ALTs (“outsourced” English teachers) earning slave wages (or less) working for Japanese public schools (plus an aside on odd Japan Times editorial bias)

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Hi Blog.  This post deals with Government-sponsored slave wages (or worse) for NJ educators within the Japanese public school system through the cost-cutting “Assistant Language Teachers” (ALTs) “outsourcing” system–a backdoor way for local governments to get cheaper JETs than having to go through the national government’s JET Programme (where wages and work conditions are more fixed at a higher standard).  The cost-cutting for the ALTs has gotten to the point (inevitably) where the ALTs are no longer being paid a living wage.  Here’s the math, courtesy of the Fukuoka General Union:


Courtesy of Fukuoka General Union and Chris Flynn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G95K0vjB3A
Caption: Uploaded on Feb 10, 2016
This is an actual example on how impossible it is to live on the salary of a dispatched ALT working at a Kitakyushu City Board of Education public school. Though they are full time teachers they only have 1000 yen a day to spend on food and nothing else. They just can’t survive on this low wage.
北九州市の市立中学校で働く派遣の語学指導助手の給料の実態。可処分収入は月3万円、­それはすべて食費に使うと1日1000円ぐらい。フルタイムの先生なのに貧困層。現実­です。

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As further background to the ALT issue, here is a Japan Times Letter to the Editor by Chris Clancy:

Purging the nation of racism
The Japan Times JAN 30, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/01/30/reader-mail/purging-nation-racism/

Chulbom Lee, in his Letter to the Editor in the Jan. 17 issue titled “Move forward by protecting foreign residents,” reminds readers that not even two years ago the U.N. Committee of Racial Discrimination called on Japan to take action against incidents of racism that continue to plague the country. Lee insinuates that increased legal protection against harassment or job discrimination for Japan’s foreign residents would prove the nation is not still steeped in past militaristic nationalism.

One could make a case for the continuing plight of the assistant language teacher (ALT). Team teaching in which ALTs assist Japanese teachers of English (JTE) in classrooms for the betterment of students’ communicative abilities was introduced in Japan some 30 years ago. The progress that has been made over that time — however minimal — is a direct result of the individual efforts of countless foreign ALTs. How is this success rewarded? Those ALTs fortunate enough to be either participants of the Japan Exchange Programme (JET) or directly hired by educational offices earn similar standards of remuneration and remain employed under virtually the same limited term contract stipulations as their predecessors. Those staffed by outside agencies contracted by the education offices are even worse off. The government has in effect created a transient population of anonymous, expendable individuals that reeks of slavery.

The fact that ALTs are all non-Japanese makes the discriminatory practice racial. Any governmental administer who fails to take this matter seriously — ignoring the issue altogether or claiming budgetary constraints as a reason improvements cannot be made — is guilty of perpetuating racial discrimination. How is this crime punished? Bonuses twice a year and annual salary increases for perpetrators.

Time is past due for Japanese government at all levels to take a stand for tax-paying foreign nationals! We can only hope that such monkey business will not last too far into the new year.

CHRIS CLANCY
NAGANO
////////////////////////////////////////////////////

As an interesting aside, Chris Clancy kindly sent me the original letter he submitted to the editor.  Note what it originally sourced:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////
ORIGINAL TEXT FOLLOWS, COURTESY OF CHRIS CLANCY:

Arudou Debito gives a fair assessment of the good, the bad and impeded progress regarding human rights issues in Japan in his most recent “Just Be Cause” column (“Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015,” January 3). One issue he could also have included is the continuing plight of the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT).

Team teaching in which ALTs assist Japanese teachers of English (JTE) in classrooms for the betterment of students’ communicative abilities was introduced in Japan some 30 years ago. The progress that has been made over that time — however minimal – is a direct result of the individual efforts of countless foreign ALTs. How is this success rewarded? Those ALTs fortunate enough to be either participants of the Japan Exchange Programme (JET) or directly hired by educational offices earn similar standards of remuneration and remain employed under virtually the same limited term contract stipulations as their predecessors. Those staffed by outside agencies contracted by the education offices are even worse off. The government has in effect created a transient population of anonymous, expendable individuals that reeks of slavery.

