probably be more effective for the LDP to send Japanese English teachers overseas than to bring more untrained foreign graduates to Japan. They could then go on to influence future students for decades to come rather than return home with happy memories and a penchant for sushi!

  • Frank Thornton

    They can double, triple, throw all the teachers they can find at the students. It’s not going to make a big diff. The whole system has to be changed. The juken system, hiring practices, how students are in fact penalized for studying abroad for extented periods of time, the position of JETs and other “native” language teachers in class, the position of English education itself in the elementry school system (If I’m correct, it’s below other classes such as math and science. Sort of like music class…once or twice a week.). As Max says, I don’t think the government is ready for such an overhaul.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1229820085 Shelby Heilig

    I agree with Max and I’m IN the JET program currently. I can see an overhaul of the JET selection process as being necessary and probably easier to coordinate as well; there needs to be not only an interest in the Japanese language, but an actual speaking ability present in order to teach kids most effectively in Japan. I also think that JETS need to be given more control over the classroom procedures as a lot of JTE’s don’t have the English skills or teaching style suitable for English learning. If Japanese speaking ability is made a requirement for JETs then I can see more control in the classroom as being a very natural transition.

  • chomskyite

    Future headline: LDP Jet policy a boon for Southeast Asian tourism.

  • steven horowitz

    I think this is one piece of a bigger, future-looking effort that recognizes that Japan needs to substantively “internationalize” itself if it’s going to be able to engage and compete successfully with the rest of the world. English teaching is only part of the benefit that JETs bring. Having a quasi-expat population of 50,000+ JET alumni that will now grow even larger who feel a strong connection to Japan and who play roles that facilitate Japan’s relationships with the rest of the world pays and will continue to pay valuable dividends in so many ways. (Disclosure: I’m a JET alum myself.)

  • keratomileusis

    I participated in a special program between the Hawaii Dept of Education and Koshigaya City for 2 years. I was essentially treated the same as a JET ALT but I was a licensed, certified foreign language teacher. The Japanese education system is test based, so if you want to improve speaking and writing, you have to test it. Companies require TOEFL and TOEIC, but NOT the reading and speaking components. No wonder things don’t get better. JET teachers need to be given the power and authority to evaluate speaking and writing proficiency. They can easily be trained with simple performance rubrics. Whether the government is ready to give JETS the authority over students’ futures is doubtful. Hire only trained ESL people. Just because someone speaks English doesn’t mean they can teach it. Separate and specialize teachers between elementary, junior high, and high school levels. The strategies for teaching each of these groups are vastly different. Japanese ability is a MUST for effective communication between JETS, teachers and school staff. Remove the 3 year and under 35 years of age limit on the program and allow anyone who is interested and competent to remain in Japan indefinitely. It’s ridiculous to have to keep training a new crop of people every year! Allow JETS preparation time and build up resource rooms so lessons and strategies that work can be archived and shared rather than reinvented each year. Allow experienced JETS to serve as sempai mentors to new JETS. Allow flexibility to the work day, so that JETS can use prep time at a centralized resource room. I spent so much time sitting in the teachers room rather than teaching. It was a tremendous waste of time and money! If I had been allowed to grade student work such as compositions, I would have been busy evey day. The curriculum is tied to the textbook, which means that all schools must be on the same page at the same time. This effectively leaves little time for real learning with performance based tasks. Japanese students are also not used to working collaboratively, but compete for spots in the best schools; a bizarre contradiction to the usual group mentality. One final note, I found that Board of Education administrators were very risk averse preferring the status quo, lest their careers be tarnished in any way with something innovative that might potentially fail or result in complaints from parents.

    • Mark Garrett

      Someone needs to learn the art of using line breaks and paragraphs.

      • keratomileusis

        u r obviously someone who values form over function…

      • Mark Garrett

        I’m actually the opposite. I prefer function over form in most cases, but when form interferes with function then it needs to be addressed.

        It’s just REALLY difficult to chew through that much text without some kind of occasional break. It’s very easy to lose your place while reading and it just shows an overall lack of writing skill, so even if you are making a great point (which it appears you are if the up votes are an indication) many people will just skip it (which I did).

  • itaran koto

    When your economic policy amounts to the same thing as printing your own money, you can do anything you want.

  • Scott Durand

    The idea of sending Japanese teachers of English overseas for a year is better than hiring a bunch of young University graduates with varying degrees of teaching qualifications and experiences to improve Japan internationalization. This could be a compulsory part of their teacher training and teacher qualification process.
    Another idea would be to give Japanese teachers a pay rise so they get back some of the losses they have sustained over the last few years. There are many prefectures were teacher salaries have been cut by between 5-7% per year (or more over) the last three years.
    If I was a Japanese teacher and I read that the Japanese government was going to hire 1000′s of unqualified teachers while they also continuously cut my salary my motivation would be decreasing year by year.
    If I was a Japanese teacher and was told that the Japanese government will be offering one year overseas training programs (for me an my family) this would have a positive effect on my moral. However, if I was a Japanese teacher I’d be most interested having my salary reinstated to previous levels not watching young foreigners come to Japan earn more than me for half the work.
    The government could also bring in the IB curriculum.

    • John Snow

      If you were a true Japanese you would think working outside Japan is a waste of time.

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    In other words, the government’s solution to any problem is: throw more money at it. If the Japanese Education system were a private business, it would have been bankrupt for decades now.

  • Toolonggone

    This is pathetic. The numbers are in declining trend since 2002, and they never surpassed 7,000 while national economy was still in good shape. I don’t know what they are thinking. I’m not giving too much credit to Abenomics. It’s not gonna bring Japan back to their heydays in the Bubble Era. And economy is just a part of
    reason native speakers of English are getting less interested in the program than before. There are more serious issues that need to be tackled, such as under-qualification, lack of clarifications on duties and responsibilities, classroom control, schools indifference to any form of discriminatory treatment(i.e., sexual harrassment).

  • WatchingFromOverThere

    Back when I was in college, I once asked a Danish student about that country’s English language education program. (As you know if you’ve ever met any young Scandinavians, they almost always speak excellent English.) One of the things she told me was that anyone wanting to become an English teacher had to spend a minimum of two years living in an English-speaking country. In doing this, the prospective teacher not only learns natural conversational English but also comes to understand what kinds of skills are most useful. Later, when I traveled in Scandinavia, I observed that almost all the television programs came from English speaking countries and were subtitled rather than dubbed, so that young people were exposed to natural English all their lives.
    As much as I enjoy seeing foreign TV dubbed into Japanese, I think it may hinder the development of foreign language listening comprehension.

  • disqus_eosyL7SJEx

    As a JET ALT myself, I agree that the best thing that could be done would be to send future Japanese teachers of English overseas to study. However, barring that, the next best thing would be to provide training for JETs or hire JETs with TEFL experience beforehand. Surprisingly, it would be very cheap to provide, at the very least, online courses for TEFL. They already provide JETs with semi-compulsory Japanese education and yet, there is a definite trend as the years pass by of hiring people for JET that have a significant amount of experience with the Japanese language. Most JETs will take the time to learn Japanese while here in order to survive. Why not replace these courses with TEFL courses?