Career & Education

I owe it all to JET, says Canadian high commissioner

Career & Education writer

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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Canada's High Commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters has attributed her success as a diplomat to the 31-year-old Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) .

Peters, who brought greetings at Thursday evening's send-off reception for the 2018 cohort of Jamaicans, revealed that she served as an assistant English teacher in the Japanese prefecture of Sendai for two years, from 1988 – 1990.

From there, she held a string of mostly government positions, including two which took her back to Japan — as head of public affairs, Canada Pavilion, Department of Canadian Heritage in 2005; and as counsellor and head of public affairs at the Embassy of Canada to Japan, from 2011-2015. During that time, she also served as a senior trade commissioner overseeing the international education and culture industry portfolios.

“I would not be standing here today as Canada's High Commissioner of Jamaica if it were not for the life-changing experience of the Japan Exchange Teaching programme,” Peters said Thursday.

“It was the international experience; it was becoming a global citizen; it was being open to opportunities that allowed me to come back with this... global, international thinking spirit that allowed me access other opportunities coming back,” Peters continued.

Thirty five Jamaicans have beeb accepted into the programme this year. Five left in April, and the others are scheduled to depart on July 28.

High Commissioner Peters told them that Japan has generous people who will push young people to do their best, and emphasised the cleanliness and safety of the Asian country.

“Be ambassadors for Jamaica,” she told the group. “Take the Jamaican vibe with you, but don't forget to love their culture as well. Figure out a good self-introduction for the workplace and ensure that you are always on time.”

“This is the most successful programme globally, I think in terms of taking in an international community, primarily young people and giving them the experience of their lifetime, so that they come back champions and ambassadors for Jamaica. It is truly impressive.”

Hiromasa Yamazaki, ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, congratulated the participants who are going to represent Jamaica.

Since 2000, the JET programme has catered for Jamaican young people, extending them the opportunity to become assistant language teachers all over Japan.

“As for Jamaica, the programme started in 2000, and since then, almost 400 participants have been sent to teach English at mostly public schools in many parts of Japan,” Hiromasa said.

“The JET Programme allows you the opportunity to experience the dynamics of a fascinating and multifaceted culture,” he added.

JET is not only an avenue for people to teach and earn an income, but it is an exchange where these young people are exposed to opportunities to make a better life for themselves and for Jamaica when they return.

“It is my hope that through the JET programme, the diplomatic relations between Japan and Jamaica will continue to strengthen the partnership which exists and promote more active exchanges between Jamaica and Japan through education”, said the ambassador.

Nichole Redwood, who replied on behalf of the participants, said they will “strive to share the Jamaican culture and strive to do their best”. She said she believes JET will equip them with the tools to break cultural barriers and use their adversities to build character.

The participants presented the ambassador with a token to represent their appreciation for having been given the opportunity to be a part of what Redwood calls a “life-changing experience”.

Education minister Ruel Reid was also present at the reception and wished the participants well in their endeavours. He also shared his own experience when he travelled to Japan as minister.

“Protocol management can be learnt in Japan,” he said. “You will develop friendships and relationships forever. When you return to Jamaica, come back and help to build a prosperous and peaceful society.”

This year, approximately 150 Jamaicans applied for the programme. The number of participants chosen each year depends on the demand for workers and the number of people who end their tenure on an annual basis.

“JET is a very competitive programme and as such we consider the applicants as “creme de la creme”. We not only focus on qualifications, but characteristics befitting ambassadors who will represent Jamaica well on a global scale,” said Shanice Carter, JET programme coordinator.

“The JETs have been placed in several different prefectures across the country, ranging from very large cities to rural towns. For example, Tokyo, Kobe, Hokkaido, Yamahuchi, Ibaraki, Tottori, just to name a few.”

JET applications usually open in September and close in November of each year. Applicants are required to complete the application form, medical form, show proof of qualifications and produce a criminal record, and are then invited for an interview.

“If shortlisted, they are further screened and the top candidates are then offered a placement recommended by those in Japan,” Carter said.

JET started in 1987 with the goal of promoting grass-roots international exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries.

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