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Crushing workload at schools is causing more Japanese teachers to suffer chronic depression

19 Comments
By Koh Ruide, SoraNews24

Fresh out of university and with a teaching license, most Japanese teachers would be brimming with anticipation at helping shape the lives of the younger generation and inspiring them for years to come. But reality later hits some teachers hard, when the joys of teaching their favorite subjects become buried under an immense workload of juggling club activities, meetings, and endless tasks that have little to do with teaching.

Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has discovered that last year a total of 5,077 teachers suffered from depression and took a break from their jobs. That’s 186 more than the previous year, and also the highest number in four years.

Elementary school teachers made up the largest group of the 5,077 who took breaks from teaching, coming in at 2,333 compared to 1,384 for junior high school teachers. The number of high school teachers taking a depression-related leave of absence was were significantly less at 742, and special needs teachers last at 612.

Breaking it down by region, the top three most affected areas are heavily-populated Tokyo at 602, followed closely by Osaka at 430 and Aichi Prefecture at 331.

33 percent of these overworked teachers took respites of six months or less, while 13 percent were so burnt out that they took extended breaks for more than two years.

What’s more, 1,023 employees suffering from depression gave up and resigned from teaching last year.

“Teachers are currently suffering from chronic depression due to the intense workload required by schools. Even after taking breaks and returning to their jobs, some of these people find it so overwhelming that they have to take time off yet again. We sorely need to have this issue addressed,” said Makane Kaoruko, head of the Psychiatry Department at Sanraku Hospital.

Japanese netizens sympathized with the teachers:

“I think this is simply a matter of educators working extremely long hours. Leave the club activities to sports experts and let teachers teach.”

“We used to make fun of junior high school teachers during club activities. But come to think of it, they really looked after us even on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s a tough job.”

“This has been brought up before, but no improvements have been made at all. There will be a drastic shortage of teachers at this rate.”

Perhaps the unrelenting workload is a result of Japan’s declining birth rate as the country simply does not have enough hands to take up the educator’s mantle, which means a ton of responsibilities being dumped onto Japanese teachers every day.

Source: NHK News via My Game News Flash

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Is Japan overworking its teachers? One exhausted educator says, “YES!”

-- Under 35 percent of middle school English teachers in Japan meet government proficiency benchmark

-- Teacher says Japanese schools’ mandatory extracurricular activity rules don’t benefit students

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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Doesn’t take a genius to figure this one out.

Japans teachers are also suffering from Japan Inc’s workaholic, soul crushing, die for your job mentality?

Well why wouldn’t they be? A good portion of the nation is overworked and depressed.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Perhaps the unrelenting workload is a result of Japan’s declining birth rate as the country simply does not have enough hands to take up the educator’s mantle

Or perhaps not

Why was this thrown in at the end. Sounds like an agenda.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Perhaps the unrelenting workload is a result of Japan’s declining birth rate as the country simply does not have enough hands to take up the educator’s mantle, which means a ton of responsibilities being dumped onto Japanese teachers every day.

Or perhaps not.

Wouldn't a declining birthrate lead to less teachers and .... less children / students?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Organized club activities are an unnecessary burden on teachers who are being worked to death by bureaucrats. The coercive practice of Bukatsu impinging on pupils' precious free time to explore and learn outside of the soul-destroying examination mania is a blatant attempt by the state to control and discipline the student body in order to dilute individualism and promote conformity. This perverted system of education produces a plethora of drudges lacking in imagination and knowledge of the world and of themselves. One day a young generation of Japanese will wake up angry.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

agree 100% with the bukkatsu comment.

making teachers & students do an activity neither really want to do, is a lose-lose situation. At least scale it back from its current twice a day, six days a week.

giving both teachers & students more free time to relax would certainly make the schools a lot happier place to be

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Year after year, for decades ..same articles get written, same buraucrats hold meetings and studies, release recommendations ( non binding of course ) about reducing administrative and bukatsu club duties etc.....and NOTHING ever happens beyond that. The same process than gets repeated in a year or two.....TIJ and no bureaucrat at Ministry of Education wants to be the one who makes any kind of a decision that actually results in any change beyond lip service.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The coercive practice of Bukatsu impinging on pupils' precious free time to explore and learn outside of the soul-destroying examination mania is a blatant attempt by the state to control and discipline the student body in order to dilute individualism and promote conformity. 

I'd like to be able to upvote this comment multiple times.

In addition, the bukatsu system also erodes the family structure by reducing weekend and holiday times with family. Many, many times I've had my family's plan disrupted or abandoned because of bukatsu. My poor children want to enjoy the family trips but can't due to the pressure they face by bukatsu members for non-attendance. Our Christmas day family meal was tainted in this way because one club member complained that my youngest would attend practice on that day. This is one example of state-endorsed peer-pressure enculturating its young into highly collective patterns of thought that deny individualism.

The result is that family trips and such are highly curtailed.

