Tuesday, October 17, 2006

JALT Conference 2006

The JALT Conference 2006 is upon us already. How time flies when you're having fun. PALE will be heavily involved in the goings on in Kitakyushu, and we hope to bring you news of new ideas, and interesting notes from the plenary and featured speakers, as well as from the individual conversations and observations of the people on the ground at the event.

You can check for schedule information, or read up on the speakers who will be in attendance, by heading to the JALT 2006 homepage, or clicking any of the active links in this piece.

If you have yet to make your travel plans, click here for hotel options. This information is available directly from the JALT 2006 site, but we present it here for you to simplify your search.

Good luck. Bon Voyage. Make the 2006 Conference the best one yet.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Recommended Reading

In an effort to share valuable ideas and information among PALE members and those who would join PALE, I will be adding a Reading List section to the menu bar at the right of this blog.

The first additions to the section will be books recently described as "required reading" by one of our members. Dr. Ivan Hall's "Cartels of the Mind" and "Bamboozled: How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan and its Implications for Our Future in Asia" will start things off. Here's a little more information about Dr. Hall for you to look over if you don't know his work. If you have any other recommendations, I will gladly put them up.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

PALE AGM held at the 2005 JALT National Conference

Report by Robert Aspinall, PALE Coordinator

PALE Program chair, Jonathan Britten organized three very successful events at this year’s JALT national conference held in Shizuoka “Granship” Convention Centre in October. Here I will discuss one of those events – the Annual General Meeting. I am pleased to say that the meeting was very well attended – standing room only!

The New List of Officers
One of the most important tasks of the AGM is to elect the SIG officers for the forthcoming year. I am very happy to report that a full list of officers was elected.

Coordinator: Robert Aspinall
Treasurer: Barry Mateer [New]
Program Chair: Jonathan Britten [note: newsletter revision]
Membership Chair: Mark Cunningham
Publications Chair: Mike Plugh
Members-at-large: Jarret Ragan/Arudou Debito

Proposals for 2006
After a very productive discussion the following proposals were adopted.
PALE in cooperation with other JALT SIGs and the Standing Committee on Employment Practices (SCOEP) will work to draw up a list of draft guidelines and codes of practice relating to professional standards in the workplace. It will promote the earned tenure system for universities and other institutions which should be applied regardless of nationality, ethnicity or gender.

PALE will also continue to research and campaign on other key employment related issues such as the growth of outsourcing in universities, board of education and elsewhere, and the problem of abuse of class evaluation systems in order to intimidate or remove staff.

2005 Kansai Private University Salary Scales

Michael ‘Rube’ Redfield
Osaka University of Economics

These are the 2005 Kansai Private University Salary Scales. 25 schools in the association have released their salary data. These salaries are total yearly salaries (including bonus). They do not include extra income, such as research and travel funds, entrance exam and other committee fees, allowances for housing and dependents, ect. I have listed the highest and lowest three figures. In general, large, coeducational (and not always so prestigious) schools to seem to be at the top of the scale, and women’s colleges at the bottom. Please feel free to make whatever use you can of the scales, including copying and republishing. Any mistakes in the data are mine.

The Issue of Outsourcing

Robert Aspinall, PALE Coordinator

Introduction: What is Outsourcing?

Outsourcing firms are a major part of Japan’s employment sector. Haken Kaisha or temp agencies have flourished at a time of economic uncertainty. They provide workers in every conceivable field, and advertise themselves as offering flexibility and variety to employers and employees alike. Many professional translators in Japan work for this kind of agency. Outsourcing is not new to the eikaiwa industry. English teaching companies like GEOS, NOVA, ECC etc. draw up contracts with customers (up till now these have usually been private companies who need to improve the English skills of their employees) to send a teacher or teachers a set number of hours per week for a set fee. The English teaching companies need to cover their overheads and make a profit and so the fee they receive per hour is of course more than the pay the teachers receive. This system removes the necessity for the customer to deal with problems related to employing foreign teachers.

