The history of AJET is closely linked to the history of the JET Programme. In the late 1970′s, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture (Monbusho) set up the Monbusho English Fellows Program and the British English Teachers Scheme to improve foreign language education in Japan. Each of these two programs had volunteer support groups made up of participants.
In August 1987, when the MEF and BETS programs joined to form the JET Programme, the two volunteer groups also joined to form AJET, and the organisation quickly grew in size and influence. With the purpose of “providing support and assisting CLAIR and the Ministry of Education in responding effectively to a variety of Programme-related problems” (McConnell p. 66), AJET managed in its first year to persuade 80% of JET Programme Participants to pay to join the organisation.
In its early years, AJET grew as both a support and a pressure group and began to pressure the relevant government ministries to enact changes. In these early years, the position of AJET within the JET Programme was uncertain. CLAIR and the government ministries were forced to consider whether to involve AJET in consultations as an ‘insider’, or to keep the organization outside the Programme’s bureaucracy and risk it turning into a full scale pressure group.
By 1988, CLAIR and the government had decided to co-operate with AJET, and introduced the CLAIR-AJET Evaluation Meetings (now called Opinion Exchange). AJET also began to play an active part in the organization of national and local level conferences. At the Tokyo Orientations, AJET organised workshops covering topics not included on the CLAIR and Monbush curriculum, and an AJET representative was invited to speak at the Opening Ceremonies. AJET also organised Information Fairs and an AJET Bazaar for new participants. From 1988-1999 AJET was also granted an extra day at the Kobe Renewers’ Conference, for all AJET members, in which workshops and the Annual General Meeting could be held, and speakers were invited to address AJET members (funding has since been withdrawn from this event by CLAIR and Host Institutions across Japan).
In recent years, AJET has grown as a support group and it has become less active as a pressure group. AJET began to offer National AJET subscription fees free of charge, so that more JETs can be represented at the national level, and changes can more effectively be enacted.
AJET is once again in flux following changes from CLAIR in 2013, which included deferment of AJET participation in national JET conferences and relegation of the biannual CLAIR-AJET exchanges to an as-needed basis. Yet, AJET is a dynamic and constantly evolving organisation which adapts to the climate of the Programme, and AJET looks forward to creating new ways to build community and serve as a resource for JETs, while continuing its work with CLAIR and the ministries.