Being a JET
One of the formal ways to teach English in Japan is to sign up to the Japan English Teacher (JET) program. I've had a bunch of email from people asking how does one get on the program, so I did some digging and came up with the following.
First of all, the JET program is run by each local government in Japan, although it's administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the CLAIR organization, plus the Ministries of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. The purpose of the program is to recruit young English teachers from English-speaking countries (primarily) and have them teach English to school students for 1-3 years. Notice that I said "young" - the criteria for application states that applicants should in principle, be under 40 years of age.
The recruiting process for a JET begins in one of 39 selected countries - according to the web site - but in fact, the core countries where 95% of the recruiting is done are USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and recently Jamaica. If you're in one of the other 30 countries, you're probably going to be out of luck.
The actual recruiting is done by the Japanese embassies and consulates in each core country. Around November-December time frame they advertise in newspapers, visit universities - particularly those with Japanese or Asian Studies programs, and generally pump the network. Those that make it through this first screening, will be notified in January for an interview in February, andsuccessful candidates will get an acceptance letter in April telling them that they can start packing their bags. The actual contract is signed in May, and the lucky few are winging their way to Japan in July.
Yes, that's a 9-month gestation period to become a JET.
There are three types of JETs: CIR's, Coordinators for International Relations, who work in city or town offices helping the local officials with international administration issues; ALT's, Assistant Language Teachers, who assist Japanese teachers in classroom activities, and SEA's, Sports Exchange Advisors, whose duties may vary from one contracting organization to another. I've heard it said that if you want to stay and work in Japan after being a JET, then you'll get the best language training as a CIR - but if you get stuck out in the boonies, it can get a bit lonely.
Apparently the type of people the recruiters are looking for, are just who you'd expect - basically, outgoing individuals (although married couples are also OK apparently), with a university degree (not necessarily in teaching), and a proven history of interest in Japan and things Japanese. Candidates are going to somewhat be ambassadors for their respective countries, so it also helps if you know something about where you're from.
JET contracts are essentially 1-year renewable affairs, and you can in principle renew up to 3 years, providing the town or school wants to keep you. Just last year, a new type of contract was offered to existing program participants. These contracts are 2-year renewable, extendable to between 4-5 years and onlyfor certain types of positions. Apparently this year, there are over 60 of these extended contract positions being offered.
Some useful websites to find out more about being a JET include:
As always, my contact details are simply: email@example.com. Looking forward to getting some enquiries...