PALE members and other have recently reported anecdotal evidence of the extension of this outsourcing system to the public sector, for example boards of education, the semi-public sector (since national universities have now been semi-privatised), and to the non-profit sector (private universities are non-profit making organizations). Problems of various kinds inevitably arise when profit-making firms provide teaching services to non-profit-making schools.

Some Problems
1. Teachers provided by outsourcing companies tend to be young and inexperienced. (I want to make it clear that this is not the case for ALL teachers or ALL outsourcing companies, but it does seem to be a general trend.) After staring with an outsourcing company (maybe for the purposes of getting visa sponsorship) young teachers often look for better paid work as soon as they are able. Thus the turnover of teachers is high.

2. Often the names of individual teachers are not used on the material published by the school (because names may change frequently during the course of a year). Because of their transient nature, it is difficult for the teachers to build relationships with students and other members of the teaching staff.

3. Teachers provided by outsourcing companies are usually unable to get involved in the life of the schools they work at outside the classroom, in club activity, social events etc.

4. Because outsourced teachers are employed by their company and not by the school or board of education it means they are not involved in any negotiations over pay and conditions that apply to other members of the teaching staff. This means that there are effectively two sectors of employees in the school. This opens up the possibility that one can be played off against the other.

5. Problems arise over the ownership of materials that are produced for use in the classroom. When everyone is in the public sector the idea of ownership does not apply. Good teachers are always willing to share their ideas with colleagues. However, when a private company is involved in providing an educational product they regard their teaching materials and ideas as private property.

What can JALT and PALE do?
The information I have seen so far is anecdotal. I have also heard of cases of schools looking into outsourcing and then changing their minds. So one thing JALT and PALE could do is to find out from their members more data about this phenomenon. Also, representatives of outsourcing companies should be allowed to put their case.

After finding out more about outsourcing, JALT could consider taking an official position on this subject. This could be linked to other JALT initiatives that I have heard of related to ensuring proper professionalism in the field English teaching (ensuring that English teachers have a minimum standard of qualification etc). JALT’s Standing Committee on Employment Practices (SCOEP) of which I am the chairperson will also be doing further work on this problem.

The Issue of Outsourcing English Teaching Positions in Japan’s Designated Cities

Robert Aspinall, PALE SIG Coordinator

Designated Cities
With the addition of Shizuoka City in 2005, Japan’s total of “designated cities” (shiteitoshi) was raised to fourteen. Most of these cities have populations exceeding one million and they have local administrative powers very similar to those of prefectures.

On Monday 28 November, 2005 I conducted an interview with a leading English language advisor at Saitama City Board of Education. One of the topics discussed was the topic or outsourcing the positions of native-speaker Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) to private companies.

Below is a table that shows the distribution of the three different types of ALT in the designated cities. Non-JET ALTs refers to those ALTs who are employed directly by the city. They are usually employed on limited non-renewable contracts, with work conditions similar to those on the JET programme.

Distribution of different types of ALT in designated cities

It can be seen from this table that Yokohama, Nagoya, Kawasaki and Kita Kyushu have already started to recruit the majority of their ALTs from private outsourcing companies. Furthermore my informant at Saitama City told me that her city plans to increase drastically the proportion of outsourced ALTs.

Why the move to outsourced ALTs? It is simply a matter of money. JET ALTs cost the city about 3.5 million yen per year. Privately recruited ALTs cost about 3 million. But outsourced ALTs cost less than 2.5 million.

As a former JET ALT I remember some of the Japanese teachers grumbling that the ALTs were paid too much. At that time (fifteen years ago) and considering the pay was tax free, I think that they had a point. However, the JET programme is a national programme and the monthly pay is fixed. Outsourcing allows boards of education to get ALTs from the lowest bidder, and therefore is attractive to cities that are currently in financial difficulties. Also compared to the situation that prevailed when the JET programme started in 1987, there are far more native-speakers living in Japan, especially in the large cities. The JET programme will continue to be indispensable for towns and cities in remote areas of Japan, but for densely populated areas (i.e. those represented by the fourteen designated cities) it looks like the JET programme will be gradually downsized and cheaper outsourced ALTs will come to be the norm.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Welcome to PALE SIG Bulletin

Welcome to the new blog and newsletter service for the "Professionalism, Administration, Leadership in Education" special interest group of JALT.

