JET and teaching English

Having spent 5 years on the JET Programme in Osaka, having taught people from all over the world English online for years and having worked at a summer school comparing Japanese and Italian students it is no surprise Japan ranks at the bottom of the TOEFL rankings.

As Debito Arudou’s excellent Japan Times article points out, it is erroneous of the Japanese government or others to blame Japan’s poor linguistic performance on us JETs, past and present. Most JETs i’ve met truly care about teaching and helping their students progress; but the simple fact is that the system is bent against us.

The true causes of poor English come in various forms. Here’s a few:

1. poor teacher training and poor teacher linguistic ability

2. bloody awful textbooks and poor curriculum composition.

3. not testing speaking ability thus making it irrelevent.

4. an obsession with grammar.

5. mixing abilities at a class level which holds good students back and does not benefit the lower ability students.

6. cultural teaching fosters racism and stereotyping.

Yes, there are faults with the JET Programme. It does waste too much money on junkets and vast conferences. Why are all JETs forced through such a soulless place as Tokyo? There is not enough teacher training and there’s few resources (i got all mine off non-JET websites like genkienglish). Teachers are not taught how to team-teach or work with foreigners.

 It is also too much of a programme aimed at promoting Japan to the wider world than promoting the wider world to Japan.

So, sure, make JET streamlined and more cost effective without forcing its participants to have the terrible working conditions of the Eikawa teachers (who need more protection) but don’t abolish it because English will just get worse. As usual with Japan there’s a systematic problem that the government is too chicken or too obstinant to change.


About crowbourne
William Crowbourne is a freelance writer from the south-west of England.

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