Intercultural work relationships between Japanese language teachers and foreign assistant teachers in Japan: The JET Program
If a teacher in a public school is asked to work with a foreign assistant teacher who has a quite different cultural and educational background, how will they work out these differences? Furthermore, what will happen when this occurs in a relatively homogenous society, like Japan? This study analyzes how Japanese teachers of language (JTLs) and assistant language teacher (ALTs) work together in the public schools, major institutions involved in passing on and maintaining a culture. More specifically, this study focuses on intercultural work relationships between JTLs and ALTs who come to Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program under the government policy of internationalization. This research takes a holistic anthropological approach to explore various concerns and problems for JTLs and ALTs in a broader context of culture, since there has been little research on the JET program from a cultural perspective. I employ semi-structured interviewing, descriptive surveys participant observation, and archival research. These methods provide complementary data, creating multi-layered information to understand the contexts of the problem. Two research sites are the foundation of this research: a prefecture in Japan, and Washington D.C. metropolitan area in the United States. I conducted interviews and surveys with the ALTs in Japan. In order to compare and generalize their concerns across prefecture, I interviewed former JET participants in Washington D.C. as well as the Japanese teachers who visited the United States through the government study program. The research data demonstrates that JTLs and ALTs have various concerns in different areas, such as educational system, different customs, and communication styles. The research data also revealed a great amount of cross-cultural misunderstanding, misperception, miscommunication, and the lack of recognition about each side's cultural and educational backgrounds. Beyond these issues, the gap between the Japanese government policy of internationalization and reality at the school level becomes clear. The concluding chapter presents practical suggestions to this cross-cultural work relationship and the JET Program.