JET Programme

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The JET Programme (外国語青年招致事業 or JETプログラム) is a Japanese government initiative that brings college university graduates—mostly native speakers of English language English to Japan as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs), Assistant Cultural Exchange Teachers (ACETs) and Sports Education Advisors (SEAs) in Japanese elementary, junior high, and high schools, or as Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) in local governments and boards of education. JET Programme participants are collectively called JETs.

Participants come from a total of about 40 countries. As of July 1, 2006, 5,508 participants (in CIR, ALT, and SEA positions) were employed on the programme, making it the world's largest exchange teaching programme. Of that number, about half are from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as Philippines making up most of the remainder. As of 2006, a number of graduates from India have been invited to take part in the JET Programme. Holders of Japanese passports may participate in the programme, but must renounce their Japanese citizenship to do so. In principle, participants should be under 40 years of age when hired. The focus of the program is on English language learning and teaching, so about 90% of the participants on the programme are ALTs; the remaining 10% are divided between CIRs and SEAs. The number of alumni totals over 40,000.

History and aims of the programme

The English Teaching Recruitment Programme was started in 1978 and initially was exclusively for British university graduates. This programme became known as the "British English Teachers Scheme." American teaching assistants were later added under the "Mombusho English Fellows Program." As more countries were included, the programmes were folded into a single entity, the JET Programme, in 1987. Its aims were revised to "increase mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations, to promote internationalisation in Japan's local communities by helping to improve foreign language education, and to develop international exchange at the community level."

Administrative details

The programme is run by three ministries: the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in conjunction with local authorities. The programme is administered by CLAIR (the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations), and has an annual budget of over 45 billion yen (US$400 million).

Application process

  1. One must:
    • hold a Bachelor's degree (in any subject);
    • be a citizen of the country where the recruitment and selection procedures take place;
    • have excellent skills in the designated language (both written and spoken). (English or for non-English speaking countries English or the principal language);
    • have a keen interest in the country and culture of Japan;
    • in principle, be under 40 years of age;
    • not have lived in Japan for 3 or more of the last 8 years, nor be a former participant in the programme for the last 10 years.
  2. Prospective participants must submit a detailed application including a statement of purpose and self-reported medical form, usually in November or December of the year before their departure.
  3. Those who pass stage one of the process are invited to interviews which are conducted in major cities, usually in February. Interviews are conducted in English or in the language of applicant's country and, in some cases, in Japanese, by JET alumni, embassy or consulate representatives and people from the business community. Interviewees are then offered a position, rejected, or become "Alternates" (who may participate if positions become available).
  4. Once offered a position, applicants must formally submit their acceptance or rejection of the offer. In addition, they must provide the results of a recent physical examination, performed by a physician within the last three months. Finally, they must submit detailed contact information so that the programme can send them materials and information as the departure date draws nearer.
  5. Participants usually learn of their placement details during May through July just before their departure date of very late July (Group A) or very early August (Group B). Alternates may receive very short notice, sometimes only a few weeks, if a placement becomes available. It should be noted that applicants who withdraw from the program after receiving placement notification are ineligible to reapply the following year. Applicants are required to depart in a group from the city in which they were interviewed. This is usually the Japanese embassy or consulate that serves the applicant's home town, though it could theoretically be any site in the same country that the applicant submits on his or her application. Airfare is arranged by the programme.

Participants are also required to attend pre-departure and post-arrival orientations as well as conferences, including mid-year conferences and returnee conferences, during their tenure.

Participants are placed with a local authority in Japan (the Contracting Organization) which is the employer. There are 47 prefectural governments and 12 city governments, as well as numerous individual city, town and village governments and some private schools designated as Contracting Organisations. While applicants can specify up to three preferred locations, and can request urban, semi-rural or rural placements, they may be placed anywhere in Japan, and placements may not match requests.

Participants sign a one-year contract, which can be renewed up to four times, for a maximum of five years. Before 2006, participants could only contract for up to three years, with the exception of a few positions.

Participants receive 3,600,000 yen per year. In addition to this, participants may receive housing subsidies or other benefits including paid airfare to and from Japan, and city taxes paid by the Japanese government. Participants are generally forbidden to take paid work outside of their Programme duties.


Many JETs have elected to stay for the pre-2006 maximum three years (increased to a total of 4 recontracting cycles as of the 2007-2008 JET programme application year for a total of 5 years maximum ALT/CIR experience) and even beyond (JETs are sometimes hired on privately by their Contracting Organizations when their three year tenure is finished), and the JET Programme continues to receive funding and attract applicants. Some JETs in recent years have been placed in elementary schools, reflecting MEXT's plan to raise the English ability of Japanese students. Some contracting organizations go further and have ALTs periodically work with kindergarten students teaching basic English vocabulary as well as exposing them to non-Japanese people (something the markedly homogeneous Japanese demographics often lacks). JETs may also teach in special schools.


Several prefectures have opted out of the JET Programme in recent years. Some hire directly while others use an intermediary dispatch company. While direct-hired employees may obtain working conditions similar to the JET Programme; those employed by dispatch companies often have very different working contracts—unpaid holidays or pay-by-the-day contracts are not uncommon. Some dispatch methods used by certain Boards of Education have even been declared illegal by Japanese labor standards authorities. See *Assistant Language Teacher

For the contract year of 2007, the possible stay for all JETs will be extended from 3 years to 5 years. However, there is a stipulation. The participant that wants to stay for more than 3 years must show ability in the Japanese language by passing level 4 of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) or by completing one official CLAIR Japanese language course.

See also

  • O-yatoi gaikokujin, foreign consultants hired by the Japanese government in the late 19th century
  • Coordinator for International Relations
  • Assistant Language Teacher

Notable former JET participants

  • American writer and TV host Bruce Feiler
  • Canadian writer Will Ferguson
  • Brad Warner, Soto Zen Buddhist monk, musician, and author of Hardcore Zen.

Further reading

  • Nicholas Klar, My Mother is a Tractor: A Life in Rural Japan (2006)
  • David L. McConnell, Importing Diversity: Inside Japan's JET Program (2000)
  • Bruce Feiler, Learning to Bow: An American Teacher in a Japanese School (1991), later published as Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan

External Links

See also