Former ELT News editor Michael Chan wrote this comprehensive guide to teaching English in Japan. It covers just about any question you might have, from the kind of qualifications you need to the differences between the different kinds of schools.
This resource is aimed at those interested in pursuing a teaching career in Japan.
We welcome further additions and comments to this page. If there is information you cannot find in this guide - post your query on the Message Board or contact ELT News using our contact form
January 04, 2009
Getting a job arranged before arrival
A lot of teachers come to Japan this way. The 'Big 3' are the chain schools G Education (Ex-NOVA),
Aeon, and Geos. They are big in the sense that they have branches all over
Japan. Their schools can be found in every major city and town (Aeon, for example, has over
350 schools in Japan), and each school may have from 50 to 5,000 students. They have a lot
of students because their brand exposure is very high, and the Japanese tend to trust large
There are smaller chain schools such as Shane, ECC, Berlitz, YMCA, and Britannica.
Except Shane, they usually recruit their teachers within Japan (quite a number of their
positions are usually filled by ex-Nova, ex-Aeon, or ex-Geos teachers!) For many teachers,
the 'Big 3' is a start point from which they could move on to other possibilities once they
have settled in Japan.
Schools that recruit outside Japan:
Saxoncourt is a teacher placement agency based in England, and recruits
British teachers for Shane English Schools in Japan.
Aeon has offices in the US (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles). It also
has an office in Sydney, Australia.
Geos has offices in Canada and England. Geos recruits only from overseas.
Some of the common characteristics of the schools with overseas offices are:
* They arrange the flight over to Japan. Teachers usually arrive in groups.
* They provide furnished accommodation and pay for any necessary house deposits.
* They provide teacher training but of the OJT type (on the job training). It is
not unusual for a teacher to be given a full schedule after one week of training.
* They give at least 10-days paid vacation.
A five-day working week with 2 consecutive days off is the norm. It is unusual for
teachers to have split days off.
The JET Program
According to the JET Program information page on a Japanese government Web site, the
aim of the JET Program is: "&... to promote internationalization at the
local level by inviting young overseas graduates to assist in international exchange
and foreign language instruction in local governments, boards of education and junior
and senior high schools throughout Japan. It aims to foster ties between Japanese
citizens (mainly youth) and JET participants at the person to person level."
The majority of JET participants are hired as ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers).
The word Assistant is very important because, in most cases, native
speakers have to team-teach with Japanese teachers. The conditions of the program
look very good on paper: an annual salary of 3.6 million yen a year (US$30,000+), a
35-hour work week, and having everything prepared from the flight to the place of work.
Participants can only stay on the program for a maximum of three years, but they are
free to look for other jobs should they decide to continue teaching in Japan. There
are currently over 5,800 ALTs on the program.
(Editor's note: The education ministry announced in mid-2002 plans to increase the number of AET's to
around 11,500 and start allowing in the region of 1,000 non-Japanese to work as
full-time teachers, rather than assistants; these and other changes to be implemented
over the following few years)
The JET Program - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MOFA) Web site
Council of Local Authorities for International relations
(CLAIR) Web site
ELT News is the website for teaching English in Japan and worldwide and for those looking for English teaching jobs. If you're involved in the English Language Teaching (ELT) Industry, then this site is your home. If you're looking for an English teaching job or another English-related job, check out our teaching jobs section.