Arudou-san points out that Japan did sign the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination in December 1995, but the fact that ALTs are all non-Japanese makes the discriminatory practice racial. Any governmental administer who fails to take this matter seriously – ignoring the issue altogether or claiming budgetary constraints as a reason improvements cannot be made – is guilty of perpetuating racial discrimination. How is this crime punished? Bonuses twice a year and annual salary increases for perpetrators.

We can only hope that such monkey business will not continue too far into the new year. Perhaps improved conditions for foreign educators will be one of the positive stories in Arudou-san’s top 10 for 2016.

Chris Clancy, MSEd (educator, USA)
////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Receiving no response, and wanting to make sure that this issue got the exposure it deserved, Chris submitted two more versions of this letter to the JT editors (I reproduce the one above with his permission).  Editors took the one that avoided sourcing my article.

So it’s interesting how certain elements within the Japan Times are that unfriendly. Not only do they sometimes not put up links to my columns on the Japan Times Facebook feed when they come out (is avoiding increasing their readership something they’re professionally entitled to do?), they’ve also refused to review my book “Embedded Racism“, claiming that they don’t review individual monographs anymore. Except when they’re 20-year-old monographs by Alex Kerr (last January). Or “Essential Reading for Japanophiles” [sic].  Odd bias, that. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

22 comments on “ALTs (“outsourced” English teachers) earning slave wages (or less) working for Japanese public schools (plus an aside on odd Japan Times editorial bias)

  • Onceagaijin,alwaysagaijin says:

    It just reflects the fundamental attitude of gaijin as entertainment or help and if people don’t like it, they can “go home” because there are always other expendable gaijin out there to take their places.

    The other bedrock attitude is that people coming here should be thankful for finding employment in wonderful Japan! If you don’t like it, don’t come. If you don’t like it, go home. It’s heads we win, tails you loose again.

    Reply
  • The thing I have a problem with is that the BOEs are often paying much more to the dispatch companies, who are just pocketing the difference. Those are the numbers I would like to see.

    Reply
  • Dr. Debito, I’ve noticed that since the start of this year, the Japan Times seems to be suffering ‘quality issues’. Pages are no longer updated twice a day with new stories, but rather the same stories are up for two or three days at a time. Maybe they lack the funds to get the content?
    Also, last Thursday and Friday when the Nikkei 225 was dropping through the floor, stock market and ¥ information on the markets page, normally updated every half hour, went over 8 hours with no updates.
    And then there’s the fact that the comments section on virtually every story is filled with anti-Chinese/Korean hate. I don’t think JT has got long left. The apologists have the stated goal of shutting it down, maybe they will succeed?

    Reply
  • @Onceagaijin,

    yes very true. Having worked at many of these places that pay slave wages and drive people like their in a herd, I can agree they have that attitude. And its not just towards gaijin, older Japanese also are discriminated against, its like if you dont like it, go somewhere else, but you cant, so they just endure, complain, and create a whole new culture/dynamic of harassing others etc. who might be a bit more creative than themselves, repeat cycle. There are many jobs in Japan, but once somebody gets over 40, 50 or 60, that pool of jobs gets really tight, because there is always the Chinese or other cheap labor to pull from. This is the deep and real on Japan, and a warning to anyone who thinks different; go try it for yourself, and youll begin with your the special one, and all sorts of sweetness given to you, only latter realizing it was part of a trap. Youd be advised to steer clear from it all from the start.

    Reply
  • So the Japan Times’ shadow REAL controller did not want readers to see this: “Dr. Debito Arudou points out that Japan did sign the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination in December 1995.”

    In my opinion, THAT is the sentence which they don’t want us to spread. They are scared of U.N. Treaty Violation penalties, such as the upcoming trade embargoes (both U.S. legislated and privately by informed individuals worldwide) until Japan finally enacts the civil rights law to begin to be in compliance with that signed treaty.

    The sooner we begin to get larger and larger media outlets starting to cover Japan’s U.N. Treaty Violation, the sooner it will go viral to the point of politicians in the U.S. looking bad for ALLOWING Japan to continue to violate the U.N. Treaty. Thus the U.S. legislators WILL begin the inevitable external-pressure needed to bring Japan up to speed with the rest of the countries who OBEY the treaty by having ALREADY enacted legislation which makes business racial discrimination illegal.

