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PhD holder (not in English) - chances for uni job in Japan

 
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MdSmith



Joined: 15 Nov 2012
Posts: 59

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:28 am    Post subject: PhD holder (not in English) - chances for uni job in Japan Reply with quote

Hi all

Just out of curiosity what would my chances of landing a uni job in Japan teaching English (UK citizen)? I hold a PhD (in env sci) and have a few publications in that field, I have also previously taught efl in Europe for a year. In addition, are English lecturers at unis in Japan put under pressure to publish etc. or is the focus mostly on just teaching?

Thanks in advance.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Look at the JRECIN web site for ads in English and Japanese. If you can read Japanese, you'll notice that they are different.

Teaching English with an environmental science degree? Slim. Very slim. I hold a master's in a life science field with more than a few publications in that field (plus some in EFL), and despite 7 years of experience teaching here (eikaiwa and high school), and despite applying to over 30 science universities, I got only one bite.

Quote:
are English lecturers at unis in Japan put under pressure to publish etc. or is the focus mostly on just teaching?
Publish, publish, publish, especially if you land a job in a science uni.

What did "etc." refer to?

Competition is extremely steep, with other applicants holding linguistics degrees and such, and with experience in Japan. Expect 20-100 or more applicants per job. If you aren't physically present, odds go down even more.
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seyz



Joined: 17 Feb 2013
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski,

I was wondering what the OP's chances would be to get a teaching job teaching something more related to his PhD? Not sure if he would want that, but the two universities I've attend in Japan (albeit when I was younger and were certainly not top name universities) had a fairly well established program in English catered mostly towards international students but also for regular students. If the OP were to focus research on say environmental science in Japan or something related, would his chances increase?

Looking at international faculty profiles in various schools in Japan, I also see there's some variety in where they come from. The Ivys and Stanford-Duke-Chicago ranked schools of course represent a significant portion, but I have also seen quite a few professors teaching with degrees from much lower "ranked" schools in seemingly irrelevant fields to an international program (biology, computer science, etc.). As someone aspiring to work in academics I too wonder what my options will be in the future if I plan to relocate and stay in Japan indefinitely, as will such a uni position be available or would it be better to aim to teach English?
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

seyz wrote:
Glenski,

I was wondering what the OP's chances would be to get a teaching job teaching something more related to his PhD? Not sure if he would want that, but the two universities I've attend in Japan (albeit when I was younger and were certainly not top name universities) had a fairly well established program in English catered mostly towards international students but also for regular students. If the OP were to focus research on say environmental science in Japan or something related, would his chances increase?
Not unless the courses are taught in English. Again, this is assuming MdSmith's language ability is typically low. In a very rare case there may be allowance to teach non-language classes in English.

Quote:
I have also seen quite a few professors teaching with degrees from much lower "ranked" schools in seemingly irrelevant fields to an international program (biology, computer science, etc.).
Where you got your degree is largely unimportant. It boils down to whether you teach a language or other subject course and in what language. Usually, non-language courses are expected to be taught in Japanese.

Quote:
As someone aspiring to work in academics I too wonder what my options will be in the future if I plan to relocate and stay in Japan indefinitely, as will such a uni position be available or would it be better to aim to teach English?
Teach what you want to teach. You'll enjoy it more. Your other post described your credentials, so I'd say look at Miyazaki University or one of the 2 Ritsumeikan Universities (like APU), just for the subject you are in. But expect that based on your nationality you may also be automatically expected to teach some language courses, too.
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seyz



Joined: 17 Feb 2013
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the feedback. I will definitely take a look into those two unis!

I asked because I know now that a lot of universities are establishing these sort of interdisciplinary PhD programs that are taught in English so I would have assumed that the demand for English speaking and teaching professors would be somewhat higher.
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MdSmith



Joined: 15 Nov 2012
Posts: 59

PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the responses. Well I work as a lecturer in env sci in a uni now (not in Japan) and I like it when I can engage with students such as when lecturing and running field trips. However, this forms only a small part of my job and most of the time I have a pile of other admin and meetings to do...and occasionally have time for research. I guess I am looking for a more relaxed job where I can teach motivated adults, research is ok but is so time consuming and pressurised. I would prefer to teach env sci as this is where my specialisation lies but then I guess i'm also a bit of a specalist in English since it's my native tongue. However, jobs that involve teaching env sci only are rare and there are quite many jobs teaching English to adults. Sorry I'm thinking aloud and going on a bit. Thanks you have helped me understand the situation over there..

