For many people, teaching English in Japan means working with one of the country’s major ESL programs or companies. Of course small companies do exist (and may offer wonderful teaching opportunities) but the law of large numbers dictates that the majority of open positions will be with the major players. Here, then, is brief overview of some of the more important big names to lookout for in Japanese ESL:
JET Programme – founded in 1987, the government-run Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, is one of the oldest and most respected names in Japanese ESL. Focused primarily on serving smaller metropolitan areas and rural communities, Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) sign on for multiyear commitments but receive generous compensation.
Interac – Like JET, the Interac program also connects ALTs to public school positions in Japan, but this private company often has more urban positions available. Another plus: it’s easier to transfer from one Interac location to another after you complete a full year, providing teachers with a diverse experience while living in Japan.
AEON – one of the biggest names in Japan’s private school market, AEON recruits teachers for hundreds of their language schools across the country. A major perk: as a private company it is not tied to the normal school year cycle and often hires year-round and from abroad.
ECC Foreign Language Institute – A growing private English company, Education through Communication for the Community offers classes catering to toddlers, adults, and everyone in between. Located in many of Japan’s major cities, ECC also operates various technical and university preparatory schools giving candidates a number of options within the same organization.
Gaba – a company which emphasizes language lessons on a one-to-one basis, Gaba (whose name reflects that focus in Japanese) offers ALTs more than just a unique classroom structure. Gaba instructors are effectively independent contractors, meaning that in theory they have the flexibility to choose their own schedule and working hours. In practice, however, it should be noted that many Gaba employees work split shifts that cater to the morning and evening availability of their working professional clients.
For more information on these and other organizations, see this table originally published in 2010 in the official JET Programme forums.
Here are some of the major English language programs in Japan to get you started!