    See, in addition to the already ruling constitutional laws which make discrimination illegal for public institutions, the U.N. CERD Treaty which Japan signed requires Japan to have immediately enacted civil rights legislation which makes racial discrimination illegal for private establishments too, as America did in 1964.

    Japan’s continued refusal to enact equal legislation, will not stand. When this U.N. Treaty violation issue goes viral (and it will) the much-needed righteous and rational external-pressure will begin, to properly motivate Japan to obey the racial-discrimination-legislation treaty it signed in 1995.

    “Japan is violating the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination, which requires civil rights laws, and Japan has been violating this U.N. Treaty for over 21 years now.”

    Send such serious sentences to the highest media connections you have (and some of us Ashkenaki Jewish Americans have some, you will see) and watch the big scoop stories start to be printed, this is something readers want to read about, the fact that the former Nazi-Supporting Pearl-Harbor-Bombing POW-Beheading Japanese Imperial Soldiers’ Grand-children today, the Japanese Legislators, STILL are refusing to enact a Racial Discrimination Law, even 21 years after signing the U.N. Treaty requiring the immediate enactment.

    I also think that attached to your best sentences, you might want to add some of Dr. Debito’s best links, as well as maybe even make a simple, effective, quiet, beautiful video like the one above (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G95K0vjB3A) and soon we will be well on our way to starting “Japan’s U.N. Racial Discrimination Treaty Violation” issue going viral enough for the first world countries to realize Japan still refuses to outlaw racial discrimination in 2016.

    And remember, Minstry of Justice officials straining to understand the impact of this upcoming external-pressure inciting issue going viral, and wondering how to try to avoid the reality of U.S. legislators legally-motivating Japanese legislators to end this U.N. Treaty violation, take note of this:

    I, the individual writing this publicly published official pronouncement, from my home IP address as usual, hereby proactively and preemptively refute any claim, written or spoken anywhere at anytime, by any private or public individual, most especially by any government worker, that “this individual is not good for Japan” or that “this individual is working against the best interests of Japan” or any such negative claim such as that. Here is my statement: I am GOOD for Japan, I am working FOR the best interests of Japan. My intention and motivation and acts are all working towards increasing and improving the average standard of living here in Japan. The average standard of living in Japan will be increased and improved, by helping Dr. Debito Arudou to help bring this issue to the world court, the issue of “Japanese legislators refusing to enact the treaty-required racial discrimination legislation.” Japan needs a proper number of tax-paying workers to continue the Ponzi-scheme forced-savings forced-robbery official-scam known as Pension. Japanese elderly citizens NEED Japan to have new tax-paying residents for the Japanese elderly citizens’ survival and quality of life. All-aged Japanese public workers NEED Japan to have new tax-paying residents for the all-aged Japanese public workers’ survival and quality of life, since their salaries totally depend on taxes. So my intent, and motivation, and all of my actions, when inciting Japan to enact legislature which penalizes all racial discrimination, are all lawful, legal, and in the spirit of being good for Japan and being in the best interests of Japan. All of us supporting Dr. Debito Arudou, increasing his reader numbers, sharing his well-documented doctorate-level research about Japan’s U.N. CERD Treaty violation with the entire world of 7 billion humans if possible, are working towards Japan having less racial discrimination, so that our children and grandchildren and great-great-grand-children actually have a Japan to live in and to be happy in. Our intent is good for Japan, so these positive actions to help Japan can NOT be used against us in a court of law nor in any immigration status decisions. Take note of this entire paragraph, and if the Ministry of Justice does NOT publicly refute this public proclamation within one month, this paragraph stands as statement of fact. A statement of fact which WILL be used in a court lawsuit proceeding if any public worker at the Ministry of Justice illegally attempts to use posts at Debito.org to deny an individual’s permanent residence status or any other such immigration decision. All opinions expressed at Debito.org, about the areas in which Japan should improve, are all for the benefit of Japan, micro and macro, short-term and long-term, for all human residents of Japan. 🙂

