lifestyle

Is Japan overworking its teachers? One exhausted educator says, 'YES!'

49 Comments
By Preston Phro

Japan has a reputation for overworking its employees, though it’s hardly the only country. But when it comes to education, you’d expect Japanese teachers, whose students often score among the top in the world on standardized tests, to be solely focused on their classroom materials. But you might be wrong!

One public middle school teacher has recently gotten a ton of attention online for a blog post about her impossible-to-manage duties as a “club leader” and her desire to actually change occupations due to the intense schedule. Read about her experience and the intense reactions below.

The teacher, who goes by the pseudonym Mayuko, has dedicated her entire blog, titled “The public junior high school after-school club advisory system is definitely illegal!!”, to things she finds wrong or absurd about Japan’s “advisory system.” The advisory system is basically the way that Japanese schools take care of oversight of after-school clubs, ranging from sports to cultural activities like tea ceremony or English.

Now, obviously Mayuko is strongly against the current system, so we wouldn’t recommend taking her views without a few grains of salt – but anyone who has worked in a public school in Japan can tell you that the teachers tend to be overworked and underpaid.

In her post, titled “I’m going to quit being a junior high school teacher,” Mayuko begins by explaining that she’s been a teacher for six years. Apparently, the entire time she’s been thinking about issues related to the after-school programs and how it affects her life and the lives of other teachers.

For example, she points out that even though, Monday through Friday, she’s working hard – including lengthy overtime preparing for class and helping her club members – she still has to come in on the weekend for more work. Obviously, she has no time to take a moment to relax or run errands.

However, this isn’t just a matter of the teacher being overworked. It seems that the after-school clubs and advisory system is also negatively affecting her ability to teach. Mayuko writes, “I can’t do lesson research on the weekend, but for classes on Mondays, I still have to keep things going. I’m always thinking up lessons on the spot.”

The middle school teacher also explains the psychological toll her job is taking, saying that since she’s always in front of the student’s she’s always in teacher mode. And once a teacher becomes an adviser for a club, it becomes an obligation and that teacher is always in contact with parents as the “club teacher.” Even worse is that she says she has no one to consult with, like an elder teacher or someone in a management role

Finally, Mayuko explains that she plans to quit teaching junior high school in one year and then move to another prefecture to become an elementary school teacher. “What I want to do is teach children. But I cannot accept the current after-school club advisory system for middle schools,” the frustrated teacher writes.

Obviously, there are a lot of people with a wide variety of strong reactions to Mayuko’s post! Here’s a sample of what we found both on her blog and elsewhere on the web.

First, a ton of other teachers commented on Mayuko’s blog, showing support for the beleaguered educator. Many of them seemed to completely agree with her and shared her misery. One teacher posted anonymously, saying that the time spent on after-school activities got in the way of her marriage.

Another poster pointed out that teachers are also expected to do all of this overtime work without overtime pay. Mayuko responded to the comment adding that they’re forced to work overtime without getting paid because it’s “for the children.”

One health and physical education teacher added her support, saying that every single thing Mayuko had written left the teacher nodding in agreement. The physical education teacher explained, saying, “I didn’t become a teacher for the after-school clubs, but get kids to exercise and have fun in class…to help them deepen their understanding of health.”

On the other hand, a lot of commenters seemed almost angry with Mayuko. For example, someone posting under the name Maaku wrote:

"To be blunt, you’re not suited to being a school teacher. I feel bad for your students. You shouldn’t wait until next year to quit your job. Being able to handle both classes and after-school clubs – that’s just natural in this world. Saying you can’t handle your classes because of the clubs is nothing more than an excuse.

"And you want to change to an elementary school since they don’t have any after-school clubs? Recently, elementary schools have started having clubs too. And the work is really difficult. Since the teachers don’t have a specialization, the preparation for classes isn’t even comparable to middle school. If you just want to teach, go work at a prep school. I feel bad for your kids, your students."

Another poster, calling him- or herself “elementary school” simply wrote:

"Don’t make light of elementary schools!"

The blog post has taken on a life of its own, getting attention around the web. Rakuten’s Social News site, which lets users vote on whether or not they agree with certain topics, even took up the issue. Though voting hasn’t closed yet, the comments also showed a diversity of opinions.

One user, going by the name YUHYUH, wrote the following:

"I think teachers with no motivation are just poison for society. If you put a rotten mikan orange in a box of mikan oranges, it’ll make them all go bad, and if she were just a regular office employee it’d be bad enough, but all the dozens of students that are taught by her might also have their futures ruined. I wouldn’t want someone like that taking up the teacher’s cane. To leave someone like her in charge of elementary school students? I would have nothing but eternal doubts."

