HEC, or the Hokkaido English Challenge, is an English competition for junior and senior high school students established by participants of the JET Program in 1994 as a means of motivating students to improve their oral skills. Our founders hoped that by interacting with ALTs, the students’ confidence and language proficiency would improve. Today we continue to meet those goals by providing students unique opportunities to use English as a means of communication and exposing students to a wide variety of foreign cultures.

The challenge has two divisions: the Juniors Division and the Seniors Division. Only first year junior high and first year senior high students may enter. This age restriction is not only meant to make the competition fair, but also to take into account the demands of HEC and the timing constraints that would likely be experienced by upper-year students.

Interested students will first take part in a twenty-minute test, which is administered and recorded by the student’s assistant language teacher (ALT). The video is sent to judges for evaluation and results are announced before summer vacation. The test’s emphasis is on communicative ability. Entrants are awarded points for showing creativity with their acquired English, for their ability to express thoughts clearly, and for how they cope with unfamiliar vocabulary and grammar. The test is based on the national syllabus.

Once the test is graded, HEC will provide the highest scoring student of the junior division with a home-stay trip to the English speaking country of the student’s choice. HEC invites other high scoring students to the annual HEC English Summer Camp. Other English related prizes are available.

To fund the camp and 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.