    Reply
  • @ Ben Shearon #2

    About 5 years ago I saw a copy of a contract that a dispatch company had with a BOE. It was for supplying over 30 ALT’s to one BOE (32 IIRC). Anyway, I did some back of a napkin sums afterwards, and figured that the whole contract was only worth (at most) 4 million above the salaries that the ALT’s were receiving. This sounded like a lot, until I figured that divided by 32 ALT’s, that 4 million ¥ wasn’t a lot to be skimmed off the top (most likely obtained by not paying teachers for being unemployed during August?) – especially when you consider that this has to pay material costs for staffing and running the dispatch company’s office (just think of how stressful it’s got to be running round after 22 year old’s that phone in sick 5 mins before they are supposed to be at work because they were drinking all night, for example).

    Dispatch companies are scraping the bottom of the barrel for teachers and admin staff, and it seems that they are paying peanuts. It’s (all other considerations aside), a pretty bad business model that seems to have created a rush to the bottom in terms of costs, and therefore quality of teaching staff (I’ve met a lot of ALT’s about who aren’t native English speakers, but they look ‘gaijin’ enough, and I guess that’s all that matters?), and this increases the burden on the underpaid admin staff, whose quality also drops accordingly.

    It’s got to be a matter of time before the dispatch ALT business implodes completely.

    Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I agree with JDG on #3. Japan Times seems to have some sort of shake-up in editorial team.

    Regarding the issue, I think opt-out and boycotting are the best solutions for non-JET ALTs to resist privatization/outsourcing cost-cutting scheme. This kind of TFA/charter/voucher-like obscene slave wage labor is morally, and professionally wrong. Perpetrators should be held accountable for any attempt to de-professionalize, demoralize, and discriminate ALTs based on who they are. I wish we have cut-throat education detective at least one(this one is excellent https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/weingarten-broad-and-collaborative-privatization/) and the legislative hearing committee to put perpetrators of shameless outsourcing scheme into public shame(like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxswF6d-CQY).

    Reply
  • OnceAGaijinAlwaysAGaijin says:

    Hi Halo,

    Yes, while I’ve not been in that industry, many years ago I did work as an editor for an, let’s say “ahem, famous automaker” editing their in-house PR rag and dealing with their PR to/from their SE Asian-based slave companies (whoops, slip of the tongue, I mean subcontractors).

    My work was via outsourcing to (what is in my old trade) a well-known translation and editing company, which, no doubt, paid me pennies to the dollar on what they earned from Big Auto. They must have charged a fortune, but I long realized that the old boy network in Japan revolves round a huge circular gravy chain.

    – As a digression, two years ago services I offered as a contractor at 30,000 yen per hour to X (let’s say a major, well-known organization) were abandoned in favor of an inferior service provided by a “large advertizing conglomorate” for 130 or was it 150,000 yen per service – just because the boss who changed the contract could get a promotion for signing a major contract and “improving” the service through blah, blah, blah, I guess you can guess the story. And of course, doing business with me as an independent contractor did not involve a series of gochiso free lunches and settai in appallingly boring yuppieland such as Roppongi Hills.

    Back to the original point. I didn’t mind dealing with ojisan bosses based in Chubu constantly trying to “improve” the content when they couldn’t even speak or write basic English- that sort of interference goes with the territory; if you get frustrated with these things, you are in the wrong industry.

    The point I want to make comes when I quit the job. Despite giving six weeks notice, the intermediary company went apeshit. The gaijin handler angrily phoned me up. He’d made it clear to me in his attitude before that he regarded me as unreliable gaijin scum and was really angry about all the trouble I was causing him about resigning. The whole attitude was us useless unreliable gaijin were just too much trouble, but we had to be used. He told me this direct, and that he was considering holding back my payment for the remaining work because of the inconvenience I was causing. The least I could do was to find someone to replace me.

    This was very educational for me, because there was no attempt at tatemae. We foreigners are just such a problem. They needed a skilled professional to do work for them that demanded a range of abilities but there is absolutely no recognition of that value. The whole thing is built on resentment.

