I remember when I applied to do the CELTA back in 2009, I had to fill in 6-7 pages of application which included an extended writing task asking about my reasons for wanting to do the CELTA, what I hope to gain from it and how it fits in with my plans for the future. Being the idealistic teacher-to-be, I gave a superhero answer. I bluntly related my view on the Japanese education system with regard to English language teaching and closed with a vision to save the world. A few months later, I left my job, headed to Japan and got slapped with the brutal fact that maintaining the status quo here is the status quo.
In spite of my desire to teach here, I hesitated about applying to the JET programme. There were many reasons, one of which being that the JET programme doesn’t exactly have a reputation to boast of in this country where people are calling for the abolishing of the programme. I’ve read my fair share of rants and (likewise) objective feedbacks on the blogs of JET participants and so I’d like to offer one as a non-JET participant – not that it differs too much, really. Like most ALTs, I love the schools, teachers and students that I teach but there is a fundamental problem in the system that needs to be fixed.
The language is taught in Japanese.
I don’t speak a lot of foreign languages but I’ve attempted to learn quite a number of them. In Japanese class, my teacher taught everything in Japanese. In Spanish class, my teacher spoke nothing but Spanish. In Thai class, my teacher taught only in Thai. And in Malay class, my teacher taught in English. I got the least out of my Malay classes and can’t speak shit in spite of the fact that I get to hear the Malay language all the time in Singapore.
To be frank, I totally understand the public perception on the usefulness (or the lack of) of the ALTs but with a largely homogeneous society and the Japanese language being the medium of instruction of English language classes, ALTs (JET or not) are about the only entities that create the necessity or opportunity for students to use the language.
Cut the salary, cut the numbers but don’t cut the programme.