Winter 2013 AJET Opinion Exchange Meeting

Winter 2013 OE

On December 16th, 2013, members of the AJET National Council met with representatives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA); the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT); and the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) for one of our bi-annual opinion exchange meetings. The following is a summary of the Opinion Exchange (OE).

Introduction

In the opening address, CLAIR commented that there are a lot of changes underway in relation to the JET Programme at the moment, including the recent announcement by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government that they plan to employ a large number of JET ALTs from next year, and the government plan for English education to begin from the 3rd grade of elementary school in the near future.

Mr. Shirasaki noted that since some years ago there was talk of bringing the JET Programme under review, these recent announcements are great news for the Programme, and that in this context, he desires for this opinion exchange meeting to be even more productive than past meetings.

This year’s OE was conducted in a free discussion format, with less pre-prepared questions/answers than in the past. This led to a very fruitful and productive discussion between all parties.

Following the opening address, AJET presented short summaries of the 3 reports we produced this cycle. You can view the executive summary of each of the reports using the links below, or read on for a summary of the discussion relating to each of these reports and other matters raised during the OE.

JET Involvement in Communities
In relation to the JET Involvement in Communities report, MIC was interested in specific examples of the information that would be beneficial to JETs. After AJET mentioned some ideas such as Japanese cultural activities, sports clubs or language classes, the discussion then turned to who is the most appropriate person to disseminate this information. For example, in the case of many ALTs, Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) may be in the best position to provide localised information rather than contracting organisations.

MIC is currently in the process of considering a reform in relation to JET funding. They are considering a funding model that would enable the positioning of a Japanese coordinator-type person in communities who could support communication between ALTs and the other teachers at the school, and between JETs and other Japanese staff in general.

AJET also mentioned that some local information included in a pre-departure information packet would be very helpful and CLAIR agreed to consider what they could do in terms of providing more information about community involvement opportunities. CLAIR also wanted to know more precisely about what information JETs want.

Finally, it was acknowledged that JET participants cannot just be passive and wait for information to be given to them; they must seek out information themselves. AJET wants to help JETs to find information for themselves, especially those with limited Japanese language ability, and will do our best to use prefectural JET websites to relay relevant information as well as continue to make use of our AJET Block groups on Facebook for this purpose.

To download and read the full report on JET Involvement in Communities, click here.

Disaster Awareness and Preparation
In relation to disaster awareness and preparedness of the JET community, CLAIR firstly provided more details to explain their new safety confirmation system, which will rely heavily on email addresses obtained via the JET Programme Participant Contact Information and Confirmation Form to confirm the safety of JET participants in the event of a major disaster event. They will be looking to trial this new system in the near future and may ask for AJET’s assistance in this matter.

Nevertheless, in the event of an emergency or disaster, CLAIR would still like JETs to follow the standard procedure currently in place, which is for JETs to call their supervisor at their contracting organisation in the first instance. Since awareness of this procedure is fairly low according to AJET’s report, CLAIR will work to increase awareness about this from their side and also asked AJET to utilise their national network to increase awareness also.

In addition, subsequent to the March 2011 disaster in Japan, local authorities are reviewing hazard maps and other disaster-related information and providing frequent disaster training/emergency procedure drill opportunities to residents. The ministries and CLAIR would like JETs to participate in such drills.

MIC may be able to use its block conferences with prefectures to discuss systems for distributing disaster information to foreign residents. CLAIR may also be able to further facilitate understanding on the issue of the role of PAs in disaster preparedness at PA Conferences. AJET will also help to raise awareness and specifically promote disaster-related information and training using our national networks.

Finally, a reminder that JETs should take the initiative and seek out information rather than wait to receive it. Also, the responsibility for confirming the safety of foreign residents in Japan lies with foreign embassies, so it is strongly encouraged that JET participants register their name and address with their home country embassy in Japan.

To read AJET’s full report on Disaster Awareness and Preparedness, please click here.

Life After JET
In relation to the Life After JET report, MOFA feels that JETs play a valuable role in connecting Japan and other countries even after they have finished the Programme. There are currently 52 chapters and around 24,000 members of JET alumni associations (JETAA) worldwide, and MOFA encourages all current JETs to also join when they return to their home countries.

MOFA supports events and activities of JETAA chapters around the world. MOFA is keen to know what can be done to encourage JET alumni to more actively participate in JETAA events/activities and asked AJET’s opinion on how to increase the appeal of JETAA.

AJET noted that already this year there has been far greater collaboration between AJET and JETAA than ever before, with more efforts to link current and past JETs. AJET also recommended that MOFA develop a database of leaving JETs in order to promote specific opportunities to them, such as job fairs or other events held by JETAA chapters. AJET believes the biggest factor affecting JETAA involvement is the provision of opportunities, since this is what most JETs are focused on once they leave the Programme. CLAIR was interested in the specific types of jobs that JETs go into after finishing the Programme, but AJET noted that regardless of job type, the best help that JETs can receive is access to a network that can assist them once they are back in their home countries.

MOFA mentioned that it is possible to consider including links to JETAA websites on embassy websites.

Again AJET noted that by creating a worldwide JETAA database, it would be easier to connect current JETs with alumni in various professions.

To read a full copy of the report on Life After JET, please click here.

Changes in English Education
MEXT provided some detail in relation to the new reforms taking place in education, as announced by the government in December. The new plan for education will implement significant changes to English education to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

From 2020, there will be 2 major changes to the current education model:
1. English education at elementary school will begin in the 3rd and 4th grade, with ‘Foreign language activities’.
2. For elementary school 5th and 6th grades, English will be taught as a subject in 3 lessons per week.

MEXT is developing curriculum content and textbooks for the English subject to be taught in the 5th and 6th grades.

One of the goals of this new system will be for students to progress through the Eiken test levels to the second and pre-first level by the time they graduate from senior high school. In addition, to support this goal, English language classes at junior high school will be conducted primarily in English, as they are done now at the senior high school level.

MEXT feels the need to train teachers, including ALTs, in order to implement this new model by 2020. To this end, MEXT will continue to encourage the use of team teaching in schools, but is also considering methods for ALTs to teach solo in the classroom. The ministry is still considering how this may be implemented and commented on the valuable role that ALTs play in the classroom and in English education in Japan.

Note that these changes do not mean that the JET Programme in future will only accept ALTs with teaching qualifications and experience, but MEXT will collaborate with MOFA and possibly increase training opportunities for ALTs.


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