    As I am professional, and he wasn’t (he appeared to hate his job as the gaijin handler), I didn’t say much, but that if they didn’t pay me I would hire a lawyer. I didn’t much care about his loosing face. I would have quite happily have punched him in it though.

    I have friends who work in universities, and I hear there are a lot of moves further up the food chain where gaijin are being increasingly replaced by native Japanese.

    Nippon Yokoso

    Reply
  • I am not so optimistic. Many ALTs in Kanagawa, for example, come from the Philippines, and they can get paid 170,000 yen for work at an elementary school. If the teachers are female (and married) I think they may just put up with it.

    Reply
  • I’m not a big unionist but they do make a shocking point!

    I was not in kita Kyushu but my first alt job was paid at 227000¥ a month ( though times 9 with one extra month divided across the rest) so I know this pain myself.

    However it did challenge me to learn to live off of 200-300¥ a day for food which I have done now for 10 years straight! A habit I will never break no matter how much more I make or how hungry I get! Let’s not get into things like jumping the train gate or biking 12 km just to pick up an extra 400¥ on transport !

    It also forces you to learn how to do a better job and try to move up and get out of there. Unfortunately like everyone will agree there’s always some one else willing to do it just to get in. Just like me. So it never ends!

    Long have I waited to see the owners of places like RCS and heart corp ( the worst one of all) do the perp walk on tv news for what they been doing. I doubt it will ever happen

    One more point worst then the ALT racket is the tv talento/ extra biz where working for IMO makes being an ALT look like being a millionaire in comparison

    Reply
  • I have some Jamaican ALTs who work for Interact at my school and boy, the pay is low.
    In August for example, they get paid only 115,000 – How the hell can you live on this ?

    Plus interact seem to be getting a really bad name cause (and Im not being racist) but a lot more of these ALTs are coming from countries like Jamaica. Because as my co-workers (who are Jamaican) said ‘they cant get enough people to teach”
    My reply was “because the pay is S%&t”

    Reply
  • At least Jamaicans are native English speakers. I’ve met Italians and Spaniards teaching English for dispatch companies for the Osaka BOE on the basis that ‘they are white’. How screwed up is that?

    Reply
  • N.B. I’ve met many speakers of English as a second language who have a grasp of English grammar that is superior to many native speakers, since they studied English as a second language. Employing people because they meet a ‘stereotype’ of English speakers is strange, IMHO.

    Reply
  • Jim Di, being a “native” is not a qualification for anything. The problem in Japan is that they accept any “native”, regardless of their ability to teach. First they should pay a real wage and second they should only hire teachers, not “natives”. The latter won’t happen because of the first though…

    Reply
  • @ Dirk #15

    I agree and I disagree.
    There are indeed many English teachers in Japan with no teaching qualifications, but this isn’t a set back since the majority aren’t required to actually teach, rather just entertain and confirm certain stereotypes the Japanese hold of NJ.
    As I said, I have met some non-native speakers of English as a second language back home, who spoke better than native speakers, and had a deeper understanding of the language, as opposed to non-native speakers working for dispatch companies in Osaka, who speak English like Peter Sellers as Inspector Clousau and seem to have been employed because the dispatch company couldn’t get any NJ stereotype fitting native speakers for the poor salary.

    Reply
  • They do, especially if under 40 years old.
    I guess if you are certified and actually a teacher, you are threatening.
    You might challenge the status quo.
    Just being native and younger means schools can pay them less.
    Plus in the school hierarchy, they are at the bottom.

    Reply
  • @Dirk #15 –

    Jim’s point in #13 was: “whiteness level” should NOT be prioritized higher than “English speaking level”, when choosing which English teachers to employ.

    Prioritizing employing white teachers OVER non-white teachers, as is done by Japan’s public schools and Japan’s private English schools, is racial discrimination, plain and simple. Stop being so reluctant to hire non-white English teachers.

    [Especially, I must add, since the constitution of Japan expressly forbids the government from prioritizing the hiring of any particular race, since that action the Board of Education is doing is the very definition of racial discrimination. Even if private middleman ‘Haken’ companies are used in an attempt to keep the governments’ hands clean, the Board of Education’s governmental workers are STILL the actual deciders who interview and choose which applicants are allowed to be ALTs in their public schools in Japan, so this prioritization of whiteness over teaching ability which the Board of Education is perpetrating is blatant unconstitutional racial discrimination which should be brought before the Supreme Court.]