This blog will offer members the opportunity to check in on the latest news and information from PALE, and contribute their own ideas and comments as well. The information found here will be updated from time to time, and archived monthly for your convenience.

This format is intended to be a more formal version of the Yahoo! Newsgroup and will reflect the ongoing efforts and issues important to PALE members. Contributions will be open to members at any time, and submissions should be sent to Mike Plugh for review and posting.

Please check back often to read, comment, and contribute your ideas to the debate. Thank you for participating.

Mike Plugh
PALE Publicity Chair

JALT Conference 2005

JALT2005 October 7th – 10th, Shizuoka Granship
Conference Theme: "Sharing Our Stories"

Life is stories. The things our students learn, and the things we learn become stories we build on and use to grow as teachers. That's why Sharing Our Stories is the theme of the 31st annual JALT International Conference. Stories can be the content learners think about as they, for example, read books or do listening tasks. Or they can be the conversations students have with each other. Or the ideas they write. At the conference, we teachers will share our experience, ideas, research, successes, and challenges. All of these are types of stories. And, of course, the sharing is the key.

The PALE special interest group will hold a special round table presentation, in which participants will share their own experience with a variety of issues facing language teachers across Japan. The topics will include presenters’ experiences with the bureaucratic process governing workplace transitions to stories about evaluation systems, fairness standards, and the power of unions to negotiate difficult contractual dilemmas.

A second workshop will be held to highlight Japan’s Labor Law. This workshop will feature discussions on historical background, the role of unions, and current trends in legal and cultural factors affecting the Japanese academic workplace.Both presentations will feature question and answer sessions, and we are proud to invite anyone interested in the educational community to attend and learn about the issues shaping the educational environment in Japan. Please see the details below:

THE ROUND TABLE - 60 minutes
Day: Saturday, October 8th
Time: 13:05 - 14:05 Room: 903 (Shizuoka Granship)

Jonathan Britten - moderator
Martin Pauly - speaker (story on employment at a national-turned-indy institution and the bureaucratic process)

Patrick O'Brien - speaker (story on university evaluation systems and fairness standards)

Rube Redfield - speaker (story on contract system battle won by union negotiations)

Plus, questions and answers.

JAPAN'S LABOR LAW: Historical Development and Current Applications - 85 min.
Day: Sunday, October 9th
Time: 9:40 - 11:15 Room: 903 (Shizuoka Granship)

Jonathan Britten - moderator (+ John Dower historical background)

Robert Aspinall - speaker (The current state of teacher’s unions in Japan)

Evan Heimlich - speaker (Current Trends and the self-contradictory system of contract employment)

Stephanie Houghton - speaker (Current trends and issues)

Debito Arudou - Q&A representative/general commentary

Faculty Unions in Japanese Universities: An Outline

by Robert Aspinall, PALE Coordinator

At present, universities in Japan are going through a period of transformation brought about by demographic change, economic recession and government policies of privatization. This article will outline the place of unions within the university system and discuss some or the ways in which they are dealing with the challenges that they are currently facing.

The Three Challenges Currently Being Faced by Universities in Japan

1. The biggest change currently facing Japanese universities is demographic. The population of 18-year olds in Japan peaked at 2.05 million in 1992 and has declined ever since to 1.51 million in 2000 and an estimated 1.2 million in 2010 – a drop of 26 percent in eight years or 41 percent in 18 years.

2. The demographic transformation has coincided with a period of prolonged economic recession and deflation for the Japanese economy, making it difficult for many families to afford the fees necessary to send their children to university.

