What is the JET Programme?
The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is one of the largest exchange programmes in the world. It invites people from around the world to participate in international exchange work and be involved in foreign language education at Japan’s local government offices, Boards of Education, elementary schools, junior high schools, and senior high schools. It aims to enhance foreign language education and promote international exchange at the local level through the fostering of ties between Japanese and people from all around the world.
How did the JET Programme start?
The JET Programme started in 1987 with cooperation from governments of participating countries. It has grown significantly over its long history, with the number of countries participating in the JET Programme growing from 4 to 43, and the number of participants from 848 to 4,786 by 2015. More information about its history is available at the official JET website.
Who organise the JET Programme?
The JET Programme is administered through the collaboration of Japan’s local government authorities, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR). The support of CLAIR and the three Ministries to both JET Programme participants and the institutions that host them is essential. More information about the organisations is available at the official JET website.
What positions are available in the JET Programme?
The JET participants are employed as one of the following positions: Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), or Sports Exchange Advisor (SEA). Regardless of their position, the participants are invited to Japan for the same reason: to interact with local communities to promote internationalization at the local level.
Assistant Language Teacher (ALT)
The ALTs are placed mainly in public schools or local boards of education. ALTs assist with classes taught by Japanese Teachers of English/Language (JTEs/JTLs) and are thus involved in the preparation of teaching materials and in extracurricular activities like English clubs or sports teams. More than 90% of JET participants are employed as ALTs.
Typical duties for an ALT:
- Team-teaching, or assisting with classes taught by JTEs/JTLs
- Assisting in the preparation of teaching materials
- Participating in extra-curricular activities with students
Coordinator for International Relations (CIR)
Applicants with a functional command of the Japanese language can apply to work as CIRs, assisting local government offices in international exchange activities at the local level. Just under 10% of JET participants are CIRs and major duties often include translation/interpretation for government officials, teaching community or school English classes, and international exchange event planning and implementation.
Duties for a CIR may include:
- Receiving guests from abroad
- Editing and producing pamphlets in English or Japanese
- Advising and planning international exchange programmes
- Teaching English (or other languages) to government employees and local residents
Sports Exchange Advisor (SEA)
SEAs work for local governments, coaching and promoting internationalisation through the universal language of sports. SEAs are sports professionals whose role is to assist with sports training and the planning of sports related projects. SEAs are extremely rare. I have never met one before!
How to join the JET Programme?
1. Decide which JET positions to apply for: Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) or Sports Exchange Advisor (SEA).
2. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs promotes the JET Programme and distributes applications via its embassies and consulates (some countries implement the application process online). Interested applicants must complete and submit applications to the Embassy of Japan in their home country by the deadline designated by that embassy. So check the Embassy of Japan’s website for your country for important information like application materials and deadline!
For more information about the application process, go to the official JET website!
My Interview (in Mandarin) about the JET Programme
A very random opportunity arose and I was interviewed about my JET Programme experiences on Singapore’s Chinese Channel 8 (Hello Singapore / 我在狮城有个家). I probably “butchered” my mother tongue when I shared about my life in Okinawa. Watch from 5.00 onwards…
Video extracted from Channel 8 website
Who can apply for the JET Programme?
In order to apply to the JET Programme, applicants must fulfill a list of criteria stated in the official JET website.
Let me summarize some of the main points:
- Be interested in Japan
- Have the ability to adapt to living and working in Japan (the minimum contract is 1 year and can be extended to 5 years subjected to approval)
- Both ALT and CIR applicants must hold at least a Bachelor’s degree
- Be adept in contemporary standard pronunciation, rhythm and intonation in the designated language (e.g. English for those applying from English-speaking countries) and possess excellent language ability that can be applied accurately and appropriately
- CIR applicants must have a functional command of the Japanese language (equivalent to Level N1-N2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test). ALT applicants do not have to know Japanese.
Journey to become an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) from Singapore
- October to November: Preparation of application documents
- Late November: Submission of application
- January: Received interview results
- February: Interview at the embassy
- April: Announcement of interview results
- May: Submission of relevant documents like reply and health check forms
- June: Announcement of placement information by the embassy. Contracting organization sends more detailed information regarding placement.
- July: Contract prefectural advisor and predecessor to prepare for move to Japan. Attend Pre-Departure Orientation at the embassy.
- August: Post-Departure Orientation in Tokyo. Move to assigned prefecture!
The application process is quite tedious and time-consuming. Many documents have to be submitted. Some important documents are:
- Application form
- Self-Assessment Medical Report
- 2 letters of Reference
- Certified university record/transcript
- Essay (Statement of Purpose)
Make sure you check the Embassy of Japan’s website for your country carefully for important information like application materials and deadline!
Interview and placement
I could not remember much about the interview other than it was pretty nerve-wrecking. Three people interviewed me – a Japanese lady who works for CLAIR, a Singaporean lady who works for the Embassy of Japan and one ex-JET. There were some tricky questions (about why I wanted to leave my job) and a short Japanese speaking test (which I obviously could not do).
When I received the interview results, I was shocked! I thought I did not impress them during the interview. After the initial shock subsided, I took a month to settle important matters. I had to convince my parents that it was a good opportunity to be part of the programme. I had to share the news with my school, seek for their understanding and submit my letter of resignation. I had to prepare to leave my 6-year job in less than 2 months.
In late May, I found out that my placement was in Okinawa, Naha. I was shocked again! My first reaction: OKINAWA? So far from everything!!!
In my application, I could list 3 choices for my preferred placement (JET participants are assigned to contracting organisations all over Japan and assignments are seldom made according to preference).
- My first choice was Kobe City. Reason: Kobe Beef and convenient location in Kansai region.
- My second choice was Kyoto Prefecture. Reason: Scenic Kyoto City is probably too busy and expensive so Kyoto prefecture should be just nice and convenient.
- My third choice was Ishikawa Prefecture. Reason: Ishikawa’s location seems ideal as it is located near the ocean and in the central region of Japan.
I guess location played an integral part in my decision-making process. In the end, I was posted to the most southern tip of Japan and I could not have asked for a better placement! Find out more about my JET adventures through my travel writings!