    And Jim’s point in #14 is: Note well (“Nota Bene”) that “I’ve met many speakers of English as a second language who have a grasp of English grammar that is superior to many native speakers, since they studied English as a second language.”

    Meaning, Jim wants it to be noted well that he understands fully that there ARE many non-native speakers who know the grammar rules and exceptions better than many native speakers, and that THOSE particular non-native speakers ARE indeed better qualified to be English teachers than the unqualified “mere native speakers” who, though seemingly fluent, don’t actually know the grammar rules and exceptions which actual English teachers must know.

    So Dirk, your attempt at “teaching” Jim with your sentence, “Jim Di, being a ‘native’ is not a qualification for anything.” was neither needed nor logical, since Jim expressed that very point specifically in his comment #14.

    Try reading both comments #13 & #14 again, and you should realize Jim stated a perfectly logical fact: the prioritization, when choosing which English teachers to employ, should be based on who has the best ability to teach English, meaning, who has teaching qualifications plus who has the best grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, and the prioritization should NOT be based on choosing as many white-looking folks as possible.

    The hiring prioritization should be based on English teaching ability, not race:

    Native English speakers WITH teaching qualifications, who HAVE an excellent grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, regardless of race.
    &
    Non-Native English speakers WITH teaching qualifications, who HAVE an excellent grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, regardless of race.

    over…

    Native English speakers WITHOUT teaching qualifications, who nevertheless can somehow prove they HAVE an excellent grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, regardless of race.
    &
    Non-Native English speakers WITHOUT teaching qualifications, who nevertheless can somehow prove they HAVE an excellent grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, regardless of race.

    over…

    Native English speakers WITHOUT teaching qualifications, who DON’T have an excellent grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, regardless of race.
    &
    Non-Native English speakers WITHOUT teaching qualifications, who DON’T have an excellent grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, regardless of race.

    So Dirk, the main point you made in your comment #15 (namely, Japan should stop hiring the kind of native English speakers who have NEITHER teaching qualifications NOR an excellent grasp of the grammar rules and exceptions, Japan should start paying more for better quality actual English TEACHERS) is true, of course, but there simply was no need to incorrectly imply that Jim said otherwise.

    I hope that all makes sense. If you had simply not begun your sentence with “Jim Di”, I wouldn’t have had to correct your attempt at correction.

    But anyway, all is good. Genki de. “Thank you, come again.” 🙂

    Reply
  • @All – And the best Teaching candidates are those who have teaching qualifications plus excellent grammar PLUS proven BILINGUAL English+Japanese speaking ability. (!) Being bilingual is essential to explain high level English grammar points in Japanese, when dealing with low level students who never even attempt to do even a fraction of the hours of listening required to learn a language naturally (5,000 hours.)

    [Plus, if possible, in addition to being bilingual, the best Teaching candidates should have the added bonus of a strong Cultural Comparison background. For example the understanding that in general, comparatively: Western culture relatively prioritizes Truth over Harmony, a value prioritization which produces relatively higher inner happiness (good), yet relatively more verbal fights (bad), and relatively more assaults & murders (bad), while Japanese culture relatively prioritizes Harmony over Truth, a value prioritization which produces relatively less verbal fights (good), relatively less assaults & murders (good), yet relatively lower inner happiness (bad), thus relatively higher suicide levels (bad). But as usual, I digress.]

    PS – I posted this before, it’s funny yet true, I’ll re-post it here since we’re discussing ALTs:

    Do you remember on the American mockumentary “The Office”, how Dwight kept wishing he was an “Assistant Manager”?
    Dwight’s boss Michael repeatedly had to remind him of the fact that he was merely an “Assistant TO THE Manager”.
    Finally, when promoted to “Assistant Manager”, Dwight used white-out to delete the TO THE from his business cards.
    Well guess what, ALTs/AETs, in this analogy you are Dwight. This rarely-discussed fact is uncomfortable but true.