Cheers.
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rtm



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
Posts: 689
Location: US

PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MdSmith wrote:
I guess I am looking for a more relaxed job where I can teach motivated adults

I think you'd be surprised by university English teaching in Japan, then. I'd say that majority of English classes are for 18-19 year old kids who are just fulfilling a requirement. They are not exactly mature adults (mentally and emotionally), and often aren't interested or (internally) motivated. That said, there are students who are interested, but they often get lost in the mix at this level. I think you might get more interested students in content courses, such as international relations or applied linguistics (which seem to be taught in English more often), but you'd need a background in those areas.

Quote:
but then I guess i'm also a bit of a specalist in English since it's my native tongue.

Being a native speaker doesn't really make you a "specialist" in English (and saying so could be insulting to those who have advanced degrees in linguistics, applied linguistics or English language teaching).
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MdSmith wrote:
Thanks for the responses. Well I work as a lecturer in env sci in a uni now (not in Japan)
Ok, just so you know up front, there is a world of difference, and language is only part of it.

Quote:
and I like it when I can engage with students such as when lecturing and running field trips.
But can you do that in Japanese, because that's what you'll need 95% of the time to do those things.

Quote:
However, this forms only a small part of my job and most of the time I have a pile of other admin and meetings to do...and occasionally have time for research.
Expect a huge pile in Japan, and publishing is a major pressure. Of course, the meetings are in Japanese, but I didn't need to say that, did I? Laughing

Quote:
I guess I am looking for a more relaxed job where I can teach motivated adults,
As rtm wrote/suggested, the students you would get here (and I can say this because I work at a science uni) are not that motivated for their science studies. College in Japan is a time where most students relax after sweating blood just to get in past the entrance exams. Many/Most who fail a course will still pass if they ask the prof to do a report as make-up. Pitifully unfair, but it happens all too often. They are not used to participating in a classroom discussion, even in Japanese, either, only in getting credit so they can get a job.

Also, they are not adults emotionally. Consider them about 5 years behind their biological age.

Quote:
research is ok but is so time consuming and pressurised.
Take this with a grain of salt -- DUH! I have a science background, and unless you are in it just to be an academic paper pusher, the idea is that the uni wants you to do research, publish, get grants, publish, attract rich foreign students, publish, show off what the school has to offer, and publish.

Quote:
I would prefer to teach env sci as this is where my specialisation lies but then I guess i'm also a bit of a specalist in English since it's my native tongue.
Please take this in the spirit in which it is given: just being a native English speaker means NOTHING about your ability to teach it, let alone to foreign students. You initially wrote that you "previously taught efl in Europe for a year". Ok, what and where were your experience? I'm betting far from what you'd find here.
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MdSmith



Joined: 15 Nov 2012
Posts: 59

PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the responses. Sounds like teaching Eng at a uni in Japan would be similar to my experience of teaching env sci..! I don't speak any Japanese BTW so that would be a problem too...

In response to your question I taught Eng in Slovakia and I think I did okay, some students loved my classes (especially those in their late teens/early 20s), a few others less so (a class of young teenagers and a class of middle-aged people; although one class of middle-aged people was great and they enjoyed my classes). Sorry I actually agree that being a native speaker does not make me an expert teacher, I retract that! I actually miss the regular contact in classes and the sociable aspect of efl, I find being a lecturer to be quite isolating and formal (although it is a socially prestigous job, but then I'm quite down to earth and don't care much about that). So I see that it might be the same whether I teach env sci or Eng at a uni. Maybe teaching adults in a private language school etc might suit me better. I certainly remember feeling more 'alive' when i did efl before, I certainly felt less burdened by not having a 'career-path' to follow; in contrast i'm a bit of a stress-ball now. Just thinking aloud now.. Thanks again for your help. Cheers.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MdSmith wrote:
I find being a lecturer to be quite isolating and formal (although it is a socially prestigous job, but then I'm quite down to earth and don't care much about that). So I see that it might be the same whether I teach env sci or Eng at a uni.
Were you teaching at a conversation school/academy in Slovakia? In Japan, university classes are often not that different. It's not lecturing and by sheer virtue of the topic (oral communication, which they lack in practice from junior and senior high), they don't need any lecturer standing and talking a lot. They need a brief explanation of what to do and LOTS of practice doing it.

