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Which is better long-term: Japanese International Schools vs Universities?

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Hello everyone. First of all, thank you for taking the time to read my forum post.

I want to advance my career as an English teacher, and I'm trying to find the best way to go about it.
I want to teach English at either an International High School or in a Japanese University. I have 5 years of teaching experience at all levels and all ages, but this consists of 2 years of Secondary school and 3 years in a kindergarten. I have taught eikaiwa, business english, and private lessons on the side the whole while. I want to get a Master's in English education, not necessarily TEFL, thinking that it would be more applicable world-wide. Naturally, I want as few losses as possible, and I want to get paid for my studies. Would anyone be aware of graduate programs in Japan, either through distance learning or classroom learning, that would offer teaching assistantships or fellowships that would certify one to teach at International Schools or Unis in Japan? Would it be better to study in my home country (US) and then come back with some sparkling teaching certification? I'd prefer to stay in Japan while studying for the qualification, but obviously my career and survival comes first.

I assume studying in the US would give me a better chance to move around the world and teach at higher quality schools.

I'd be happy to hear your advice!
 
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Most J HS's will require a teaching license from your home country plus 2 years of teaching experience there. Universities require merely a relevant master's or doctoral degree (e.g., linguistics major), some teaching experience, some language fluency, publications, and contacts.

I want to get paid for my studies.
I think that's asking a lot. Why would an employer want to do that?

Would anyone be aware of graduate programs in Japan, either through distance learning or classroom learning, that would offer teaching assistantships or fellowships that would certify one to teach at International Schools or Unis in Japan?
Temple University is probably the most well known. Don't know about any financial assistance, though. You could also do a distance learning degree through them or another uni outside Japan.
 

Mike Cash

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I think he meant he expects his studies to result in enhanced income, although I read it the other way at first.
 
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Thanks for replying.

You're not mistaken. I do indeed want compensation to go to grad school in the form of a scholarship, a teaching assistantship, fellowship, or any other form of financial assistance. As you probably well know, post-bachelor's education can be quite expensive, and I want to avoid going into debt at all costs (but I accept it if it is necessary).

A la Glenski: An employer would invest in his/her employee's development of skill in order for that employee to provide greater value for his/her company. Many people in business have their MBA's paid for by the companies they work for. The students work for the company in exchange for the company financing their education and for a few years of work after completing their studies. I know of several people in the US who have had their M. Ed. paid for by a school or the public school system in exchange for teaching labor at the school. I would be seeking an similar sort of arrangement in Japan if at all possible.

Now, in terms of long-term marketability and job sustainability, which degree would hold more value? I'm considering the markets for both the US and international education. A Masters in English Education from a place like NYU (to teach in Secondary Schools and above) or a Master's degree in TESOL? From what I have gathered, an MA in TESOL looks like a short-term solution to finding an easy-going college position in Japan and perhaps in some other parts in the world. Furthermore, it seems like college positions in Japan (like perhaps all jobs for foreigners here) don't provide much assistance for retirement, pension, etc. Again, I'm totally ignorant here, so I will appreciate any experience, knowledge, humor you're willing to share.
 
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An employer would invest in his/her employee's development of skill in order for that employee to provide greater value for his/her company.
I've been teaching more than a couple decades here and have never heard of this being done. (ICU does have a sabbatical system, but it isn't used for faculty development.)

All but a few uni positions now are contracted, usually a max of 5 years. If a school wants a better teacher--more qualifications or just more obedient--they'll simply not renew your contract and hire someone else. (and for the same money, or less)
 
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Also, since you are interested in getting a Master's, I'll assume you don't have one, and offer that, while not impossible (e.g., your experience), getting hired even as a part-timer at a japanese uni will be hard.
 
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johnnyG,

Thank you for your input. If I go the TESOL route, I'm thinking about doing something like this: 1) study for the TESOL while teaching Eikaiwa at night or teaching business English; 2) work for a company like WestGate while studying for the TESOL. I would be gaining more experience teaching adults in either situation. Would working for a company like WestGate help me get my foot in the door? How would the extra experience and qualification help my chances working for a uni? Would you please let me know what other sort of employment opportunities are available to me in Japan with an MA in TESOL?
 
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The MA TESOL is for teaching English as a second or foreign language, so it would be the better degree for teaching at a Japanese university. A degree in English education is for teaching literature, composition, and correct English usage to native speakers (the kind of English courses we had), so it would be the better degree for teaching at an international school. From looking at degree descriptions, I don't think there's much overlap between the degrees. You might be able to find an English education degree that has a TESOL component, but I don't know how receptive Japanese universities would be to that.

Have you thought about whether you'd prefer the work environment of a university versus an international school? It's tempting to settle for either one just to secure work in Japan, but a poor fit can wear you down.

If you'd prefer the work environment of an international school, you don't need to limit yourself to English (not that there's anything wrong with it if that's your chosen field).
 
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A la Glenski: An employer would invest in his/her employee's development of skill in order for that employee to provide greater value for his/her company.
In an ideal situation, yes. In Japan, that just doesn't happen. Men have a hard enough time getting paternity leave, let alone getting paid for studying to improve themselves. The vast majority of Japanese companies don't chip in a single yen to help their J employees learn English when it's needed, either. So, why would they have a mind set that says they will help a foreigner (whom most companies don't even consider permanent)?