3. The third factor that is transforming the Japanese higher education system is the government policy of privatization. In April 2004 all national universities will be become autonomous quasi-governmental organisations. The same thing will happen to universities run by local government (prefectures or cities) over the next three years. They will still receive subsidies from government but most observers expect that these will gradually be cut and student fees will have to rise. Faculty unions of public sector universities were opposed to the government policy of privatization. However, with no access to the policy-making arena, they were unable to stop the reform.

How Faculty Unions in Japan are Organised
Full time members of academic staff at universities and higher education colleges are organised differently depending on whether the organisation they work for is in the (formerly) public sector or the private sector. (The effect of privatization on this distinction is not yet clear.) Each member of staff who wants to be a member of a union pays subs (calculated as a percentage of salary) to the union that is organised at the level of his or her individual university or college.

There are 238 universities and junior colleges in the public sector. The academic staff unions of 86 of these institutions are affiliated to a national organisation called the Faculty and Staff Union of Japanese Universities (Zenkoku daigaku kosen kyoshokuin kumiai). Other institution-level unions are affiliated to other central organisations or do not affiliate with any larger organisation.

Unions organised by academic staff employed at each of the 989 private universities and junior colleges in Japan tend to follow something more like a company union or enterpirse union model. That means that their union is affiliated with other unions representing teachers at the other educational institutions operated by the same company. A typical private educational association may operate one four-year university, one two-year junior college, one or two high schools, one or two junior high schools, an elementary school, and a kindergarten. Teachers at each of these institutions will be members of unions that join together in one umbrella organisation that exists parallel to the association that employs the staff. This is the pattern of union organisation that is often found in private industry in Japan.

Every employee of the Toyota corporation, for example, will, regardless of skill or craft, be a member of the same union. One of the purposes of this kind of organisation is to instill in the employee loyalty to the company rather than loyalty to workers in similar circumstances who work for other companies. This system goes hand-in-hand with the Japanese lifetime employment system wherein loyalty to one’s company lasts for a working lifetime. In the university sector this has the effect of undermining efforts to create a united movement that might represent the interests of all academic staff regardless of who their employer might be.

The Lack of Power and Influence of Faculty Unions in Japan
For the most part, members of faculty at Japanese universities do not think of their unions as being particularly influential or effective in defending their interests or in representing their views when important decisions are made by government or university management. Up until now that has not been a problem for Japanese academic staff, however, because the organisational structure of the typical Japanese university (both public and private) protects jobs and allows widespread participation in management and administration.

The most important decision-making body of the university is the faculty meeting (kyojukai) attended by all professors, associate professors and lecturers. Nothing can be decided without the approval of this meeting. The downside of this democratic form of decision making is that meetings can drag on for hours. The present author has attended a faculty meeting that started at 10:00am and did not finish until 6:30pm (we had a short break for lunch).

The traditional security of tenure for Japanese professors has come under threat by the serious financial crisis facing many private universities. The lack of new students has forced some institutions to near bankruptcy. Many junior colleges are in the process of being closed or merged with four-year universities, and in the process jobs are being lost. Foreign professors in particular are vulnerable when this happens because they usually do not have the job-for-life that is guaranteed to Japanese faculty. In 1991 a union for foreign university teachers was formed called the General Union. It has had some success helping foreign teachers in cases of unfair dismissal, and, unlike the Japanese faculty unions, is prepared to use the courts to stand up for the rights of employees who are treated badly. Japanese unions are very unwilling to take cases to court because of the widespread aversion to this type of confrontational behaviour in Japanese society as a whole.

Further Reading
There are no books in English on Japanese university faculty unions. For more information on Japanese universities in general see:

Japanese Higher Education: Perspectives on Change and Reform edited by Roger Goodman, Yumiko Hada and Jerry Eades. Trans Pacific Press.

Also see Japanese Higher Education as Myth by Brian McVeigh, M.E. Sharpe 2002.

For information on school teachers’ unions in Japan see my book, Teachers’ Unions and the Politics of Education in Japan, SUNY (State University of New York) Press 2001.

For more information about the General Union that represents foreign faculty in Japan see the General Union website.