What is HEC?

** For 2020-2021, the format of the Hokkaido English Challenge has changed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. See below for more details.

Thank you for your continued support! **

The Hokkaido English Challenge is an English competition for junior and senior high school students. It was established by JET Program participants in 1994 as a means of motivating students to improve their speaking skills. HEC’s founders hoped that interaction with Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) would boost the student’s confidence and language abilities. The test challenges students to use the English they have learned beyond the classroom setting, allowing them more interaction with a native English speaker, while using their abilities creatively.

Originally, HEC hosts an immersive English summer camp for top winners in each junior and senior high division. However, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the camp has been canceled until further notice.

To provide prizes, HEC relies on entry fees and donations gathered from fundraisers. It is only with the fantastic support from the Hokkaido Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching (HAJET) and Hokkaido’s ALTs that we are able to hold this competition every year. HEC is accredited by the Hokkaido Board of Education and is sponsored by HAJET.

The HEC team is very excited to announce that we will be continuing with the Hokkaido English Challenge for 2020-2021*!!

However, due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will NOT be hosting an English summer camp. We will NOT be awarding a homestay experience to the grand prize winner. HEC 2021 will comprise only of the speaking test that is administered by an ALT and a witness. Upon completion of the test, the student will receive a Certificate of Completion that can be supplementary towards high school and university applications.

But we’ve got some good news! We will be allowing both first AND second year junior and senior high students to participate in the challenge for the first time**! That being said, we have increased the amount of winners this year. There will be 1 grand prize plus 2 runner up winners for each grade in the junior high and senior high categories separately, a total of 12 winners! The registration fee has also been lowered to 2,000 yen for this year. 

🥇 The Grand Prize winner will receive up to 30,000 yen in English related gifts of the student’s choosing.
🥈 The second place winner will receive up to 15,000 yen in English related gifts of the student’s choosing.
🥉 The third place winner will receive up to 7,500 yen in English related gifts of the student’s choosing.

Thank you to the ALTs and their students who have expressed interest in doing the English Challenge despite the setbacks of this year. We are endlessly thankful for your continued support and we look forward to cooperating with you for another successful HEC year! Be on the lookout for more details about HEC coming out soon.

* Participation of ALTs and their corresponding Board of Education may vary depending on the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions.

** Entry of second years is currently planned to be limited to HEC 2020-2021 year only, to compensate for the current 2nd year students who applied last year when HEC was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Current 2nd year students can still apply this year even if they didn’t apply last year. Registration is open to ANY 1st and 2nd junior and senior high students. 

Registration is limited to 10 per grade, maximum of 15 students per school.


HEC is an exciting opportunity for both the ALT and the students. There is a lot of information and steps that need to be done, so it can get overwhelming. But not to worry, we’ve put together a Starter Kit that has all the important documents you need to successfully administer the Hokkaido English Challenge right at your schools.

The Starter Kit includes:

  • The Official and Abbreviated HEC Guide
  • Letter Packs, a formal letter addressed to the BOEs, schools, parents, and teachers about HEC
  • Paper Registration Form
  • Posters in both English and Japanese
  • The Test Preparation Packet
  • The previous year’s JHS test
  • The previous year’s SHS test

Individual links to all these resources can be found on the Information Page. If you have any questions about how to use these documents or about HEC in general, the HEC Director email is always available at hec@hajet.org.

General Timeline for 2020-2021

December 7 to February 12: Registration starts. Start talking to your teachers about HEC and gauging the interest of your students.

January: Practice with your students! Look over past tests available here. Read through all materials and make sure both you and your students understand the rules of each section. Register students for the test.

Mid-February: Registration deadline. Practice with your students. Prepare video/audio equipment, a room, and a witness.

March/April: Test deadline. Receive test packets. Check your recording room and equipment ahead of time. Check for correspondence from HEC Test Coordinator.

May: Winners announced!