    ALT stands for Assistant TO THE Language Teacher, and AET stands for Assistant TO THE English Teacher. Sorry.
    ALTs/AETs like to think of themselves as Teachers, or Assistant Teachers, but actually they are just Assistants.
    In Japanese Public Schools the only Teachers are Japanese citizens Qualified with Japanese Teaching LICENSES.
    Legally, Japanese Public School Teachers are in fact Public Servants = Government Employees = Lifelong Koumuin.
    ALTs/AETs are merely temporary Assistants kept on a short leash of one-year contracts. Legally not Teachers at all.
    The Japanese title for ALTs/AETs 外国語指導助手 is simply politely vague Tatemae: the full Honne title is 外国語指導の助手.
    In Japanese Public Schools, the Foreign Language Teacher 外国語指導 is a Japanese Public Servant with a Teaching License.
    The Japanese Foreign Language Teachers have temporary Assistants who are foreigners who think they are Teachers.
    So please stop erroneously thinking of yourself as an “Assistant Teacher”: you are an “Assistant TO THE Teacher”. 🙂

    As a former ALT myself, the #1 problem in Japan’s English Teaching system is Japan’s systematic lack of Bilingual Teachers.
    J “English Teachers” (who don’t speak English well) assisted by non-qualified NJ “Assistants” (who don’t speak Japanese well.)

    But let’s remember, as Debito & Jim & Baudrillard wisely explain, the Japanese government doesn’t want a bilingual population.
    A bilingual population would be able to escape to happier countries leaving the government parasites with less tax-paying slaves.
    So while the lower BOE folks are incompetent, the higher government deciders are purposefully keeping Japan’s English ability low.
    Most people still fail to realize that Japan’s continuing Sakoku system is not just to keep foreigners out, it’s to keep Japanese in.

    And, here’s a final little jab at the ALT system: some folks say the real goal is simply to bring over Japanophiles for a visit,
    so that after a year or two those Japanophiles return to their own countries as Japan Public Relations “Japan is great” Reporters,
    thus the Japanese government’s hoped-for end-result is those ex-ALT PR-machines praising Japan and increasing tourism to Japan. Haha. 🙂

    Reply
  • Ah ALT !

    #2 Ben Shearon
    Reminds me of the days of yore.

    I believe the NOVA crash shock is still impacting the life of English teachers in the country. As an actual ALT when the crash happened I remember seeing dispatch companies pop as often as can be. Some of them usually founded by disgruntled employees of larger companies looking forward to outbid their former employer, offering extremely low pay to panicked & jobless ex-NOVA employees. And the public BoE, if any public bid works like home, has to take the cheapest offer for the same service, it’s tax money after all.
    I remember being ousted every year of the city I was in, and losing benefits as I signed a new contract with each year that passed. Until the last year, when they gave us 3 contracts (one for each term) so the dispatch company could pro-rate every last month where a school holiday was happening (July, no contract at all in August, December and March). You gotta understand them, they can’t win the ever going lower, yearly bidding competition.
    Of course feeling the sting of the swindle (because the BoE was paying the full year), I only signed the first contract and let time pass, little did they know they were teacherless in September by their own making. The BoE was informed of what was happening, among other things, the dispatch company had won bidding over for promising to keep previous teachers. However, all of them left except myself, because of the new contract policy, and the BoE was told by the dispatcher the foreigners had just “gone home”, when everyone went working elsewhere. I will forever remember that disgusted look of our BoE contact when I told him what really happened, and the sympathy when understanding both ALTs & BoE had been duped, when all they wanted was to keep working together.

