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One opportunity in Japan to encourage cultural exchange within its society is the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. It invites young people around the globe to participate in a longstanding commitment of internationalization while involving said participants in the daily life of the Japanese in Japan.
Japan offers different exchange programs and other opportunities for the international community to pursue a career related to academics in the country. Programs offered by the Japanese government through the Monbukagakusho or Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology and quasi-governmental organizations such as Japan Student Services Organization or JASSO are usually for students and open new possibilities for students coming from different backgrounds and nationality.
The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program is one notable program offered by the government. It differs from other exchange programs mentioned above as it does not necessarily operate as an aid for students who intend to study in the country.
Japan Exchange and Teaching Program or also known as JET is an exchange program that caters to those mainly inclined in the teaching profession. It guarantees a secure post for employment through coordination with different institutions, mainly local schools. Working under the agreement between the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, JET forwards a commitment of fostering international ties with participating countries. Participants, depending upon the agreement, can perform duties and work as the following:
Assistant language teacher: provides assistance to foreign language classes in elementary or secondary schools. They can perform roles as well on extra curricular activities related to foreign language such as school contests and exchange programs.
Coordinator for International Relations: performs tasks related to international activities by the contracting organization. This includes international seminars and other exchange programs activities. They can be assistants, guides or translators to foreign participants.
Sports Exchange Advisors: assigned of roles related to sports development in Japan while maintaining a good connection with foreign countries. Mainly, participants should have a qualification as a sports professional or an adequate background on sports-related activities.
Primarily, the program operates through local government or private institution’s agreements with the administering ministries of the government. It is in their facilities that the participants are distributed to perform one of the roles mentioned above. It is important to note that the participants have little control over where they will be located for the duration of the program, at least at first. For example, there is a chance that a participant may be assigned in Hokkaido Prefecture within a local government unit or a private school, where he or she does the roles assigned to the position given, whereas another can end up on a small island, or in the heart of Tokyo.
The program also provides aid to participants such as learning Japanese language, grants for publication, and support to acquire Teaching English as Foreign Language certification or TEFL. Although TEFL is not necessary as a requirement to continue teaching activities, it would be a huge advantage for the participants especially acquired prior to the application for JET.
JET participants are not only assigned to perform the roles given to them, respective of their positions, but also are expected to initiate proactive measures that would guarantee culture-exchange with the community. Participating in different school activities and community ventures would be some good examples.
Generally, the target participants of this exchange program are those who have completed a Bachelor’s degree, regardless of the field. Individuals who do not have a Bachelor’s degree or even a teacher training background are not eligible for JET. Another important requirement for participants is their citizenship. An applicant should be a bonafide citizen of the partner country. According to the latest shortlist of the JET program, there are 54 countries from 6 continents who are participating with the Japanese government in this exchange program. For citizens with multiple citizenships, they can apply from only one of their countries. However, for citizens who have a dual citizenship status with Japan, their Japanese citizenship should be renounced to be eligible.
Another key requirement for the application would be language proficiency. Applicants should be adept in speaking English or other languages, such as French, German, or Chinese for instance. Participants who cannot speak the Japanese language at all can still apply provided that they would be committed to starting or continuing Japanese language courses during the program. (The exception is the CIR, who must have business level Japanese to participate.) This is an essential aspect of the whole program because it fosters internationalization. It also recognizes that internationalization is not limited to teaching only the English language but also other languages. This means that the JET Programme is not exclusive to fostering the experience of the Japanese people with English language, but also encourages other languages too, especially if the participant is experienced with it.
During the 1 year contract duration of the JET program (renewable up to 5 years), participants will agree to reside in Japan. However, the program administrators maintain that applicants who lived in Japan for more than six years in the past are ineligible for application.
Applications for the JET program should be done through the Embassy of Japan in the origin country. The arrangement is through application deadlines. Each participating country has their corresponding deadlines for the application process.
Here are some extra tips about topics including support provided, compensation, and other matters regarding the application.
Mainly, the support given by the Japanese government to the participant focuses on the preparatory stage. The administrating ministries will assist participants in their Japanese language courses. Additional support is distributed in other aspects such as the supplying of monthly publications and other career-related activities. There is also a support network between those working in the same city or prefecture set up by the JET program itself.
Furthermore, participants may find an interesting career during the program. Their designation will vary and the experience will be different in a sense that they will be able to apply their knowledge and skills in a special context. This entails a holistic employment and at the same time, learning experience to help them in their careers in the long run.
Participants are definitely compensated by the institutions they’ll be working with. On average, JET participants earn more than ¥3 million annually, depending upon the year of their appointment. Moreover, the contracting organizations can help the participant in their housing. Although participants are mainly responsible with the cost of their housing, the contracting organization will help in locating the suitable housing choices for the employment.
Participants should also apply for insurance in the country. This includes employment insurance, health insurance, and pension insurance. Usually, the JET program carries out the application for each but with due involvement of the participants as well.
It is important to point out that the engagement of the participants surround teaching as a practice. This means that participants with adequate teaching experience in their origin country or have an established background with the profession are in an advantageous disposition. However, again, it is not necessary to have teaching background in order to qualify for the program.
Since the assessment for this program lies largely on merit, issues regarding health-related matters or law-delinquency issues do not disqualify the applicant immediately. However, it still considers the severity of the case. But as many apply for the JET program straight out of college, teaching experience is not absolutely necessary but rather, a strong interest in Japan and desire to be a part of cultural exchange should be expressed in the application.
It is evident that the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program is a good platform connect with the Japanese culture. On the grander scale, it promises an immense effect on the spirit of internationalization. People who are interested in this program would certainly benefit not only from the immediate support but also from fostering ties with the local community. Dedication to the purpose of the program is the only key to accomplish it unconditionally.
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