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July 22, 2003

Challenging Time for JET Program

Some interesting articles relating to the JET Program in the Daily Yomiuri recently. "JET Program entering new era of challenges" (Saturday July 19) details how attitudes towards the program are beginning to change. Boards of education are expecting Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) to be more than just speaking tape recorders or entertainers with nice personalities. For example, with a view to hiring more professional teachers, Saitama Prefecture "has decided to reduce the number of JET ALTs teaching in high schools from 314 in fiscal 2002 to 236 in this fiscal year. The shortfall will be filled by non-JET assistant teachers, who will be provided by a private ALT dispatch firm." Remarkably, Tokyo only hired 4 JETs in 2002, compared to over 250 non-JET teachers. Other factors affecting the change include: the fact that the program is more geared toward the Western academic year than that of Japan, with new recruits arriving each summer; having to look after new arrivals to Japan is a burden for many schools; and many schools want to keep their ALTs for longer than the current three-year maximum contract period. Read the full article.

Recent letters published in the newspaper about the decline in the standard of ALTs have drawn a lot of responses. Several can be read online.

An article on a brighter note appears in today's edition. It tells the story of how Canadian ALT Valerie Hogue earned the nickname "Genki Sensei" during her three-year term on the program. Her dedication and enthusiasm have left an indelible mark on her young students in the city of Kashiwazaki in Niigata Prefecture. Read the full article.

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