You’ve probably used up all of your time and resources by this point trying to apply to the JET Program. Either you’ve been declared the “Alternate List” or you’ve received an outright failure. Regardless, you are still set on leaving the country and working in Japan!
I know exactly how it feels. I was in the same predicament. I was placed on the backup list and had no chance. I just needed to experience some sense of triumph, so I applied to Interac (a dispatch company) and became an ALT. What luck?!.
To enrich through education, I want to share my experiences with Interac and the application process.
The Workplace Situation: The Biggest Difference
My interactions with my schools were the biggest difference between JET and Interac, in my opinion.
Assignments are given directly by the staff of the school to JETs, particularly those with a base school. Building strong bonds with your OTEs gives you some influence over your course selection and schedule.
But as my involvement in school life increased, it became more difficult for me to refuse the requests of my teachers. I had no other options when OTEs refused to adhere to a schedule or talk about lesson plans.
Interac ALTs have the opposite problem. Only Interac is permitted to assign work to their ALTs under Japanese labor laws. Schedules must be submitted to Interac in advance. The schedule details the topics covered and the ALT’s responsibilities in each class, allowing you to adequately prepare for each one. Additionally, Interac staff will act as your personal bad guy, diplomatically responding to unreasonable requests from schools.
Although having a reliable schedule made a significant difference to my working life, there will always be last-minute schedule changes and unhelpful OTEs, and there is nothing to stop ALTs from negotiating a schedule with their schools—I did this myself.
Ambassadors or Teachers?
JETs are regarded as cultural ambassadors. The JET Program is a Japanese government initiative that places a strong emphasis on both teaching and cultural exchange.
Interac ALTs are marketed as teachers to the Board of Education, with the word “market” stressed. ”.
Interac hires ALTs and sells BOEs on their teachers’ capacity to deliver efficient and focused language instruction.
The main factor separating JET and Interac is these attitudes. There are exceptions. The needs and expectations of the school and specific teachers within your school, as well as your knowledge, personality, and skills, have an impact on how your schools use you.
In the Classroom: JET Team-teaching
Any JET ALT follows a similar schedule. Your work placement will affect your schedule more than the actual coworkers, whether you are based at one junior high school or visit several elementary schools. The first significant difference is noticeable once you enter the classroom.
Since not all English teachers in Japan are of Japanese ancestry, JET is based on team teaching, which pairs an ALT with a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) or, to be politically correct, an OTE (Official Teacher of English).
The division of roles is clear. The ALT provides support while the OTE instructs and typically guides the class. Your participation in class entirely depends on what your OTE desires. When used effectively, team teaching makes English learning enjoyable and simple for the students as well as enjoyable for both OTEs and ALTs who are teaching the class. Planning classes with your OTE and even just chatting for fun (if and when they have free time) should be part of a healthy relationship.
At its worst, team teaching makes the ALT appear robotic rather than like a qualified English teacher. The dreaded task of serving as a human tape recorder and merely repeating words from the textbook is frequently assigned to ALTs.
In general, high school ALTs have more control over their classes, but in JET, the amount of teaching you do is entirely up to your JTE, giving you the freedom to experiment with other ways to interact with your students.
In the Classroom: Interac – ALT Led Instruction
As a brand-new Interac ALT, you’ve already undergone a rigorous week of training that included creating and delivering a complete English lesson to a group of your peers. A true trial by fire!.
Your JTE will determine whether or not you use any of your newly acquired knowledge, but I noticed that people treated me more seriously as a teacher with Interac.
Team-teaching as an Interac ALT is out. The JTE is present but only serves to uphold discipline during the ALT portions of the class, which are solely taught by the ALT.
Initially unsettling, this gives an ALT the chance to demonstrate their expertise and encourages students to try to interact in English.
Application Process: JET Tortoise vs. Interac Hare
The JET Program’s application process is long and daunting. You’ll need to put in a lot of effort and get ready for it. Every year, numerous potential JETs lose out simply because they submit their paperwork late.