    Now I worked in a smaller town, where BoE meeting were frequent and the ALT team was made of 5-6 people, and trust building was easy, especially when all the ALTs had high proficiency in Japanese. It helped raise awareness within the BoE to start hiring people directly, which I’ve heard they’ve started doing afterwards. Now my former colleague & my own regret was not going earlier for discussion with the BoE, as we all parted ways instead. I know in that case, it was easy and the other side was willing to make efforts, and it might be a whole other story in larger cities. Which is why unions are here for. Dispatch companies are such an easy solution for lazy BoEs, they’re still here, still recruiting, still swindling employees, because how else can they make any profits ? It’s all the same combat of effort vs. reward. No one speaks English, fear the un-mannered foreign employees, so they have these dispatchers hold responsibility and provide workers. When working directly for a BoE could yield so much more if well done : better wages, better implication of the ALTs in the local activities and schools, stability of work, trust building within the school (students and staff). What is it I am hearing now “you may say I’m a dreamer…”

    Thank you for the comments on non-natives as teachers. As a native French (and not even Canadian French) I had to battle people for years, including a lot of Japanese teachers (and needless to say, their appalling level of English). Regardless of my degrees in EFL and in language learning. Regardless of years in training with the CEFR, for Task-based & Communicative Language Learning, which made my stay in Japan look like a bad episode of Back to the Future. But if teaching is better done by natives, why hasn’t the entire American population turned to English teaching ? Counting the entire population of Asia, there might be even enough jobs for everyone !
    Quite the opposite, I believe that non-natives can show, especially to younger children, that you don’t have to be born in an english-speaking country to speak the language. Heck to teach it even ! As a non-native, learning at the same age they are learning, facing the same questions and issues, you’re even more bound to understand their frustration and the difficulties they are facing. Because you’ve been through the whole process, and chances are you remember how you got through.

    #19 It’s funny that you mention this title thing, as every dispatch company I worked for, about 10 years ago now, was adamant on how little you were. My first day of training was along the lines of “you’re an ALT, in a school that means you rank lower than anyone else. You’re like the tea lady or the caretaker. Sometimes, not even, and they will boss you around. Sometimes, even the class pets will get better treatment”
    I guess things have changed ?

    Reply
  • @Jim Di Griz

    I have also noticed a SERIOUS deterioration of the quality of the Japan Times over the past several months (it all started to happen less than a year ago).

    First of all, there are the issues that Dr. Debito describes with not putting up Facebook links to his Just Be Cause columns. Now that he mentions it, I think I have noticed less of a presence of his columns on JT.

    Second, I have noticed numerous serious typos and serious, low-level factual errors recently, such as:

    “New ANA president looking to expand internatioinal (sic) fight (sic) business”<-Note the TWO typos.

    "A survey of some 90,000 students at 500 high schools and 60,000 students at 600 junior high schools in Japan serves as evidence. It found that only about 10 to 30 percent of fourth-year high school students were proficient in reading, writing, listening and speaking English, even though they were the first generation to be taught in these areas solely in English."<-Wow, Japan has a "fourth year" of high school? That was news to me. That these students are being taught "solely in English" is also news to me–back in the old days when I was an ALT (just over one year ago), very few of the English classes were "solely in English."

    Japan Times has always had a problem with trolls, but I generally find that it responds to troll problems more quickly and effectively than other sites I have used (such as Yahoo! Answers, Gaijinpot, Dave's ESL Cafe, etc.).

    The final straw, the thing that really pissed me off just an hour or so ago, was this:
    – I wrote a comment in regard to one article.
    – After I wrote that comment, the article was deleted, and its content (and my comment) merged with another article that touched on completely different issues (including some very heinous crimes).
    – My original comment, when taken in the context of the new article, made me look like a total jerk. I immediately got three angry replies, and had to do some serious damage control (deleting my own comments and explaining to the other posters what had happened). Fortunately, as of now, one of them has replied that he understands the situation and deleted his replies, as well. Still, I am very angry at Japan Times for shifting the goal posts like that after I had written the comment, making me look like a jerk.

    Reply
  • Wow. I have been out of japan for a few years now and have drifted away from debito.org. I Checked in to see what’s going on and it seems like things have hotten steadily worse for nj especially in the education sector. Tbh, this has been coming for years. Rulings that municipal governments and companies are not liable to pay pensions to nj have sent the message out loud and clear. Sorry to say, but if you think japan will start imptoving pay and conditions for nj teachers, you are deluding yourself. Look how the abe government is screwing people who can actually vote for him. Where do you think upholding employment rights for nj is on their list of priorities? They just don’t want to have to pay pensions and healthcare to a cohort of aging nj.now it seems that even day to day living is almost impossible on teaching wages. Get out people.

    Reply

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