Applicants to the position of ALT must:
1. Be interested in Japan, and be willing to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of that interest after arrival.
2. Be both mentally and physically healthy.
3. Have the ability to adapt to living and office conditions in Japan.
4. Obey all Japanese laws.
5. Applicants with a suspended jail term must have finished their period of probation by the time they submit their application form.
6. Be a citizen (not just a permanent resident) of the country where the recruitment and selection procedures take place. (Those who possess dual citizenship with Japan must renounce their Japanese citizenship before the date for submission of the Jet Programme Reply Form). Applicants who have dual citizenship may only apply in ONE country.
7. In principle, be less than forty (40) years of age (as of April 1st, 2009). One of the main purposes of the Programme is to foster exchange between Japanese youth and young professionals from the countries participating in the Programme.
8. Have excellent pronunciation, rhythm, intonation and voice projection skills in the designated language, in addition to other standard language skills. Have good writing skills and grammar usage.
9. Have not participated in the JET Programme since 1999.
10. Not have declined a position on the JET Programme after receiving notification of placement in the last JET Programme year. However, exceptions to this rule may be made in cases where it is determined that the participant had a valid, unavoidable reason for withdrawing.
11. Not have lived in Japan for three or more years in total since 2001.
12. In the case of entry into Japan for participation on the JET Programme, agree to reside in Japan under the status of residence stipulated in Article 2-2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.
13. Be interested in the Japanese educational system and particularly in the Japanese way of teaching foreign languages.
14. Be interested in actively working with students.
15. Hold at least a Bachelor's degree or obtain one by the departure date of Group A participants; or hold a qualification of 3 years or more in a training course in teaching at elementary or secondary schools or be able to obtain such qualifications by the departure date of Group A participants.
16. Be qualified as a language teacher or be strongly motivated to take part in the teaching of foreign languages.
Successful applicants are expected to study or continue studying the Japanese language prior to and after arriving in Japan.
I managed to obtain a copy of the JET Programme's most recent pamphlet at the Satsuki Matsuri and gave it a once over, curious to see how Japan was selling itself to the rest of the world these days. Actually, I thought the ALT job requirements were rather straight to the point and admirable (with the possible exception of 5 and 6 - renounce Japanese citizenship???). Unlike AEON, where the sales are brushed over to make "teachers" believe their work resides in the classroom, JET pretty much lays it all out:
- You have three options to work with the Programme, as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), CIR (Coordinator for International Relations), or SEA (Sports Exchange Advisor)
- You will be spending lots of long, boring hours at your desk during the vacation months. At least they're honest.
Moreover, they do emphasize the importance of being a part of Japanese culture and learning the language (I imagine this is especially true for JET candidates, as they can be stationed in some pretty remote parts of Japan, e.g. Nemuro).
I personally think the JET Programme is the most progressive way to go for English education in Japan - introducing students to a native speaker as early as possible. The only problem is recruitment is pretty much up to the same standards as other eikaiwa and smaller schools in Japan; teachers do have Bachelor's degrees, but often little to no experience and no intention of making work their focus while in an overwhelming foreign environment. As a traveler, I appreciate this. As someone concerned with Japan's education... it's really not the best way to go.
From the gaikokujin side, JET has its pluses and minuses. You get to be pretty much the only foreigner in a Japanese school office, teach in a fully Japanese class, and, depending on your principal and teachers, design your classes and club sessions with that special western flair. On the other hand, JET teachers are a tightly-knit group, getting together to drink, for outings, etc. While this is fine in moderation, most of the instructors I knew were basically a part of just another "gaijin circle". Be mindful.
Oh, and in case you were curious, the majority of ALTs come from the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland, followed with a steep drop-off by Singapore, Jamaica, India, South Africa, France, China, and Germany. That's right - China trumps Germany. Strength in the statistical probability of having more decent English speakers, I guess.
Anyone signed up, heading out to Japan for the first time?