The April 23 article “LDP looks to double JET Program’s ranks in three years” leaves this reader feeling it’s time to reassess English education in Japan. Increasing the number of Japan Exchange and Teaching participants twofold is not the answer.
The Japanese have long believed that anyone who speaks a foreign language somehow qualifies to teach it. Many participating JET Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) participants come to Japan as recent college graduates with little to no work experience, much less teaching experience. This is OK for the exchange aspect of JET, yet it does little to improve English ability among students.
Most ALTs return to their home countries after their JET experience, yet many continue teaching in Japan. The English teaching market here has become saturated as a result. Myriad private English conversation schools exist across the nation. This works against the English teaching profession in that the over-abundance of English speakers has resulted in low remuneration offered by these schools, staffing agencies and boards of education.
Decreasing the size of JET would likely benefit the profession.
Rerouting money saved from JET so that Japanese teachers of English can be sent abroad to improve their skills is often viewed as beneficial. However, Japan has been sending individuals and teams abroad for a long time now, and the most that these people usually do with whatever knowledge, insight or improved foreign-language communicative abilities they’ve gained abroad once they return to Japan is adapt them to fit traditional approaches.
A better use of funds would be to employ qualified English-language teachers in Japanese schools. Specialist teachers in every subject from music to science — even Japanese — already exist. Adding specialist English teachers would prove to be worthwhile.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.