Published 2nd November 2019
Sshhh! What’s that sound? Is that the sound of Japan calling your name?! If you’re an English as a Foreign Language teacher or someone who wants to be, then it probably is. The English language learning market is booming in Japan at the moment so now is definitely the time to jump on a plane to the Land of the Rising Sun. But what can you actually do there? What Kind of Teaching Can You Do in Japan?
Let’s look at the different teaching jobs you can get in Japan.
In public schools you are likely to be an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) working alongside a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) teaching students from kindergarten to high school. Being an ALT might sound like a demotion but it’s actually far from it, as the two teachers work very closely together. The JTE will plan lessons and the ALT is there to implement the lesson plans and encourage the students to speak in English. In some cases, depending on your relationship with the JTE, you could also be involved in the lesson planning, or you could be given more responsibility in the teaching.
The JET programme is the most well-known programme which places TEFL teachers as ALTs in public schools. It’s a government-funded programme and currently there are approximately 5 000 JET ALTs teaching in Japan, so it clearly has a great track record and is definitely worth checking out.
It is also possible to work in private schools – also from kindergarten to high school – but these positions are very well-paid and so competition for them is fierce. The schools prefer their teachers to be well-qualified with at least a Master’s degree. Because these positions offer generous salaries it’s not often that a teacher will leave their position. As a result, vacancies are usually advertised through word-of-mouth so you need to know the right people and preferably have some experience teaching in Japan already.
An eikaiwa is what a lot of us know as a language school. They are also known as conversation schools. Eikaiwas are private schools so they follow their own rules. Because of this, each eikaiwa is different. Some will happily offer jobs to potential teachers without a TEFL, while others are stricter with their teaching requirements. In an eikaiwa your classes will be varied in terms of students – you might teach kindergarten, young learners, young adults or adults. You might teach 1-to-1 or you might teach a class of 12. You might be asked to focus on conversation or on grammar. All of these factors depend on your eikawa.
There are a few universities in Japan where you can find a job, but for these positions you need to be well-qualified and experienced. Universities expect a Master’s degree, a teaching certificate like the TEFL or CELTA, and teaching experience. Universities offer good salaries and plenty of time off, but contracts can be short and the turn-over rate is high.
As you can see, there are a range of teaching opportunities in Japan. If you are a newbie teacher, you should think about joining an ALT programme or applying at an eikaiwa, if you have a bit of experience you should look into a private school, and if you’re well-qualified and experienced and are looking for a bit of a challenge, then you can consider a university position. Think about what you are looking for in a job and what you need from a school in terms of remuneration, working hours and support, and this will guide you in the direction your job search should take. Wherever you end up, teaching English and living in Japan is sure to be a crazy adventure that you won’t regret!