JET Update – JET Programme Safe… for Now!

It seems that for now, the JET Programme is safe, but the dialogue about JET and the benefits (or lack thereof) of JET continue.  If you are familiar with the JET Programme, you know that there are two main goals to the JET program.  The first is exchange; the program has a strong focus on internationalization and bringing those from different cultures into Japan and then sending those individuals back to their home countries with experience of Japanese culture.  The second goal is the teaching of English as a second language to those in Japan.

If you are interested in participating in the JET Programme for the JET year of 2011 – 2012, the application is out now and you can learn more about the application process and deadline for the USA here.  More information about the JET Programme can be found at the JET Programme website.

One of the current goal of the JET Alumni Association is to get the word out about how JET alumni have given back to Japan by spreading word about their expereinces in Japan and the uniqueness of Japanese culture, as well as how they have gotten involved in things like Japan-USA relations and international affairs. At the culmination of the JETAA USA national conference in August, JETAA New York released the following press release:

JETAA Press Release: JET Program, JET Alumni Association Vital to the Future of U.S.-Japan Relations

NEW YORK, August 15, 2010 – From August 13-15, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association of the United States (JETAAUSA) recently held its annual National Conference in New York City. The focus of the conference was the recent announcement by the Japanese government to review the JET Program and JETAA in an effort to lower the largest public debt among G8 countries. As a result, JET alumni around the world have mobilized to communicate the value of JET to Japan and beyond to ensure that the program and the alumni association will continue to survive.

The JET Program is an exchange program aimed at promoting international exchange between Japan and other nations. JETAA is the volunteer alumni organization of JET with over 52,000 alumni comprising 23,000 chapter members worldwide that relies mainly on funding from the central government and local governments in Japan. The central tenets of JETAA are to promote the JET Program and to support its members through providing re-entry services. As a byproduct of living in Japan for 1-5 years, JETAA members also take their Japan experience with them, continuing grassroots international exchange even after they return to their home countries.

At the National Conference, JETAAUSA delegates from 18 of the 19 U.S. chapters discussed how JET and JETAA provide value to Japan and the United States. In his opening remarks, Ambassador and Consul General of Japan in New York, Shinichi Nishimiya, voiced his opinion, stating, “Today, JETAA chapters not only play an essential part in the selection, orientation and return of JET participants, they are organizations composed of individuals who will be at the vanguard of the Japan-U.S. relationship for years to come.”

JET alumni are known for their cross-cultural abilities and their Japanese language skills. Two of three current U.S. Country Representatives of JETAAUSA have worked or are working at Japanese Consulates. U.S. Country Representative, Jessyca Wilcox, who works for the Consulate General of Japan in Denver said, “JET encouraged me to utilize the skills that I learned on the program. When I returned to America, I wanted to pursue a career where I could use my Japanese ability and was fortunate to become JET Program Coordinator at the Denver Consulate.” More well-known alumni who have already had a great impact on U.S.-Japan relations include David Boling, Congressional Chief of Staff; Michael Auslin, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute and Wall Street Journal columnist; David Leheny, Professor of East Asian Studies, Princeton University; bestselling author Bruce Feiler; and George Rose, consultant to the New York Yankees, the Yomiuri Giants, and the Yomiuri Shinbun and former interpreter of Hideki Irabu.

There are also alumni who continue to make an impact at the grassroots level in Japan. Remarkable JETs like Anthony Bianchi, a city councilman in Aichi Prefecture’s Inuyama City; and Toby Weymiller, who is currently building an environmentally sustainable cafe in Hokkaido. Both Mr. Bianchi and Mr. Weymiller are living proof of JET alumni who have built-up and fostered Japan’s sister city relationships for the 21st century. Other enterprising JETs have started businesses in Japan and abroad around Japanese education, opening schools and creating cutting edge interactive software and apps that preserve the ideals of education they discovered on JET.

At the end of the National Conference, JETAAUSA came to the conclusion that the JET Program and JETAA are crucial to Japan’s international outreach and to increasing mutual understanding between Japan and the United States. JETAAUSA hopes that upon review the Japanese government will rediscover the necessity and value of the JET Program and JETAA. Japan needs both JET and JETAA to continue building bridges between Japan and the United States.

About the JET Program and JETAA:

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program was created in 1987 to improve English education and to create grassroots international exchange in local communities in Japan. During the 2009-2010 program year, 4,436 people from 36 countries participated in the program, making it the largest exchange program in the world. The JET Program Alumni Association (JETAA) is an organization created in 1989 to strengthen and maintain the bonds of friendship developed between JET Program participants and their respective home countries, promoting a broader and deeper understanding of Japan and the world. JETAA has 52,000 alumni since the program’s inception in 1987. Nearly 23,000 alumni are now registered to 51 regional chapters, spanning 17 countries.

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