SHORT COMPARISON OF PROGRAMS & PROPOSAL
By KEVIN STODA, international & multicultural educator
Part 1 of this paper compares the current development of two programs: Namely, (1) the Japan English Teaching [JET] program in Japan and (2) the Ministry of Education in Republic of China's [R.O.C.] program, called simply the [Foreign] English Teacher Project. I served in rural Niigata Prefecture in Japan with the JET Program (Programme) from July 1992 through 1994. For six terms, I taught at three different high schools each week. [i] I usually undertook team teaching of English but other duties included running the English clubs at two schools as well as offering teachers training and language contests. Since August 2010, I have been living and working in Taiwan on a rural and isolated island chain known as the Matsu Archipelago. Here I teach for the School Board of the County of Lianchiang and serve each week in three schools--two elementary schools and one junior high school. I usually team teach but also teach alone and with a translator 4 classes each week. Here, too, I help students with language contest preparation. In both Japan and in Taiwan, I have created my own English newsletter to connect and update my colleagues and other staff as to cross-cultural activities of interest to me and those I work with. [ii]
For the Niigata Prefectural Board of Education in Japan, I worked in both Itoigawa City and Nou Village at 3 high schools--in a region that covered approximately 500 square kilometers but had less than 45,000 residents. These three high schools had different foci and student interests in English was varied. My base school, Itoigawa Koko was considered the academic or university preparation high school. The other school in Itoigawa, Itoigawa Shoko was the commercial and technical high school. Nou village had one of only two Fisheries high schools in Japan.
During my time in Japan, I became convinced that in a test-driven society like that country has traditionally offered its citizens, the best way to reform the foreign language educational experience of Japanese youth would be to significantly alter the tests that were used in that society. Hence, in 1994-1995, when I returned to the USA, I wrote my masters degree in TESOL at the University of Kansas on "how to implement testing or evaluations with beneficial backwash on teaching and learning" in Japanese high schools.
Unlike in Japan, here in Taiwan, I have been hired to teach in the primary school and junior high schools of Beigan Island in Matsu. Just as in Japan of the early 1990s, here in Taiwan I enjoy my duties and enjoy fulfilling the same major three [iii] roles or work-related duties of:
(1) motivating and interesting students in their attempts to acquire English,
(2) helping improve teaching and educational delivery practices and methods in schools,
(3) encouraging more international and intra-cultural awareness in the community and among the staff at the schools where I work and live.
In August 2010--the same month I moved to the Matsu Islands in Taiwan--I applied for entrance in a doctoral program at the University of Kansas for 2011 in multicultural education. I have been accepted and am now seeking advice and support from educators, ministry officials, and other people in Taiwan. I hope over the next years to develop a thesis in the area of multicultural education and soon, thereafter, write such a thesis.
In the meantime, in this writing I desire to share my thoughts on where the project here in Taiwan, i.e. concerning Foreign English Teachers, currently stands in terms of progress and in meeting its three primary goals. In order to do this, I will, of course, return to review my experiences and continuing research on international education (and English or foreign language education) in Japan via observations on the much larger and older JET Program. In doing such a comparison, my goal is not to denigrate nor critique either program (or project). The objective is simply to enlighten and take advantage of this point in time to provide comparisons and suggestions on the developments of such English/foreign language and internationalization projects here in East Asia.
According to its own official web site, the JET Program "is a government-sponsored, large-scale international exchange program. JET began in the mid-1980s with the purpose of increasing mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations. It was designed to do this through increased foreign language education activity involving the importation of thousands of native speakers annually for several decades. These foreigners were then primarily hired to work in local schools throughout the country at both the primary and secondary grade levels. These Japanese Exchange Teachers were normally designated as ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). Only a minority of ALTs hired were officially trained to be educators.
In addition, a few bilingual foreigners were hired to help organize JET for the Japanese Ministry of Education (known as Monbusho), the local councils of local affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Normally, these foreign-born bilingual (or multilingual) speakers of Japanese were assigned to work in the capital city of each prefecture to help with the various international relations projects that the prefectures and local communities were promoting. In summary, JET aims to promote internationalization in Japan's local communities by helping to improve foreign language education and through developing international exchange at the community level. [iv]
The project or program of JET has been sponsored since the mid-1980s in Japan by 3 major different institutions or stakeholders: The (1) Ministry of Education [v] , (2) Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the (3) the Council of Local Authorities--or CLAIR. This means that within the Japanese system of governance and representation, three different institutions have been focusing on improving Japanese