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.