Since the inception of the JET Program in 1987, the number of assistant language teachers (ALTs) has been increasing. However, over the years, boards of education (BOEs) have been moving away from using JET Program or directly hired ALTs to outsourcing ALT positions to private companies. This trend lowers the quality of English education in Japanese schools. Furthermore, there is evidence that some outsourcing companies recruit through discriminatory job ads. Certainly there are many professional ALTs working for these companies. Nevertheless, JALT should stop providing a free space for their recruitment advertisements in its publications and take the position of not supporting companies that are lowering the quality of foreign language education.
Outsourcing ALT positions to private companies has inadvertently led to a gradual decline in the quality of education. As one example, let’s examine the issue of team-teaching. The ALT position is fundamentally involved in team-teaching. Ideally, ALTs should develop and discuss lesson plans with their Japanese counterparts. However, some outsourcing companies discourage and even reprimand their employees for engaging in team-teaching. Why? These companies have subcontracting (gyomu itaku 業務委託) contracts with BOEs. Under subcontracting contracts, the outsourcing company is supposed to control the employment and the actual work done. The BOE has no duty or obligation to the ALT and no control over their work. This violates the School Education Law because according to this law the BOE must control all teaching personnel. Since ALTs, who have no teaching license, are team-teaching under the supervision of a licensed teacher, this type of subcontracting employment relationship is illegal. In February 2005 and August 2009, the Ministry of Education (MEXT) ordered BOEs to stop this form of outsourcing and to use one of two acceptable systems: dispatch (haken) or direct hire (see Appendix 1 for an explanation of the different outsourcing systems). Despite these orders the practice continues. For more information on the downsides of outsourcing refer to Aspinall (2008) and Flynn (2009).
Besides exploiting a system that brings a lower quality of education to students, some outsourcing companies recruit through discriminatory job ads. For example, some company job ads on other job-hunting websites recruit teachers who have passports from certain countries. By stating this in the job ad, they are discriminating against people based on nationality. In Japan, there is no law banning this practice. However, JALT guidelines ban such discriminatory job ads in its publications and on its website. Why is JALT allowing these same companies to post slightly edited job ads in its publications for free? JALT is a professional teaching organization that strives to provide resources to teachers across Japan. JALT should take a stand by banning ads from companies that post discriminatory job ads elsewhere and that engage in illegal hiring practices which lower the quality of education in Japan.
Editor’s note: The editor wants to know what readers think. Should JALT adopt any formal policies concerning outsourcing companies and/or their job ads? Join the discussion at: <forums.jalt.org/index.php?board=46.0>
Aspinall, R. (2008). An overview of outsourcing. The Language Teacher, 32(1), 39-40. Flynn, C. (2009). ALT furniture: A look at dispatch ALT contracts. The Language Teacher,33(5), 39-40.
For further reading on this topic, please go the General Union website at: <www.generalunion.org>
Appendix is available below.