Japan's overworked and underpaid teachers
Japan Times -- Mar 14
The Teaching and Learning International Survey carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2013 - to examine the working hours of public middle school teachers in 34 countries and regions - came as a shock.

The international average was 38.3 hours per week, but by far the highest was Japan's with 53.9 hours, far higher than any others on the survey. The second highest was Alberta, Canada, with 48.2 hours, and the third was Singapore, with 47.6 hours.

What was even more alarming, however, was a survey carried out by the education ministry in 2016, showing that elementary school teachers in Japan worked an average of 57 hours and 25 minutes, and junior high school teachers 63 hours and 18 minutes per week.

According to the survey, 33.5 percent of elementary school teachers and 57.7 percent of junior high teachers are estimated to have clocked more than 80 hours of overtime a month. If the hours that teachers routinely spend at home to take care of their workload, which come to four or five hours a week, are included, 57.8 percent of elementary school teachers and 74.1 percent of junior high teachers did more than 80 percent of monthly overtime - a level of overwork deemed to threaten workers' health.

Of course, there are other jobs that require long working hours, such as those in the food and beverage, construction and information-technology sectors. But the ratio of people in those sectors working more than 60 hours a week - roughly translating to over 80 hours of overtime a month - is 28.4 percent, 13.1 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively.

The ministry survey also pointed to the fact that only 10.3 percent of elementary school and 13.3 percent of junior high school teachers record their work hours on time cards or other devices. Most others do not keep records of their hours, and any acknowledgment of their extra work by the management is often informal and casual, such as in early morning roll call meetings.

A media report in January showed that local governments across Japan, to help resolve this problem of teachers' long overtime, hired roughly 10,000 more teaching staff than under the national government program on their own budget in fiscal 2017. That is certainly good news. But, since there are 20,000 public elementary schools and 10,000 junior high schools in Japan, 10,000 more teachers means an addition of one teacher per every three public schools - not nearly enough to address the problem in any significant way.

Among ideas to resolving many teachers' overwork, the education ministry has suggested that teachers should be compensated for coaching the students' after-school sports and cultural activities with days off. Currently, teachers coach these activities not just on weekdays after school, but often on weekends and during holiday seasons without remuneration. A more long-term plan proposes hiring extra manpower for coaching of after-school activities instead of getting teachers to do the task. But where would the funding for that come from?

The ministry also suggests that additional manpower provided by local governments, boards of education, parents and other community volunteers could help with things like watching over students on their way to and from school as well as cleaning classrooms and other facilities so that teachers can be relieved of these tasks. Another responsibility that befalls teachers concerns underage students who may be out at night. Teachers sometimes have to deal with the police on such matters.

News source: Japan Times
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