I know of several people in the US who have had their M. Ed. paid for by a school or the public school system in exchange for teaching labor at the school. I would be seeking an similar sort of arrangement in Japan if at all possible.
Good luck, but I don't think you'll find any.

Now, in terms of long-term marketability and job sustainability, which degree would hold more value? I'm considering the markets for both the US and international education. A Masters in English Education from a place like NYU (to teach in Secondary Schools and above) or a Master's degree in TESOL?
Can't help you with any teaching career advice outside of Japan. If you want to see what Japan wants, go to the JRECIN web site and see what sort of qualifications employers ask for in terms of degrees. Keep the following in mind:

1) Employers here don't even know what a CELTA is, let alone a degree in TESOL.
2) English is not a second language here. It's a foreign language. ESL vs. EFL. This might affect the outlook on TESOL.
3) Most teaching jobs at unis are for part-timers. This is related to the degree requirements as well as any benefits that you wrote about.
4) To move up the academic ladder in unis, you need to have very good J language skills (including reading/writing/speaking) beyond mere conversation because you would be required to serve on committees and do various administrative work.
5) Everyone that I know who has done a distance degree while working in Japan has continued working here and has not gotten a single yen from their employer to help out.

If I go the TESOL route, I'm thinking about doing something like this: 1) study for the TESOL while teaching Eikaiwa at night or teaching business English; 2) work for a company like WestGate while studying for the TESOL. I would be gaining more experience teaching adults in either situation. Would working for a company like WestGate help me get my foot in the door? How would the extra experience and qualification help my chances working for a uni?
Universities would laugh at anyone who has only eikaiwa work under their belt, and that includes Westgate. Doing Westgate work is just teaching eikaiwa-like classes on a campus, and if memory serves, those classes aren't even accredited. Some teachers put a real spin on describing that kind of work, though, claiming it's actual professorial uni work. What a joke.

Would you please let me know what other sort of employment opportunities are available to me in Japan with an MA in TESOL?
Just teaching English. There are more opportunities than eikaiwa and university, of course. ALT, private HS, kosen, business English, your own school.

Vincent and johnnyG have given you sound advice, too.
 
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And build useful connections/contacts too. I got a gig at a univ (it was for a single class though) and I just have a bachelor. And I'm not a native speaker of English either. I just know people who sometimes ask me to teach their students. And it was well paid (12 000 yens/koma).
 
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Having lived and worked in South Korea (with the intention of returning) I can answer some of these questions regarding countries other than Japan.

Having a CELTA is advantageous in South Korea. Many employers are familiar with CELTA and it will give you a slight edge if you don't have other factors in your favor (English B.A. or Ed. Bachelors). If you want to work in a University in South Korea you need a MA and at least two or three years' experience in South Korea working for EPIK/GEPIK (i.e. public schools). A year at a hagwon (cram school) counts as 1/2 a year in public schools for many universities. I know plenty of people who worked for universities after a few years in the public school sector. Employment at a Korean university often requires you to be 1) ending your current contract within a few weeks of the beginning of the fall or spring semesters and 2) residence in South Korea. The likelihood of being hired by a South Korean university from outside of South Korea is slim. The requirements for these positions are not as high as at Japanese universities. You'll be an adjunct, usually with a 1 or 2-year contract, and employed full-time (anywhere from 20 to 30 classes a week, depending on the university, sometimes less). The university gigs are highly sought-after and competition is high because the jobs tend to be very easy, laid-back, and have long stretches of paid vacation in comparison to the public schools or hagwons.

Korea is not as bottlenecked as Japan but it is still much more difficult to get into than it used to be. China has opened up tremendously. A friend of mine has been working at various Chinese universities for the past five or six years and another friend just got a job at an international school in Macao with no teaching experience in his home country. Indeed, because there is so much more competition for positions in Japan than China or South Korea, the likelihood of finding better pay and more favorable contracts increases if you look in those countries than in Japan.

I would certainly suggest getting some teacher training of some sort. When I was in Korea there were many teachers who were awfully lazy, quibbled over hours and extra work demands. I don't know if it is any different in Japan when it comes to foreigners teaching there but I don't imagine it is much different. Having returned to the States and spent the past three years getting my M.Ed. and working in public schools here I realized how lazy EFL instructors overseas are in comparison to certified and employed teachers in schools in their home countries. I also realized just how much I didn't know about teaching.

If you are fortunate enough to get a teaching gig of some sort, be it in Japan or South Korea, take a look at Harry Wong's The First Days of School and remember--your primary motivation should always be the success of your students.

Good luck and I hope that myself and other posters have been able to give you helpful advice!
 
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Just realize that in Korea, you don't own your own visa. Your employer does, so when you are let go, bye bye visa. Not so in Japan.
Good point, Glenski. I should have remembered to mention that.

You can get a release from contract in Korea but you should find someone to take over the remainder of your contract first if you wish to leave your job. Even then, your employer might be unhappy with the decision and refuse to release you, making the rest of your contract period tense and unhappy. I've heard horror stories and sometimes heard about people even being blacklisted. If you make a "midnight run," the likelihood of returning to find employment is severely reduced. Indeed, if you break contract and leave, you can't get a new visa until the time-period for your old contract-and-visa arrangement expires, even if it has been broken.

Also, the visa application process for South Korea is very tedious, time-consuming, and sometimes even outright frustrating.

So, it's a trade-off. It's easier to find a job in South Korea and it's much easier to get a university gig there. Japan has a simpler visa application process and your visa isn't attached to your employer.
 
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