I work closely with our oral communication teacher (got out of that a few years ago and am now teaching reading, writing and listening skills), so I'm still well in touch with what goes on in an OC classroom. Most uni teachers have that sort of responsibility anyway, and as much as some people joke or complain that it's just conversation school again, a lot of us don't treat it that way. It's a real learning experience if done right. If you have students with a single major, you can focus their practice on real life situations related to their careers, for instance.

For the most part, uni students in Japan don't need more of the formal grammar classes they had earlier. They need (and want) speaking practice. The biggest problem is that many/most of them just expect to coast through 4 years of college automatically being given credits for attending a class and doing nothing except taking a test. Sadly, many Japanese teachers (especially of non-language courses) will pass students even though they didn't really pass their tests. But, I digress.
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OneJoelFifty



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My impression of teaching university English is that you mainly teach students in their first year. They are not motivated, and their skills have somehow managed to slowly and steadily decline, possibly from when they were in second grade junior high. They see English as an inconvenient course requirement, and take it early on so they can get it out the way and never think about it ever again. Until they leave university, get a job, get told that they ought to speak English, and start paying upwards of 3,000 Yen an hour for lessons. Accurate?
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OneJoelFifty wrote:
My impression of teaching university English is that you mainly teach students in their first year.
Probably so for most people, but that doesn't mean you have to teach only that group. I started out with all first-year student courses, plus 2 for third-year students. Depends on the majors sometimes and their course requirements.

Quote:
They are not motivated, and their skills have somehow managed to slowly and steadily decline, possibly from when they were in second grade junior high.
They didn't steadily decline. They fell precipitously after the first year of HS because of what and how they were taught.

What's worse, like you said, most uni students try to get their language credits "out of the way" early by taking as many as possible in their first year. Get them later as grad students, and you will see the same decline back to junior high levels.
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MdSmith



Joined: 15 Nov 2012
Posts: 59

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski wrote:
MdSmith wrote:
I find being a lecturer to be quite isolating and formal (although it is a socially prestigous job, but then I'm quite down to earth and don't care much about that). So I see that it might be the same whether I teach env sci or Eng at a uni.
Were you teaching at a conversation school/academy in Slovakia? In Japan, university classes are often not that different. It's not lecturing and by sheer virtue of the topic (oral communication, which they lack in practice from junior and senior high), they don't need any lecturer standing and talking a lot. They need a brief explanation of what to do and LOTS of practice doing it.

I work closely with our oral communication teacher (got out of that a few years ago and am now teaching reading, writing and listening skills), so I'm still well in touch with what goes on in an OC classroom. Most uni teachers have that sort of responsibility anyway, and as much as some people joke or complain that it's just conversation school again, a lot of us don't treat it that way. It's a real learning experience if done right. If you have students with a single major, you can focus their practice on real life situations related to their careers, for instance.

For the most part, uni students in Japan don't need more of the formal grammar classes they had earlier. They need (and want) speaking practice. The biggest problem is that many/most of them just expect to coast through 4 years of college automatically being given credits for attending a class and doing nothing except taking a test. Sadly, many Japanese teachers (especially of non-language courses) will pass students even though they didn't really pass their tests. But, I digress.


Yes I was teaching at an academy in Slovakia, small class sizes (around 15 students per class). I see now that teaching Eng at university level can be very engaging with the students. Today I gave a lecture to a class of 150 students.... a bit like talking to a sea of faces with the occasional answer given when i throw out a question... In this respect it sounds more enjoyable to teach Eng at a university... Thanks
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your oral communication classes at a Japanese uni are likely to have 40-80 students. Yes, try practicing any sort of activity in those conditions.

I used to have a reading & listening combination course with 90-120 students 2 years running, then I set a 40-student limit. Four years later, the school is fighting that and wants me to raise it. No way. They simply don't get it. It's not a lecture course. It's essentially a lab. Science labs might have that many, but they have the facilities and TAs. I have a room with tables and chairs and darned little elbow room. Oh, and the board is still a CHALK board.
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