Akita JET English Contest

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The Akita JET English Contest was a program run by ALTs from 2007 to 2009. While it ran, it was a chance for ALTs to get involved with their schools, students, and Japanese culture. The contest was set up by an ALT and it was entirely run by ALTs. The goal of the AJEC was to promote communication as an integral part of English education.

The contest was set-up to encourage direct communication between ALTs and students, both during the contest itself and during the planning process. This contest was a challenge both for students learning English and ALTs learning Japanese culture.

While this program ran, ALTs and their students practiced for several months during the winter in order to prepare for the AJEC video test. The AJEC video test is available to first grade students in both junior high school and senior high school.

Getting involved with AJEC

Because the Akita JET English Contest is a grassroots effort organized by ALTs, the format of the AJEC test varies somewhat from year to year, but the aim is always the same: The Akita JET English Contest challenges students to improve their conversation skills.

Because the Akita JET English Contest is a grassroots effort in a culture where new ideas usually come from the highest echelons of society rather than the grassroots level, choosing to take part in the Akita JET English Contest requires good problem solving skills as well as good communication skills.

If you choose to take part in the Akita JET English contest, you will need to fulfill the following responsibilities:

Preparation Responsibilities (October - December):

  1. Communicate with your Board of Education about the structure of the Akita JET English Contest.
  2. Communicate with your JTE about the role you intend to play in:
  • recruiting students to participate
  • helping your students to practice
  • administering the test
  • communicating with the parents of students that will participate in the AJEC Camp.
  • chaperoning your students who participate in the AJEC Camp.

Participation Responsibilities(December - March):

  1. Recruit students to participate
  2. Find time to practice for the AJEC video test with your students.
  3. Administer the AJEC video test.
  4. Serve in a judging pool (you will not judge your own students' videos)

AJEC Camp Responsibilities(March - July):

  1. Organize a meeting with the parents of all students attending the AJEC Camp.
  2. Chaperone your students to the AJEC Camp.
  3. Plan a cultural activity to present at the AJEC Camp.

If you feel you can fulfill these responsibilities, please follow the steps below.

ALTs interested in participating in the 2009 AJEC should complete the Indication of Interest form and return it to ajec.info@gmail.com.

Getting Permission From Your Board of Education

I.e. Managing Your Expectations...

Because taking part in this contest will require you to use working hours to fulfil your responsibilities, you need to get permission from your Board of Education in order to participate. Depending on your situation, your Board of Education may or may not grant you permission. As of 2008 the coordinators of the AJEC competition will be sending out information packets to both BoEs and JTEs. We hope this will simplify the whole process of getting permission.

In Japan, business is conducted based on trust relationships, so in order for your Board of Education to grant you permission, you first need to develop a strong trust relationship. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop this relationship, so if you don't get granted permission on your first year, please don't give up. Each year the competition is gaining in popularity, and each year more ALTs, JTEs and BoEs are becoming involved. If you are interested in participating in the competition, please complete the Indication of Interest form.

In the event that you are denied permission during your first year, here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of gaining permission during your second year.

  • Learn Japanese.
  • Learn as much as you can about how the Japanese office functions.
  • Get to know your students (learn about their families, and try to establish a good trust relationship with your students' parents).

Work Your Way Up Through The Hierarchy

The first step ALTs should take to participate in the competition is to complete the Indication of Interest form, and return it to ajec.info@gmail.com before November 28th, 2008.

The AJEC coordinators will mail your JTE with an information packet (in Japanese) so your JTE will understand what the competition is all about. This packet will arrive on December 5th, 2008. You should then schedule a meeting with your JTE to discuss whether they are interested in participating the the contest or not. If your JTE is enthusiastic about the idea, it is a good idea to suggest that you approach your Vice Principal and Principal about the contest. Having these two on your side will go a long ways towards gaining permission to take part in the Akita JET English Contest from your Board of Education.

On December 12th, 2008, your BoE will receive an information packet, detailing what the competition is all about. They will be informed that the participants will be invited to attend a camp for two days. This is where any problems are likely to occur. And this is where having a good working relationship with your BoE will become very useful.

When You are Successful

When you have gained permission from your Board of Education, please proceed to Recruiting students.


The Akita JET English Competition is currently completely organised and run by ALTs. As such, there are a number of responisbilities the ALT must assume. These include requesting permission from your JTE and Board of Education, selecting students, administering the video test, judging videos from other ALTs, and attending the English camp with your students.

See the ALT Information document for details.

Calendar and key dates


October – November

  • Read the ALT Information Letter
  • Fill out and return the Indication of Interest Form.