In response to YUHYUH, another user, going by the name Aomidori Yasa, wrote:

"Even so, normalizing overtime work (overtime work that teachers don’t get paid for…apparently) is the problem. I want the teachers to work on improving their relationships and discussing with each other and the students how to improve the system. But, well, if you think about what this teacher is looking for, it seems like a prep school or cram school would be better for her. I think she’d be better off looking for that kind of job than trying to get a job teaching in an elementary school."

This is obviously just a very small sampling of all the reactions to Mayuko’s blog post. We’re sure that there are some teachers in Japan who would agree with Mayuko – and probably plenty who would disagree as well.

Sources: Bukatsu1234 (Mayuko’s blog), Rakuten Social News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Teacher hides touching message to departing students in final test -- Japanese Teacher Suspended for Hugging Students While Singing to Them -- Care for a cream puff? Osaka elementary school teachers allegedly serial drugged by colleague

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49 Comments
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I'm on her side. I was a guest teacher in an elementary school (1-5) and saw the torture the teachers had to endure, all in the name of 'the children'. What a load of crap! I stayed with the family of two of those students - one grade one and one grade five, and witnessed too much to talk about in this thread. It'll be interesting watching how much I'm cursed or approbated.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

There's a lot of truth to this, and with many schools having classes six days a week in the near future, it is only going to get worse. I will say, though, that not all teachers are as busy as they seem. Coaches are often hired, especially since some of the teachers are put in charge of a sport that they have never played before. So although they may go to the club activity, they are really not doing any coaching. But having to sit and chaperone takes time away from other things. I've often wondered if having seasonal sports would be better for Japan. Taking it a little easier during the off-season would allow both children and teachers to focus on studies more.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It's a JOB. And one should work to live not live to work. It makes me sick to see these teachers so overburdened even if that means not going home until everyone else does. Until people here start working like normal people it will remain this way. Come on, somebody other than a person from another country be the first in your school to go home on time.

18 ( +18 / -1 )

I coach a high school karate team and also juggle my English teaching duties along with our exchange programmes. Coming from Australia , where a teacher is a fairly cushy job it was a big shock. Luckily I run the club with another teacher and the OBs come often to help out too. Its all about building a team of supporters. If you love what you do ( Im a complete karate geek) then its doable, but Im glad I don't have kids of my own to raise! Also, it would be nice to get more support from those in positions of power, who should recognize what a sacrifice teachers make, not expect it. Difficult job, not for the faint hearted. Osu.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

I will say, though, that not all teachers are as busy as they seem. Coaches are often hired, especially since some of the teachers are put in charge of a sport that they have never played before. So although they may go to the club activity, they are really not doing any coaching.

@maxjapank

Although this is true to a point in many cases here, these sorts of duties occupy huge blocks of time of both full-time teachers and students, particularly all-day sessions nearly every Saturday, Sunday and national/school/summer holidays. Even if a full timer plays no hands-on role in coaching/advising, they are obligated to be at club/sports practices from start to finish. (As a side note from my own observations, club activities seem to be designed to keep youth under surveillance and out of trouble 12 months a year, given the substantial risk to a given school's reputation if any students do get themselves into trouble.)

Sports/club duties coupled with long (and largely counterproductive) meetings nearly every day mean close to zero time for teachers to spend with their own spouses/children. This helps explain why a large percentage of teachers in Japan never get married, or if they do never have children of their own.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The workload of teachers wouldn't be so tough if they didn't have to do all the other duties that are expected of them. If a kids gets done for shoplifting, the teacher gets called in. If the kid has problems at home, the teacher has to get involved. There are also innumerable parent teacher meetings (especially at elementary and junior high schools). Sometimes these meetings consist of simply reading through a circular to make sure all the parents know what is going on. Speaking of my own experiences in this country. At my sons' elementary school, there was a great veteran teacher who was just coming up to retirement. She actually lives just down the road from us and we are friends with her as a neighbor. She used to say that she would love to have been able to dismiss the majority of her meetings in about 5 minutes. However, there was always push back from parents. Indeed, some parents used to show signs of dependency withdrawal if meetings (the meeting format) didn't last at least 90 minutes.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Sensato

I think you missed my sentence, "But having to sit and chaperone takes time away from other things."