The supervisors of these 'extra' curricular activities are, of course, teachers. And it's worthwhile remembering that bukatsu also limits teachers' private lives and is a factor in the cause of the number of depressive teachers.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Wouldn't a declining birthrate lead to less teachers and .... less children / students?

Can’t follow your thinking here. Wouldn’t less students equal more teachers? Urban schools consolidating or closing? Sure, baby boomers are retiring, and the temp teachers are filling their spot, leading to a shortage of temp teachers. But associating it with the minuscule year to year drop in population seems ridiculous, or an agenda.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'd like to be able to upvote this comment multiple times.

I can’t.

Sure the system could be tweaked, but IMO, kids have a lot of energy that must be channeled. Otherwise, you’re gonna get a very high level of young video gamers. They simply need to remove the teachers from the responsibilities of extra curricular activities.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Elementary school teachers made up the largest group of the 5,077 who took breaks from teaching, coming in at 2,333 compared to 1,384 for junior high school teachers...high school teachers...significantly less at 742, and special needs teachers last at 612.

I wonder if/how this is affected by the amount of parent-teacher interaction?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'd like to be able to upvote this comment multiple times.

Fizzbit: I can’t.

Fair enough. And I agree that channelling the energies of schoolchildren towards productive aims does seem desirable.

However, the question is if this should be a matter for governmental educational policy or for individual families. I suspect that you favour an official approach, but I'm firmly in the libertarian side.

I have in front of me Sendai City Board of Education's 2019 teacher recruitment pamphlet. Eight teachers' weekday daily schedule are given. All arrive in school before 8 am. All leave after 6:30 pm. Their sleeping hours all fall below the recommended 7-9 hours (in multiple Western sources), usually at 5 and 1/2 or 6. In summary, we have 10-11 hour work days on top of sleep deprivation.

It's too much to argue here that the bukatsu system is the sole factor in creating this toxic culture of excessive adult workload with little work-life balance, but I feel that it contributes significantly. As a Western father seeing my bi-cultural children become enculturated into the Japanese mindset, I have often wondered how people become Japanese. The bukatsu idea is instrumental.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If the teachers are overloaded and depressed.... WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS!!!???

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How is it Japan , with such beaurocratic tendencies , can’t all put their heads together to streamline the job and make it more efficient. Make the job about teaching again? It’s one of the greatest unsolveable mysteries I’ve come across living here. So many people doing what exactly? Teachers cop it bad.

Educating the next generation. It’s sort of important.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As Maria suggests, if the majority of depressed teachers work in elementary schools, the most likely suspect is not bukatsu, because most elementary schools don't have them. What they do have are more events to be organized and more interaction with parents compared to a JHS.

My kids do sports and yes, I agree that bukatsu are a huge burden on staff. They also destroy family life and stifle all other interests your child might have. I also believe it is counterproductive for children to do single sports. My kids do equipment-heavy sports, and the excessive approach in Japan mean that it all has to be top of the line gear. A thirteen year old should not need a 40,000 yen suit simply to warm up in.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

And the BIGGEST hypocrite of the lot is...............

Quote: "Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has discovered that last year a total of 5,077 teachers suffered from depression and took a break from their jobs. "

Oh, whoop-de-doo! Clap clap clap. What a clever discovery. NOT. You have known about this for years and years and years, and done little to nothing about it. Shame on you, Monbu Kagaku Sho.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Bukatsudo is there to drive home the message to students that they should not expect to have any unstructured, discretionary or creative time in their lives, because that would adversely impact companies that expect them to work uncompensated and without complaint for 12 hours a day from the time they complete their "education", which is actually operant conditioning for the workplace.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A 100% their (teachers) fault. They're so proud of "we Japanese don't use any of the 40 paid holidays we legally have. Every year I have the same argument with my Japanese (teachers) co-workers and every year they tell me that I should do the same as them (not taking any of my paid holidays).

I used to pity them coz they have massive workloads but not anymore. Coz they are so proud of "not taking any paid leave" and always try make me feel bad for taking my legally paid holidays to go and enjoy life. Which really doesn't work coz I always tell them all I had such a great time and show them videos of all my awesome lines in the backcountry in Hokkaido.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Same story worldwide. In Japan a first point solution would be to allow japanese teachers to take the holidays the same as the students. Also, to remove the unnecessary Saturday schooling, and hav teachers work no later than 4;30/5pm at schools. Way too much is expected from teachers

2 ( +2 / -0 )

20 years in the system I just don’t think it will ever change. This is their lot in life. If they ever had an inkling of what their potentials were the group mentality of overwork and going through the motions just destroyed it. Once they hit any positions where finally they can make a decision themselves , say in their 50s or so the window of innovation and creative alternatives was dead long ago. And the will to change so late in the game is obviously gone too.

What it does do well though is it produces the next generation to continue the tradition. It’s not pretty, but there are a few superhero’s that walk amoungst them, managing to care more for these kids often than their families can, stay upbeat and do the work of 50 mere mortals.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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