Wednesday, 12 May 2010

On Life as a JET (1)

Since I've centred this blog around the idea of life after JET, I suppose it makes sense to write a bit about what my life as a JET entails.

(Boring factual paragraph to follow, please skip when narcolepsy sets in)

So I'm an ALT - that is, Assistant Language Teacher, and I work for the Prefectural Board of Education in Tokushima, Japan. Tokushima is one of the four prefectures on the smallest (and least populated) of the four main islands of Japan - Shikoku (literally "four countries"). Japan is divided into (roughly) 47 prefectures which have a level of autonomy of government, and each prefecture is also divided into smaller local authorities. Some ALTs work for local town and city Boards of Education (BoEs). These are usually Junior High School and Elementary School ALTs who also sometimes teach adult classes. However, I'm a high school ALT, and am employed by the Prefectural BoE, as (almost) all high schools are governed by the prefecture rather than the local body.

I work at two high schools in Tokushima City, the capital of the prefecture. The city is the only really densely populated part of the prefecture, whose other population centres spread out to the west towards Ikeda, and to the south towards Mugi, in a sort of L-shape, straddling the large mountainous area in the centre.
Other areas called "City" in the Japanese name are usually much smaller than what we would consider to be cities in the west, and are often the result of several small towns merging.

Anyway, as I was saying, I work at two high schools. High school in Japan is neither compulsory nor free, but somewhere near 97% of young people attend high school in one form or another. Junior High students have to take some rigorous and no-doubt stressful tests to get into their chosen schools, which vary in prestige and academic level. At the top-tier there are so-called academic schools, where the focus is squarely on getting the students into university at the end of the three years. The next stage down is probably "commercial" schools, where the students specialise in subjects related to business, and while many still go on to university, there is more focus on finding employment. Next is probably technical schools, which teach a variety of subjects related to technology, science, construction etc. and aims to get students into technical colleges and universities, or into work in industry. Finally there are agricultural and fishery schools, which teach the theory and practice of farming and fishing. In all of these kinds of schools, English is compulsory for all three years, but the number of English lessons a week they have varies from school to school.

I teach at a Commercial School and a Technical School. I would say that I teach mid- and low- level students. Sometimes I'm jealous of my friends who have higher level students, but I'm also glad I don't have any really really awful classes. I get the impression there are more bad Junior Highs than there are Senior Highs, since high school tends to be stricter about discipline.

Okay, I've given a long and boring introduction to my position here. Here endeth the lesson.

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