But if my private high is of any relavance, teachers will sometimes take turns coaching/chaperoning. So there are ways to have some time of your own. And...I'd say that 70% of my fellow teachers are married with children.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I don't think people realize just exactly teachers go through unless you either are one, are married to one, or closely related to one. It's eye-opening to say the least. My brother and I both spent a lot of time growing up in Japan and also either went to college there or did graduate work there. He did his undergraduate in Chemical Engineering and decided to go into teaching high school after a brief foray in the business world.

He taught regular Chem, Chem honors and AP Chem, as well as Japanese for the foreign language department. He got 20 minutes for lunch, but was rarely able to take it as there was always some matter or student that needed attending to. The school gave him exactly 40 minutes to plan for 6 different classes taught daily and to grade, and was often pulled out during planning time to deal with something completely unrelated. Needless to say, he worked a lot of free overtime at school (with clubs or as an advisor) and also coached American football as well. He did get some extra pay for the coaching bit, but when accounted for on an hourly basis, it came out to just over a dollar per hour, so it was a labor of love for him and not something that he really expected to pay.

After dealing with an often absent and indifferent administration, poorly behaved and lazy students, unreasonable and self-righteous parents, and a generally hostile public he decided to go back into the private sector and tripled his teacher salary after only a year and a half. The public depends on the good and generous nature of teachers to educate their children and keep society going. I think in many countries, we've been able to get away with paying teachers far below what they are worth by taking advantage of this good nature, not only in terms of deplorable pay, but also in heaping duties onto them that are clearly unrelated to teaching.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I think that there are three separate issues here:

First. Teaching isn't an easy job, despite what many people think. As a rule of thumb for every hour in the classroom a teacher needs 1.5 hours of preparation time. That time is used to prepare lessons, mark homework, etc. For those of you in business think about how long it takes you to prepare a presentation or report on your area of the business. The slides, the handouts, the actual thought that goes into how to present the information in a way that your audience will understand. Teachers do this every day. There are many complaints about the reliance on textbooks and the poor quality of teaching, but this is a direct result of teachers simply not having enough time to prepare lessons tailored to the class. Add to this the extremely test-heavy Japanese school environment and a lot of time that should be spent preparing lessons goes to preparing tests, marking tests, and leaves very little time for getting any educational benefit from the tests. A teacher who is in the classroom 4 hours a day needs, at minimum, a further 6 hours of preparation time, so that's a 10 hour day before you even get to my next point.

Second. Teachers don't just teach. They are expected to handle administrative and disciplinary issues. Every time there's a bullying issue I see posters on JT asking, "Where was the teacher?!!!??!". The teacher was doing their job, teaching or preparing to teach, not hanging around the classroom acting as a nanny/security guard. Teachers are also required to do a massive amount of administrative work that isn't related to teaching their subject, for example disciplining students. As previous commentators have noted the role of teachers in Japan also extends to students' lives outside of school, but even if it didn't it takes a massive amount of work just to untangle a single incident of bullying and establish who started it, why, when, etc. Not to mention the headaches of trying to just keep track of 30~40 teenagers who are each going through their own little rebellious stage. Speak to any parent and they'll tell you just how hard it is to manage one or two. Now try managing 30 of them. So let's add perhaps 2 hours a day for administration and discipline. Now your teacher is up to a 12 hour day. Still, that's about average in Japan, so what are they whining about?

Thirdly, and finally. On top of teaching, discipline and administrative work, most teachers are expected to either run or assist in running a club. Most clubs meet every day for 1.5 to 2 hours after school, and the students must be supervised, so the teacher needs to be physically present, which means they can't be at their desk marking or preparing lessons (and who could concentrate with 30 or 40 teenagers messing about around you?). Of course most teachers don't have a clue about the club they're running, they aren't pro baseball players or soccer players or concert-level musicians... but they are supposed to be coaching students who aspire to reach these sort of levels, so they need to do some reading and prepare some sort of activities for the students. There's a lot of pressure from the parents and school for these clubs to win national competitions, and even though the teachers aren't expert coaches there is a ton of pressure for them to provide expert-level coaching. This means that in order to not get yelled at by parents and the headmaster these teachers need to put in another hour or so of preparation every day to prepare club activities that at least LOOK like they're preparing the kids to win competitions.

This brings the hypothetical teacher's total number of working hours up to 15 or 16 hours a day. Of course a lot of teachers don't do all this stuff, they use textbooks and just read them in class, their approach to discipline is medieval (corporal punishment and "shut up and do your work"), bullying isn't dealt with and the club activities in many cases are a joke, with the teacher sitting in the corner frantically marking tests while the senior students try and organize everything. For good teachers, who really try to cram 15 to 16 hours of work in every day, the way Japanese schools are organized is soul-destroying, and they quit, burn out or suffer a nervous breakdown in the first decade. This means that the bad teachers are the ones who achieve seniority in Japanese schools (with a few rare exceptional teachers who somehow manage to survive) and these bad senior teachers actively discourage the optimistic younger teachers from doing anything that would show up just how bad a job the senior teachers are doing.

