Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Nearly Everyone Wants to Get out of Teaching English

In Japan. I have rarely met anyone for whom it is the first choice in careers in this country----non-Japanese anyway. However, most do it because there is really no other choice. People will start doing it, some will become interested in it as a career and get more education/training in the area such as a masters in TESOL. However, even in graduate work in Japan you have little choice as a foreigner as, most of the fields of study (in English, or from accredited foreign universities are in English teaching. One could enter a Japanese university to pursue a graduate degree in another area, but the question would be, why? It is well-known that in a Japanese university, one plays and learns Japanese roles in society. One does not master a subject. Besides, in Japan a university education---or any post high school education is not taken seriously by most Japanese. Does that tell you something about the value of a Japanese college education?

Over the years, there has been a big jump in the number of non-native Japanese language speakers who are very fluent. Nowadays, it is not rare at all to find people who speak Japanese, and mere fluency will no longer make you a TV star like it did 20 years ago. Since many---Japanese and non-Japanese both---used to claim that it was a lack of Japanese language skills among foreigners that held them back and was one of the biggest reasons for nearly any problems foreigners faced in Japan, entry into the job market outside of teaching should be easier today.

For a few, it may have improved. There are some cases of non-Japanese westerners working in Japanese companies in more than a temporary token foreigner capacity. I suppose. They are still very rare. Imagine that Japanese immigrants to any other country could only get a job teaching Japanese. And they couldn't even do that as a full-time permanent employee in the public school system. Wouldn't that be called discrimination at best, racism at worst? Wouldn't the Japanese government be first to call it such? Theh why isn't it called that when it is so blatantly obvious in Japan?

One of the things that I have been seeing more and more in wants ads in Japan is a requirement for the Japanese language skill to be "native-level," not simply fluent. What does this mean? Most likely it means that if you ain't of "pure" Japanese blood---whatever that is, you aIn't likely to get a job there. Perhaps if you were of Korean or Chinese descent you could, but even then you would have a severe problem in the Tokyo area getting any government post in which you might exercise some capacity to supervise a native Japanese. (There was a recent court decision which upheld this rule in Tokyo. As usual, the primary backer of this policy was the bigoted racist "Blinky" Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo. Most citizens appear to agree with this, as the law is still in effect, and Blinky is still governor in his second term. (He'd probably win his 3rd if he could run again.) You may see ads requiring "native-level" English occasionally, and I would not be surprised if that were not meant to exclude Japanese, however I would assume it to be rare outside the English teaching industry.

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