The staff can better place you in Japan if you take the time to fill out the application form carefully and honestly. However, there are no assurances that you’ll be assigned to the location you requested. You may be let down if your request is for a major city like Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya. Large urban cities have very few JETs, and it is extremely, extremely rare to be placed there.
It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to move once you receive your placement. It makes all the difference to carefully consider which environment suits you the best.
The quicker turnaround time offered by Interac is more appealing, but ALTs have very little control over their placement. Competition is fierce for city positions. With the option to request a transfer to a city after successfully completing a one-year contract, the majority of new ALTs are assigned to harder to fill rural positions. Priority is given to ALTs with high-performance scores. You’ll have to work hard for that city placement!.
There’s no beating the JET salary. No ALT position pays anything like it. The Interac ALT earns much less than their JET counterpart despite the numerous bonuses they can accrue, including transportation, rural allowance, Japanese proficiency (JLPT N3), and performance bonuses.
However, Interac provides opportunities for growth (and pay increases), including those for manager, headteacher, and trainer. Interac ALTs are permitted to work additional jobs without violating their contracts as long as they are permitted by your visa. For example, an ALT with an instructor visa is permitted to work as a private tutor but not as a waiter. Naturally, positions that could damage your reputation as a teacher are not permitted either. These include positions at host clubs, bars, nightclubs, etc.
Paid Leave: JET Expectations
Paid leave in Japan comes with a myriad of expectations. If ALTs use paid leave to travel during the school year, their return may be met with hostility (if permission to travel is even granted), as Japanese teachers rarely use paid leave for anything besides medical reasons (and frequently not even then).
JETs receive 20 days of paid leave per year. As a JET, your requests for leave are processed by your schools; therefore, building strong bonds with your coworkers can lead to quicker vacation approvals and more flexibility.
Unused paid vacation days carry over to the following year. Many contracting companies permit JETs to enroll in recognized Japanese language schools without needing to take time off. Additionally, there are paid special days off for events like marriage or a death in your immediate family. Japanese teachers may take an additional day off for menstruation, but this is rarely used.
Paid Leave: Interac Paperwork
Interac filters paid leave requests through the branch office, which then go through the entire office and BOE hierarchy before being approved. Requests to travel during regular business hours are carefully scrutinized, and responses are given very slowly.
Interac ALTs begin with 5 days of paid vacation time, but you are not permitted to use them for the first three months of your contract. You also receive five additional vacation days, but your branch will choose and arrange these days for you (i e. , you have no say in the matter).
The annual schedule includes both summer and winter breaks, with a corresponding PAY CUT for the months of August and December.
Even when there are no classes during the break, the JET ALT is required to attend their school or BOE. The Interac ALT may travel nearby or remain at home, but they must request time off unless they are willing to accept an assignment.
It all depends on whether you prefer the extra money or the freedom to travel.
Living Arrangements for JETs and Interac ALTs
The majority of JETs reside in apartments that are subleased by their contracting organization. Key-money payments by JETs are incredibly rare. Modern 1DKs (1 bedroom, dining room, and kitchen) and entire dilapidated houses are both options for apartments.
Since the majority of JETs move into the apartment of an ALT who is leaving, they typically move into a partially furnished apartment. Some JETs even find themselves in cheap teachers housing.
In accordance with a contract they have with Leopalace (a landlord), Interac will, whenever possible, place ALTs in these residences. Leopalace apartments are tiny with a pitiful amount of cooking space, but they are partially furnished and require less setup.
There are exceptions to the Leopalace rule. The Leopalace in the rural town where I was placed for my second Interac term was occupied when I moved there. Interac served as my guarantor when I leased an apartment of my choosing.
Couples: Can You Live Together in Japan?
JET pairs married ALTs up and offers spousal visas to non-ALT wives and husbands, but only for ALTs with marriages that are legally recognized in Japan.
When my Canadian JET predecessor and her common-law husband first arrived in Japan, they discovered that despite being legally married in Canada, they had to get married in Japan before the BOE would grant them a shared apartment.
