By Kevin R Burns
The JET Program is an ideal way for young people to get to know Japan, whilst earning an income at the same time. But, what exactly is JET, how does it differ from other English-teaching jobs in Japan, who can apply, and what qualifications do you need?
What is JET?
The Program was first introduced in 1987, and is run by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Management and Education.
Under it, each year, between 2,500 and 3,000 people are employed from a variety of different countries to assist and teach in junior and senior high schools throughout Japan’s 47 prefectures. The aim is not purely for the students to learn English though. An equally important emphasis is placed on promoting cultural exchange and internationalization.
Although three positions are available under the Program, only two can actually be applied for. These posts are Assistant Language Teacher or ALT, which is fairly self-explanatory; and Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), which involves organizing cultural activities.
Although you won’t necessarily need a knowledge of Japanese for the post of ALT, it is useful for the job of CIR. Also, you can’t apply for more than one position.
First of all, you should be young! Applicants are accepted from people between the ages of 20 to 40, but it’s a well known fact that recent university graduates are favored.
You will also need to be enthusiastic and motivated, with a keen interest in Japan, and a desire to work with young people.
As far as academic qualifications go, you should have a university degree, preferably being qualified to teach in primary/elementary schools.
How to Apply
You should apply between September and January. Interviews will take place at your country’s embassy or consulate around March/April. Then, if you are successful, you will be notified from May onwards, actually leaving for Japan in July/August.
Unfortunately, you have to go to the area of Japan the Program picks for you, so conditions vary tremendously. You could be paced in a large city…or in a small, country village.
Pay is better than many English teaching job in Japan, with a salary of 300,000 yen a month. For this, you will be expected to work 35 hours a week.
The initial contract is for one year, though this can sometimes be renewed. As long as you complete your 12 months contract, your flights will be paid there and back. However, health insurance is not included. And you will be expected to pay 40,000 yen a month for this.
It is undeniable that competition is extremely fierce for acceptance but if you are lucky enough to be one of the successful candidates, the JEF program can be a truly rewarding way of getting to know Japan.
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