Friday, December 5th

  • Information Letters for JTEs will be mailed out.
  • Please schedule a meeting to discuss the contest with your JTE.

Friday, December 12th

  • Information Letters for BOEs will be mailed out.
  • Please work with your JTE to provide your BOE with any necessary information.

Mid-December - February

  • Hold in-school competitions to select your students.
  • Practice with your students.
  • Have the students and their parents complete the permission forms.

Friday, February 20th

  • You must submit permission forms and entry fees before you can recieve the test packets.
  • You will receive test packets.
  • Keep practicing!
  • Administer the test when your students are ready.

Monday, April 20th

  • Deadline to submit your video to your block representative.

Friday, May 8th

  • Deadline for regional judges to decide the winners and submit the results.


  • The winners will be announced in mid-June and certificates will be sent to all the JETs for the students they entered.


  • July 25 One day English camp will be held in Akita-ken's Chuo Koen, near the airport.
  • Trophies will be distributed to winning students at the AJEC Summer Camp.


  • 2007

The Akita JET English Contest was started by Grant MacKinnon in 2007 as an opportunity for ALTs to connect with their students on a more personal level.

  • 2008

Rob Evans became the coordinator of the contest. Slight refinements were made to the structure of the competition and school trophies were introduced. More students and ALTs became involved. Unfortunately there was no Senior High School competition in 2008.

  • 2009

Rob Evans and Owen Cunningham coordinated the Junior High School section of AJEC. With the increasing popularity of the competition, further refinements have been made to the competition. AS of 2009, in addition to working with ALTs, the coordinators will also be communicating directly with City Boards of Education and with JTEs to simplify the process for interested ALTs and to improve communication all around.


The Akita JET English Competition test is administered by the ALT. The test is video recorded, and must show the ALT opening the testing package on video.

The format of the AJEC JHS test is as follows:

  • Section 1: Warm up questions, and picture description.
    There are 2 parts to this question. In part A, the students are asked easy questions. Then in part B, they are asked questions about a picture and are required to ask the ALT some questions about the picture.
  • Section 2: Text Comprehension.
    The students are required to read a given piece of text and answer questions that the ALT asks.
  • Section 3: Twenty Questions.
    The ALT chooses a person, place or thing from a set list. The student is required to ask yes/no questions to find out who/where/what the ALT has chosen.
  • Section 4: Listening Comprehension.
    Students listen to a passage read by the ALT and then answer questions.
  • Section 5: Comic Strip Description.
    The student looks at a comic strip for 3 minutes and puts together a story. Then they tell the ALT their description of the comic strip.

Practice tests

The following is a list of sample and previous year tests:

Junior High School

Senior High school

Marking Sheets

Video test

In late February, the AJEC test is sent out to participating ALTs by mail. Participating ALTs then administer the test to their students in front of a video camera. The tape is then sent to your block representative before April 4th to be judged.

View a sample video entry on YouTube..

AJEC awards

  • Any student who successfully completes the AJEC video test recieves a Certificate of Excellence.
  • Each block judges the videos from its adjacent block, and chooses the block winner.
  • The 3 block winners are then judged again by the block representatives to decide the overall 1st, 2nd and 3rd place students. These top 3 students are awarded with trophies for their schools and a free pass to the AJEC English Camp.

AJEC English Camp

The 2008 English Camp participants playing cards

As a reward for rising to the challenge of the Akita JET English Contest, the Akita JET Community organizes an English Camp during summer vacation each year. The top students from each school will recieve an invitation to the camp. In 2009 the camp will be held at the Kenritsu Chūō Kōen Family Campground (県立中央公園ファミリーキャンプ場).

The students must pay a participation fee to attend the camp. In 2007, the cost of the camp was ¥10,000. In 2008 the cost was reduced to ¥6,000. We are making efforts to reduce the cost of the camp further in 2009.


The following is a list of information forms that you will need throughout the contest:


This section is designed for the organizers of the Akita JET English Contest. The following information outlines what steps need to be taken to ensure the smooth running of the contest in future years.

Information Letters
After you recieve the Indication forms you should mail out the information sheets to the JTE's of participating ALT's.

Test Packets
Test packets will be sent out to participating ALT's after the permission forms have been recieved. One test packet will be sent for each participating student. Each individual packet, a rececled envelope with the instruction sheet stuck to the front, should contain the following:

  • The test.
  • A Declaration of Integrity form.

The envelope should then be sealed.

The correct number of packets should then be put into a larger envelope with the following:

  • Questionnaire
  • ...
  • ...

Then mailed to the ALT's school.

See also