Welcome to the Hiroshima JET Programme!
What follows is a comprehensive and compact guide to how it all works in Hiroshima.
First, there is one major division that divides all JETs in this Prefecture: the Prefectural/City divide. City JETs fall under the jurisdiction of Hiroshima City as a “Designated City.” City JETs are located in the city of Hiroshima (however, some Prefectural JETs also live and work in the city). Any problems / inquiries regarding them should be addressed to the City BOE.
Prefectural JETs can be further subdivided into Municipal JETs (市 町 村shi chō son) and Prefectural BOE JETs (Senior High School teachers spread around the prefecture).
Junior High/Municipal Board of Education
If you are based at a junior high school or municipal board of education and teach elementary and/or junior high school, you are a municipal employee. Municipal employees have a supervisor in their town who is “the boss.” Your town, therefore, is your employer and has the final say with regard to your contract. If you want to go a step higher, the Prefectural International Affairs Office is the overseer of these JETs, not the Prefectural Board of Education.
Contact Etsuko Matsuoka or the PA’s with any problems or questions that you can’t ask your supervisor. Technically, the International Affairs Office has no authority over your supervisor, since they are on parallel administrative levels. They can make a phone call or visit on your behalf, however, which is usually sufficient to resolve an issue.
Prefectural High School / Board of Education Office
If you are based at a high school or an office like a BOE or Guidance Division, you are a prefectural employee. Prefectural JETs have a supervisor in their school (or office). The Prefectural Board of Education is the “big boss,” but your principal often has the final say, so be sure to get on his/her good side.
The prefecture’s budget is much thinner, and since they administer over 40 JETs as opposed to one or two, it is sometimes more difficult to get them to understand your requests – but, it can be done. Your supervisor at your base school is there to help you understand everything your job entails, so do not worry too much. You can also turn to the PA at the BOE, Mark Walters. The International Affairs Division has no real jurisdiction over Prefectural BOE JETs, but you can always contact them for advice.
Ask any foreigner who has spent time involved with the Japanese education system about it, and you will probably be subjected to an hour-long tirade about its many shortcomings. But, it has to be remembered that it does do what it was originally designed for very well. Japan’s adult literacy rate is as close to 100% as is possible, and 94% of students finish secondary education to age 18 (compared to 87% in the USA and 63% in the UK).
Hiroshima Prefecture also contains a growing number of ALTs who are not affiliated with the JET Programme. While it’s easy to laugh and say, “We’re the best and we get paid more,” the fact is that many of these people are former JETs with loads more experience than you, and, on top of that, they’re nice people. Your BOE may never mention them and probably won’t include them in the same meetings as you, but they are a part of your local community and can end up being great friends.