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Tuesday, June 1, 2010


More to EFL hiring than 'garbage in, garbage out'

Re: "University EFL hiring: garbage in, garbage out" (Hotline to Nagatacho, May 11):

Karmo Tharn makes some good observations about the laxity in hiring standards for university English teachers in Japan. There is no doubt that the writer is describing one very real problem amongst many plaguing the education system here. However, let me make a couple of points in defense of the "garbage" currently teaching in Japanese schools.

There is no reason to assume that only language scientists like Tharn, English literature majors and education specialists are capable of teaching English in universities. Science obviously plays the indispensable role of contributing to the understanding of language acquisition. The humanities bring a love of human expression into the classroom, and the study of education in general serves to illuminate and clarify the vocation of teaching. However, I suspect that these academic backgrounds, which are curiously disparate, won't always lead to success in the classroom.

It might be worth noting that Amanda Ripley, in her piece in The Atlantic on primary and secondary education in the U.S., points out that education degrees do not necessarily produce good teaching in American schools. I wouldn't be surprised if the same were true with regard to Japanese universities.

While Tharn is right that some of us teachers are unqualified impostors who got through the door too quickly or easily, he's wrong when he says that the "calculation is a simple one" or that teachers with degrees unrelated to ESL, literature or education are garbage.

While it is true that Japan has a very shoddy higher education system with its fair share of shoddy teachers, the perspectives of people from many disciplines, not the least of which is the study of business, can prove effective in the classroom.



Race-based disparities

While I agree with Mr. Tharn 100 percent, an issue he did not address is the disparity of wages for foreign instructors with degrees vs. Japanese part-timers with equal degrees.

My Japanese wife (I am Canadian) has her M.A. in education research and is categorized as part-time, teaching at several colleges/universities. Her monthly wage for the same course taught by foreign teachers is about $200 less. Demoralized now after teaching for over 15 years, she is seriously thinking of gradually withdrawing from teaching at certain universities.


Yamato-Koriyama, Nara Pref.

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