Japan Overseas Education Services (JOES)

Mitchell Fryer, Tokai Gakuen

In this edition of Showcase, Mitchell Fryer introduces the Japan Overseas Education Services’ (JOES) Nagoya school and the language retention programs that they offer returnee learners.

Japan Overseas Education Services (JOES)

Recent figures provided by JOES (2015) indicate that the number of Japanese working overseas has been rising rapidly. As a result, there are now over 76,000 Japanese children of school age now living outside Japan with their parents on overseas assignment. This has also contributed to the rising figure of returnee students that are coming back to Japan once their parents have completed their overseas tenure. Through the Ministry of Education, JOES offers educational and orientation services to sojourning and returning families. In addition, language retention and guidance programs are offered to families and students returning to Japan. These services are offered at the many schools JOES has throughout the Kanto, Tokai, and Kansai regions. JOES’ school in Nagoya is located in the YWCA in Sakae and offers English language retention programs and regular seminars for both parents and students.

Foreign language retention programs at the Nagoya school

JOES’ Nagoya school offers English as a second language (ESL) programs for students from elementary to high school. English and science classes are available and these classes focus on second language (L2) development and retention to augment L2 competence. These programs also offer formative assessment in the form of ongoing feedback for parents and students as well as online diagnostic testing to promote further development of the students’ language skills (Baker, 2011). Regular classes are held on Saturdays and special summer programs and events are also held. 

JOES recognises the importance of biliteracy for its language learners with all classes focusing on literacy and the four basic language skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing with particular attention being paid to the latter two. The general classes all use a novel each semester in addition to literacy-based activities that promote reading comprehension and writing skills. Class discussions, short performances, small projects, and student created quizzes are also used to promote learner-centered language learning and target language (TL) communication among the students. 

We are very fortunate to have a group of dedicated, well-qualified and experienced teachers at the Nagoya school. In addition, we have motivated and helpful Japanese staff that provide wonderful support to the teachers and to the students and their parents. Various nationalities are represented at our school, and you get a real sense of English as a global language roaming the hallways and classrooms as you hear British, North American, and Antipodean accents. All of our current teachers have been living in Japan for 10 years or more and have experience teaching at elementary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions and hold undergraduate and/or postgraduate degrees in the fields of arts, education, linguistics, or language.

My experience at JOES

I began teaching at JOES in Nagoya back in 2010. During my time at JOES, I have been fortunate to teach a variety of classes that have included elementary and junior high regular classes, grade three and four science as well as junior high composition. I am constantly amazed by the students’ and parents’ dedication to their language learning as well as being interested in hearing about their experiences abroad. With English now a global language, it is both interesting and exciting to meet students and hear their distinct accents that now form part of their L2 identity, such as Kaho with her “Aussie” accent, Hayato sounding very “Californian”, Soto speaking like a real “Mancunian” or Rina, so proud of her South African accent.

In all of my classes, I incorporate a highly learner-centered environment that focuses on the promotion of metalinguistic awareness through pair and group work that focuses on vocabulary use in context for various purposes. To raise metalinguistic awareness, I employ various teaching strategies that encourage students to predict the content of news stories based on a headline, paraphrasing of other students spoken and/or written discourse as well as summarising the novels that they are reading. Students enjoy learning and talking about how language is used as well as the challenges that they face back here in Japan. 

JOES offers an important service to Japanese families returning to Japan, especially to their children. JOES was officially established in 1971 as a non-profit foundation with the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education. In its 44 year history, JOES has made significant contributions to promoting the education of Japanese children both overseas and here in Japan. JOES’ Nagoya school aims to continue striving to meet the ongoing language needs for children and their families now and into the future.


Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Japan Overseas Education Services. (2015). Introduction to Japan Overseas Education Services. Viewed at <http://www.joes.or.jp/info/introduction.html>

Mitchell Fryer has been involved in language teaching in Japan for 15 years. At the JOES Nagoya school, he has been teaching science to elementary school students, English composition to junior high and high school students as well as literacy based learning to students in the general classes. He holds an MA in Applied Linguistics and an MA in Education. 

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