Feb 3, 2019

Future of Direct-hire ALTs - 2019

With the new year of 2019, there is a storm coming towards our work field of English teachers, and it is quite scary.

As many of you guys know already, especially those in the industry of assistant language teachers teaching at elementary, junior high or high schools, there is a big reform coming to the English education system in Japan by 2020. They are using the Olympics as a reason to push more English education for the purpose of globalization or “educating Japanese citizens to become global citizens”.

Future of Direct-hire ALTs - 2019 photo

To make that work, they are increasing the English classes at the elementary school level, and they are going to employ English specialist teachers in elementary school, and these teachers will take over all English classes so that the normal homeroom teachers will have no need to teach English.

So how is that going to change the 2019 market?

At the beginning of this year, I have already heard about a couple of the surrounding cities that are making changes. Until this March, they are using direct-hire ALTs to teach at the schools in the city, but from the coming school year, they are switching over to dispatch company ALTs.

The reason behind it, from what I have gathered, is a combination of money issues and hassle.

Future of Direct-hire ALTs - 2019 photo

By hiring ALTs through dispatch companies instead of direct hiring, they offset a lot of the other money issues such as insurance, pension, and etc. By letting companies handle those extra expenses, the Board of Education can save some money that way, and they need to because of the extra Japanese and licensed English teachers they will be hiring to fulfill the extra classes at the elementary school level.

Another place for them to save money is when it comes to holidays. Most direct-hired ALTs get paid during the summer and winter holiday as well, but the ALTs have to come to school despite they are doing absolutely nothing. That has just been the tradition. For dispatch companies, however, the story has been quite different and many ALTs do not get paid or get only a portion of their normal salary during the holiday months, and that is money the Board of Education can get without having to deal with the backfire that the dispatch companies will take instead. It is pretty smart, and it does make sense to avoid paying people to do nothing at school for no productive reasons.

Future of Direct-hire ALTs - 2019 photo

The hassle, besides the day-to-day thing, covers a lot more. The hiring process of ALTs has always been a difficult thing for Board of Education to do. They do not have the reach to advertise their positions as well as dispatch companies do, and the interviewers are probably less confident about their decision making if they were to compare themselves to the experienced dispatch company managers. The dispatch companies can easily move or choose not to renew a contract as well, if an ALT was proven to be problematic, while Boards of Education have much harder times doing that with direct hires.

Another hassle, and possibly the bigger one, is how BoEs have to hire someone on full term if they worked with the person for more than 5 years. It is just the law, but dispatch companies can get away with that, and it is just much “safer” from the perspective of the BoE when this language reform in 2020 is still so cloudy and scary.

So for us in the industry, while the 2020 reform of English education might sound like more job opportunities, so far it looks like the money is going into hiring new local teachers, and this move is actually scaring some BoEs rather than motivating them. If you have been looking at a Direct Hire job that is still available, snatch it up soon because the trend seems like it is having less of those from now on.