LDP plans expansion of JET program

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 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 will be increased to 10,000 from about 4,360 in 2012. The teachers also will 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 DPJ 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 a 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 nation’s 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 basic economic policies, which are being compiled by the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy for release in June, just a month before the Upper House 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.

The LDP will also try to lure back companies that have moved overseas to escape the strong yen by offering tax breaks.

  • Bill

    “[doubling the number of JET teachers] is in line with the growth strategies Prime Minister Shinzo Abe”

    This move would also fuel economic growth in ways that go beyond developing Japanese a workforce that can pursue global business opportunities thanks to better English fluency.

    For one, more teachers from abroad would increase the nation’s taxpayer and GDP-generating workforce in the face of Japan’s rapidly declining ratio of wage earners as ranks of retirees swell and numbers of newborns dwindle.

    As another plus for Abe’s growth strategy, in a nation with a dwindling population, yet averse to increasing the foreign-born population, this would effectively act as a backdoor immigration policy given that many JET teachers stay on in Japan after their stint in the program ends. Many such long-term residents end up learning Japanese, establishing careers and raising families here after their stint in the program ends, thus adding to the nation’s working-aged population and bilingual workforce, while generating further economic activity.

    • japangone

      I disagree. The JET program is a complete waste of time as far as english language education goes. It basically brings over a load of unqualified, illiterate foreigners and fires them after a few years, preventing them from having any input into the system when they finally begin to achieve some experience and fluency in Japanese. The program is also sly way of sucking a lot of much needed language teachers into exploitative, poorly paid non-permanent postions.
      If the Japanese had any real desire to embrace language learning, they would offer permanent/longterm positions to qualified teachers and allow them input into the curriculum after a set time period.

    • Toolonggone

      I’m not gonna buy Abe’s voodoo economy for this. The plan is nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky. How in the world would they make me believe it’s gonna happen while the total number of the JET recipients never exceeded 7,000 per year??? It’s been in decline, reduced to 4,300. And 90-95% of those recipients are neither certified teachers nor have teaching experience in the classroom whatsoever. And many of those are being treated like circus performers at best or a live tape recorder at worst? If the government thinks they can fool Japanese students and teachers, as usual, they’ve got another thing coming. What a pity.

  • Mark Garrett

    JET teachers…perfect example of an oxymoron. If Japan is truly interested in having native speaking English teachers, it ought to make a teaching degree part of the requirement. Take a look at the current criteria: 1. Be interested in Japan 2. Be mentally and physically healthy 3. Have the ability to adapt to living in Japan 4. Have at least a B.A.

    Great. That means Ryan Lochte would be a perfect candidate!

    Just another example of throwing money at the problem without really understanding what’s wrong in the first place.

    • http://twitter.com/love4spj spj4you

      Current JET here. I’m not going to argue your point because I think it’s valid, but our various backgrounds in education bring something special to the program too in my opinion. I would however incorporate a mandatory English practical and speaking exam as part of the interview process to get more quality JETs even if they are from various fields of interest.

    • bernician

      If they made having a teaching degree part of the requirements then they:d have huge trouble filling their quota.
      There are lots of other smaller scale programmes for full teachers to teach in Japan.
      And those criteria you mention are the minimum for applying, not a guarantee of acceptance. They do interview and see if someone would be a good fit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spicygyoza Jeff Hebert

    The interesting thing that people don’t seem to notice is that JET is actually having a positive effect on the Japanese economy. I lived here in 2001-2003, and finding an English menu or even anyone who could communicate in basic English was next to impossible outside of the big cities. Fast forward 10 years, and it’s much much easier to get around Japan, see the sights, experience the culture, order food, and take the trains.

    Can JET take credit for it? Not all of it, but I guarantee you that it’s much easier to spend tourist dollars in rural Japan because of JET. English is a worldwide language whether you like it or not, and the Japanese government took a gamble that is paying off in hard-earned tourist dollars.

    However, if they want to add more JETs, I completely agree they need to up the quality of the applicants. Some JETs are worthless wastes of space, while others rival any educated teacher in the world.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1219164 Wesley Keppel-Henry

      The ease with which foreign tourists can travel Japan is not a valid measure of the country’s economic status.The fact that you consider the availability of English menus an indicator Japan’s economic progress, and attribute this success to JET, is a testimonial that the JET program (in its current state) is part of the problem, not the solution. The availability of English menus and language services most-likely correlates with the number of English-speaking foreigners living and visiting the area, not the country’s economic well-being.

  • pat

    The question begs; how the bloody hell can the country afford this? Very, very bad value for dollar these people. Few seem to realize the Japanese teaching staff can’t be bothered with them and dread having them gum up the works. They seem to get an inkling of this on day one. Ok, bring them but make them actually work and be accountable, for at the moment they’re entirely unaccountable and have zero responsibilities. This has to change for the sake of both parties as God knows it’s been pretty hopeless as a program thus far. The results of the last 20 plus years of AET assisted English education in schools are there for everyone to see. It’s not a pretty sight …