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By Kimone Thompson—
 OYAMA… in terms of JETs per capita, Jamaica is among the highest—

THE Japanese Government says it has been so impressed with the Jamaicans who participate in its annual teaching exchange programme that it has nearly doubled the number of places open to the Caribbean islanders.

“The ministry of education and the local government officials in Japan requested that we send more Jamaicans,” Counsellor and deputy chief of mission at the embassy of Japan in Jamaican Hiromoto Oyama told the Jamaica Observer Tuesday.

The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme recruits university graduates from English-speaking countries to work as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) and Sports Education Advisors in Japanese kindergartens, elementary, junior high and high schools, or as Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) in local governments and boards of education. However, only ATL positions are open to Jamaica, which began participating in JET in 2000. The programme started in 1978 as the British English Teachers Scheme, but was renamed in 1987 as more and more countries were included.

To date, 292 Jamaicans have participated.

“Two years ago we sent 20. Last year it was 25. This year, they asked us to send 40, so that’s almost double,” Oyama said, adding that he was “very happy with the development”.

At the send-off for the latest cohort in July this year, JET programme coordinator Matthew Palmer suggested that the increase was due in part to more aggressive promotional efforts by the embassy. But according to Oyama, it is a lot more than that.

“I think it’s the attitude of the past Jamaican JETs…The schools like them and the children like them,” he said Tuesday, alluding to the assistant teachers’ good work ethic, strong character, enthusiasm, and adaptability.

It augurs well for the continued cooperation between the two countries, the deputy chief of mission said, as cultural exchange and the mutual understanding that its fosters “makes it easier for us to work together”.

The majority of JET participants come from the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Ireland. As of July 1, there were 4,786 JETs from around the world in Japan. Of that number, 107 were Jamaicans.

“Please don’t be disappointed by the total number,” Oyama cautioned. “The US and Canada have more people, but I would say that in terms of JETs per capita, Jamaica is among the highest.”

The initial JET contract is for one year, but it is renewable up to four years. Applications for next year are now open and will close Friday, November 6, 2015 at 2 pm.

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