Working in Japan

The 2020 MEXT Changes and You

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is set to implement a new public school English education system just in time for the opening ceremonies.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is set to implement a new public school English education system just in time for the opening ceremonies.

I won’t go through all of the changes here, (for full details, follow this link:, but the changes can basically be summed up in following three bullet points:

  • more mandatory English classes;
  • English classes mandatory at lower grades; and
  • higher level textbooks.

So what exactly does this mean for you, as a current or hopeful English teacher?

To at least partially answer that question, the follow are my predictions on the effect these changes will have on the public English teaching industry. Hopefully these insights will better prepare you for the potential shakeup.


More Teachers?

With the increased number of classes, it only makes sense that there will be an increased demand for teachers. This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but with the government already passing legislation to bring in more foreign workers to Japan, this seems like a sure thing.

The changes calculate out to about 400% more classes. If you’re looking to teach in Japan in the near future, this is great news! The increased need means there will be more jobs for more people, and you’ll have a much higher chance of getting selected. The next few years seem like a great time to hunt for an English teaching job in Japan, and while we can’t be certain, I’m willing to guess that even people from non-native speaking countries will be more welcome than ever before.


More Responsibilities?

With English becoming mandatory at lower grades, some Japanese English Elementary School Teachers will be pushed to teach a subject in they might have very little experience. For some teachers, this might mean leaning on the ALT more than ever before; some may even choose to hand off most of the teaching responsibilities altogether. Conversely, these teachers could be less willing to yield this teaching material to ALTs, and will end up taking complete control of the class.

While every situation is different, I would anticipate that far more teachers will lean on their ALTs than will exclude them, so I would advise current and potential ALTs to be prepared for their day-to-day responsibilities to increase. This makes you more valuable and more immersed in your teaching experience, so this is another good thing!


Private Teaching Opportunities

With all English subject teachers now needing to prove that they can pass the Grade pre-1 on the Eiken English test, you can bet some of them are going to look for some help with that. Entrepreneurial English teachers could put themselves in high demand by setting up private courses with their cities’ community centers and marketing themselves to the surrounding elementary schools.

The opportunities don’t stop with the teachers either. The students will be expected to be at the “Grade 2” level of the Eiken themselves, so I’m sure there will be more than a few hard-working students (or just as likely their ambitious parents) who find themselves looking for help outside of the classroom. This will again add money to the private teaching/Eikaiwa pie, waiting for smart private teachers to grab. Be proactive and take advantage of these chances if you can.

These are big changes that will require a big effort from a lot of people, but hopefully MEXT is working to make sure the necessary pieces are in place to make the transition as smooth as possible. While I anticipate a heavy workload for current ALTs, those still dreaming about working in Japan with the intention of arriving over the next few years should be very happy. I believe opportunities abound for them.

We shall see what happens.



Peter Lackner is the Managing Partner at and has had management-level positions at major job boards in Japan including:, GaijinPot, CareerEngine and currently the managing partner at

Running a job board gives Peter the opportunity to speak with employers and job seekers every day and find out why some are successful and others are not. Speaking to both employers and job seekers has given Peter the ability to be able to see both sides of the hiring process. This is why exists - to help job seekers find the jobs they want and employers to find the candidates they need.

Peter is active in the ETJ (English Teachers in Japan organization), a member of JALT’s School Owners SIG and currently on the Executive Board of the Tokyo Association of International Preschools.

You can often find Peter speaking to groups on how to get a new or better job, and to employers on how to avoid making a bad hire.

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