The JET program in Japan places teachers to work as assistant teachers in public schools in Japan. There they teach English and work as a "cultural ambassador". The few people that I have met that worked there seemed to have enjoyed it. There seems to be a pretty high demand to get into it too. So why didn't I apply to it?
1. It has a lengthy application process - up to 1 year
This is probably the main reason why I never applied. Either I never had the foresight to apply, the patience or maybe it was just a lack of interest. Maybe their extensive application process is a good thing as it keeps out those who are not truly interested.
This is what it looks like:
- October to December: Applications are accepted.
- January: First notice sent.
- February: An interview is held at a Japanese embassy or consulates.
- March to April: Interview results sent to Tokyo. Applicants selected for April are notified.
- April: A second notice is sent to applicants. Applicants selected for April depart for Japan for an orientation.
- May: Submit your health check.
- May to July: Successful applicants receive placement notification.
- June to July: There is an orientation before departure.
- July to August: Successful applicants depart.
2. You don't have much control as "every situation is different"
Some of this I mentioned in Why teaching in a public school in Korea or Japan is not for you. Basically the JET program is going to choose for you the following:
- Where you teach. You could end up in rural Japan or in a big city somewhere, but you don't choose where. They will pick the city/town and the school.
- The teachers at the school where you work choose what, when and how you will teach. Once you arrive at the school your role will be what the co-teachers and co-workers there tell you.
In orientation they will tell you that "every situation is different". This basically means that you have no power over choosing where you will teach and the conditions you will be presented with. You have to be flexible and accepting. Here are some reviews of the JET program and some of them also mention the idea that "every situation is different".
"Now that I just said all that. Keep in mind that there are about 5000 or so JETs across all of Japan. Every one of them has a different situation. Some get free housing, some get a free car, others get their commute reimbursed and even some JETs get the entire summers off. Some JETs get to work with awesome schools with awesome principals and teachers that are more flexible with what they allow the JET to do. Still other JETs work in shitty schools that are open with their feelings of not wanting an ALT and never even invite them to class. Some JETs teach 5 classes a day and others teach 0-1 class a day. Every situation is different." - Upgrayedd from Is the JET program right for you?
This is also similar to the EPIK program in Korea. You won't be able to choose the location, the school and your co-workers that come with it.
3. You're a plugin teacher and a cultural ambassador
You're an assistant (ALT) so you often don't have much autonomy in how or what you teach and you're a cultural ambassador which can be fine for some. If you are not too into the teaching part of it or maybe just into the experience then this can be fine. Yet if you are into the teaching part of it then you could find it to be rather limiting.
4. It's a 9-5 job
Actually it's a 8:30-5:00 job and 35 contracted hours a week. I am not that sure if that is minus an hour lunch break or what. From what I have gathered it sounds like you could be teaching quite a few classes or not since "every situation is different". Either way you are most likely going to have some office time.
I only worked one full time job like that at a public school in Korea. I like my free time to pursue other interests and hobbies. I have always looked for the easy going ESL jobs with a lighter work schedule.
I am still curious about what it is like to work for the JET program. Yet not that curious as I worked in a public school in Korea that sounds kind of similar. I mentioned in Why teaching English in a hagwon or eikaiwa is best that you have more control since you choose the location and the school. Since you have the power to choose then you can choose a good school if you ask the right questions. EPIK, JET or public school teaching in Japan or Korea could be for you. It just depends, since "every situation is different", so keep that in mind if you try to roll the dice.