How to Become a Teacher of Children in Japan

  • HOW TO
  • If you are a native English speaker who is working in Japan, chances are you are working as an English Teacher. With a high annual turnover, there are thousands of English teachers in Japan at any one time, and there are always positions to be filled. If you are looking to teach English to kids in Japan, here are some of the big name companies that are almost always hiring.

    1. Interac

    Founded in 1972, Interac hires native speakers to be ALTs (assistant language teachers) who work in public elementary, junior high and high schools. The ALT will possibly be working in several different schools, with different levels throughout the day. Interac stresses that the ALT position is two-fold: you will be seen not only as a language instructor, but also as a cultural ambassador. ALT positions vary greatly from school to school and classroom to classroom – you could be working very autonomously, or you might be very much the assistant in the classroom, with the Japanese teacher taking the lead.

    Requirements for application: Native-level English speaker, 12 years of English education, University Bachelor’s degree. It is beneficial if:
    you have a drivers license, you have a teaching qualification, you have teaching experience, you have studied a second language or can speak some Japanese.

    Full-time monthly salary is between 230,000 and 250,000 Yen.

    Website: Interac Japan

    2. Amity

    Amity was founded in 1973. Lessons are either group, semi-private, private or interactive (computer based). Students are both children and their parents, with a range of class types from the prenatal stimulation and the mother and baby classes, up to senior high school students and adult classes.

    Requirements for application: Native-level English speaker, English education, University Bachelor’s degree. It is beneficial if you have: experience working with children, experience in sales and business.

    Full-time monthly salary is 270,000 Yen.

    Website: Amity Japan

    3. Shane English School

    Established in 1989, Saxoncourt is a teacher recruitment agency that was set up to provide teachers for Shane English Japan, but now also provides links to jobs in China, Taiwan, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. Teachers at Shane English Japan can expect to teach both children and adults as part of their full-time schedule. Child-focused training is provided at the start of a contract.

    Requirements for application: University honour’s degree (taught in English), CELTA/Trinity TESOL certificate, Native level of English and English education, proof of funds to cover your relocation costs.

    Full-time monthly salary is 252,800 Yen.

    Website: Shane English School

    4. AEON

    Founded in 1973, AEON caters for both children and adults, with a focus on improving conversational English. Lessons for children fall under several categories: Mommy and Me, preschool, elementary, junior high and returnee lessons (for kids who have lived abroad). AEON produces its own teaching materials for both adult and child classes.

    Requirements for application: a Bachelor’s degree and either Native English or Native-level English gained from English education of at least 10 years. It is beneficial if: you have teaching experience or speak Japanese.

    Full-time monthly salary is 270,000 Yen.

    Website: AEON Japan

    5. Tact – The Yaruki Switch Group

    Tact is the umbrella company that encompasses the English schools Winbe, Kids Duo and Kids Duo International, as well as child education schools Child Eyes, School IE and Yaruki Yume Spo (a sports school). Tact was founded in 1985. WinBe teaches just kids (aged 3 – 12), whereas WinBe Vista schools also teach adults. Kids Duo is an after-school care centre where kids play and learn in English (ages 3 – 12).

    Requirements for application at Winbe and Kids Duo: native English speaker and University degree.

    Full-time monthly salary is 250,000 Yen.

    Website: Winbe Japan

    6. JET Programme

    Probably the most famous of all teaching placements in Japan, it has been running for almost 30 years. As mentioned in Part One of this article, the position of an ALT teacher varies from school to school, but it’s likely that working for the JET programme will entail teaching kids of different ages, in different schools throughout the week.

    Requirements for application: as well as having Bachelor’s degree, there are many requirements that are listed in the JET website, such as being a national of a participating country, not having lived in Japan for a certain amount of time… etc. It’s best just to check the list: JET Programme Eligibility Requirements

    The full-time salary of a JET ALT is 3.36 million Yen a year (for the first year of teaching) which is 280,000 Yen per month.

    Website: JET Programme

    7. ECC

    ECC (Education through communication for the community) was established in 1962. A combination of child and adult classes are taught. A two-week training program is given to all teachers at the start of their contract.

    Requirements for application: a Bachelor’s degree and 12 years of English education. It’s beneficial if: you have experience of living overseas or have some experience of teaching.

    Full-time monthly salary is 252,000 Yen.

    Website: ECC Japan

    While I have had personal experiences with several of these companies, I couldn’t possibly tell you which are the best or worst places to apply to. Choosing a school will be based on so many things personal to you. Whether or not you are also willing to teach adults can be a big decider – and remember that it’s not uncommon for companies to bend the truth just to get you to apply. If you’re not keen on teaching adults, the recruiter may ‘play down’ the number of adult classes you will have per week, but in reality, you might discover upon signing that contract you are teaching far more adults classes than you thought you had agreed to.

    While ALT teaching is a popular choice, consider if it’s really the kind of teaching you want to get into. ALT teachers have told me that their job was basically a lot of rushing around from school to school, and then during the lessons being little more than a ‘white face’ while the Japanese teacher did the work. Of course, it varies greatly and it’s a good idea to have lots of questions ready to ask the interviewer, for example – how many different schools will I teach in? How many different levels will I teach? How much control will I have over my lessons?

    Of course, these schools listed are just a handful of companies – the big ones, if you will. Aside from these massive chains, there are also smaller companies and independent schools. If you are certain that you only want to teach kids, then applying to an independent kindergarten would be a better way to ensure you get what you want… (then again, I thought I’d escaped the sneaky adult lessons at my last job – at an international kindergarten – but, without asking me, ‘parent classes’ suddenly appeared on my schedule without warning and I found myself teaching adults again… sigh.)

    No matter what kind of school or position you decide to go for, always remember to ask LOTS of questions (remember that you are interviewing THEM as much as they are interviewing YOU), and try to speak to some current members to staff to see what it’s really like. If you search on job forums you can usually find all kinds of horror stories as written by ex-teachers, but these can be handy to know about too.

    There are pros and cons about working for big chain companies as opposed to smaller, independent schools. Some of the pros are that wages tend to be a littler higher in chains, you are supported by a bigger network, you will receive more training and have more opportunities for promotion and movement within the companies. However, downsides of big chains is that you can easily be lost in the crowd (especially if you work for a big company, but are located outside of Tokyo), that there will be little leeway in relation to if you want to do things differently from normal, and that academic excellence is often (though not admitted out-loud) perceived to be less important than making money. But these are generalizations, and every company is different. For first-time teachers, I would always recommend a big chain company for the support and ease of job entry. For well qualified and serious teachers, a small independent school could be more fitting for a successful career move.

    You can apply for positions of the specific school websites listed in the article, or in the links below (for current positions). If you’re particularly looking for smaller companies or independent schools, here are some TEFL job listings websites you can check out:

    Dave’s ESL Cafe
    Japan English Teacher

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