The strictness of each BOE varies; I know a JET ALT who successfully cohabitates with her fiancé, so be sure to discuss your circumstances with your potential BOE.
Interac is more accommodating and, whenever possible, attempts to place ALTs who arrive in Japan together as a married couple together. This extends to gay and lesbian couples.
The massive, demanding, and intense Tokyo JET Orientation is a milestone. Before they travel to their placements, new arrivals are greeted with a flurry of information that is compressed into two days.
Strong bonds between ALTs and newcomers from Group A or B form the cornerstones of their new lives. Once the ALTs are settled in, a second orientation is held, with training sessions led by current JET ALTs. Later in the year, a two-day seminar called the Mid-Year Conference takes place.
Interac ALTs attend a week-long orientation led by qualified head teachers and trainers that focuses on preparing ALTs for the classroom. A trainer observes brand-new teachers for the first three months of their employment and, if possible, once a year after that. Four half-day training sessions with a strong emphasis on teaching communicative English are held over the course of the year. Nevertheless, depending on the branch you work for, this schedule may change.
Support: Daily problems
One of the most admirable aspects of the program is the JET community. Throughout the year, active AJET chapters plan social gatherings, and the special interest groups provide chances to interact with new people.
There are also numerous JET support groups on Facebook. For daily problems, your supervising teacher is your go-to. Depending on their level of English fluency and your relationship, they will be more or less helpful.
An IC is employed by Interac to assist ALTs with moving into their apartment and getting a phone and car. Once you are settled, you will find yourself going to City Hall alone and calling the office for translation assistance. Requests for an IC go through the office. Despite taking time to establish a social network, Interac now has a Facebook group for teachers to support one another.
Life After Japan: Leaving the ALT Life Behind
For JETs who have served two or more years, JET hosts a returners conference. You must obtain permission from your school or BOE and cover your own travel expenses. JET also covers your flight home. When you return home, the JET Alumni Associations offer resources for networking and opportunities related to Japan.
Interac doesn’t even provide ALTs with a reference. When you announce your decision to leave, you get little help. The office grudgingly assists you in canceling expenses related to your apartment, but they leave it up to you for personal expenses like your phone or Internet service.
JET vs Interac: Which One is Better?
It comes down to personal preference, with the caveat that “every situation is different,” as in the Coke vs. Pepsi debate. ”.
The most important determining factor in your ALT experience is your schools. If you want to improve your teaching abilities, I advise Interac, and if you are enthusiastic about cultural exchange, I advise JET.
But I also took part in a variety of community activities with Interac as an ALT.
You can make the most of your time as an ALT with JET or Interac as long as you are aware of your goals and are cognizant of the expectations that are placed on you.
If you’ve ever worked for Interac or the JET Program, or if you’re considering applying for either of these roles, let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.
10+ Things You Need to Know About the Interac ALT Position
What are the odds of getting into the JET Program?
The hardest part of becoming a JET is passing the interview. Until you receive an invitation, you shouldn’t worry about that process because it is a different beast altogether. Many candidates begin preparing for it too early and never receive an interview.
What percentage of jet applicants are accepted?
The JET Program is that it is extremely competitive. Out of 5000 applicants, only 800 people are chosen as finalists. There’s about a 25% acceptance rate for JET.
Is Interac Japan a good company to work for?
55% of Interac employees would recommend working there to a friend based on Glassdoor reviews Employees also rated Interac 3. 5 out of 5 for work life balance, 2. 8 for culture and values and 2. 3 for career opportunities.
How long can you work for Interac?
14. The majority of Interac ALT positions begin in early April or late August and run through March of the following year. Only candidates who can dedicate themselves to the entirety of the assignment are considered for employment.
Why do you want to work with Interac?
The invaluable international work experience you’ll gain working with Interac in a public school is one of the main advantages you’ll enjoy wherever you go. You can learn about the local culture by working in a Japanese public school, and living in Japan gives you the opportunity to interact with other teachers from around the world.