... and professional development and keeping their knowledge up to date? Who has time for that? As a result Japan's education system is on a one-way trip to one of the worst in the world. But don't worry, the geniuses in the Japanese government have a solution!! They want to add another day to the teacher's working week... Yay!!!!!

17 ( +21 / -4 )

The structural difference between Japanese and American schools is simply the amount days students are in school. There is more workload for the teachers. Students in Japan spend 240 days a year at school, 60 days more then their American counterparts. The students in Japan still spend significantly more time in school than students in the U.S. The traditional Japanese schools also have a half day of instruction on Saturdays. As a result, in 13 years of schooling, U.S. students receive almost a year less than those in Japan.

Japan also has a nationalized system by making sure that every student receives the exact same education and thus the system aims to decrease any gaps based on differential curricula. In the U.S., even though standardized testing such as the ACT and the SAT are nationalized, the playing field is not. The Japanese schools are educating students at a even level and students in the U.S. must find a way over the hurdle of decentralized, state determined curricula.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Nordic schools consistently are the top 5 in the world? Because they teach in an exact opposite way to Japan

13 ( +14 / -1 )

The lady is not lying.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@sfjp330

Interestingly enough, although Japanese students may have more school days than American schools, the number of hours of instructions are actually lower than most states. 35 American states require at least 990 hours of instruction in middle school, while Japan only requires 868.

Also, only just this last year did the Ministry of Education relax its rules about Saturday classes. Most schools couldn't conduct Saturday classes without special permission. However, now it is up to the individual schools to decide whether to hold them or not. As a result, my private school is implementing them from 2015. And it won't be long before most schools follow suit. There's a sad belief that quantity beats quality. Or...keeping kids in school, keeps them from misbehaving.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I think being a teacher is one of the most influential and rewarding jobs on the planet. When I recollect people who influenced my life, particularly giving me support just when I needed it, there were two teachers in particular. Not a doctor, lawyer, priest, businessman, etc.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Teaching in Japan is a tough life. Very little time with your own family. I know a teacher who spends most of her time calling parents who continually forget/refuse to pay the school lunch fee!! Wow! Brilliant use of a teacher's time. This is just one example of course.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It sad how the teachers work so hard and the kids come out so incapable. The only thing they can do is tests.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

She's right, and any of those criticizing her I can guarantee are 'monster parents' (a term that only exists here, as if to drive the point home). Back when I sometimes worked at junior highs I suggested an 'English room' where students could come freely and chat with me when I was there, watch Western movies, and look at picture books, etc., but the local BOE said I would have to submit a formal plan and application, and be present every day, on Saturdays, and during the summer, etc.

Now, add to that very large class sizes and no system to deal with disciplary issues.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Seriously ? All school / uni teachers I know got almost 5 month paid holidays... go work harder! Education is getting worse and worse and that is direct fault of teachers!

-17 ( +2 / -19 )

Alex EinzFeb. 26, 2014 - 03:21PM JST Seriously ? All school / uni teachers I know got almost 5 month paid holidays... go work harder! Education is getting worse and worse and that is direct fault of teachers!

In the interests of education I'd like to inform you that you are mistaken. The school holidays may total a little over 3 months, but the teachers (and majority of the students) are at school every day.

Clubs do not stop, but often instead become all-day activities, running from 8am to 4pm in many cases. Tournaments and competitions are often held in the holidays, which means that instead of working 8am to 8pm the teacher works a 24 hour day chaperoning a bunch of students on a trip to some far-flung corner of Japan. Not only is chaperoning a bunch of randy teenagers (and keeping the boys out of the girls' beds, and vica versa) a horror of a job, but these trips typically involve months of pre-meetings, booking hotels, and other admin. Anyone who thinks this is a "holiday" has never had to wake up at 2am to go around the rooms with a flashlight and shoo a boy out of a girl's room. Even a day-event like a trip to a tournament involves a massive amount of admin, jumping through bureaucratic hoops to get funding for buses, etc. If you have the misfortune to be hosting the event it means liaising with literally dozens of schools to find accommodation, etc for literally thousands of students. People in business whine and make a meal of it when they have to organise a conference for a couple of hundred people, and they hire specialist conference organisers. Teachers just get the job done on a shoe-string budget and with little or no help.

For teachers who do not have club responsibilities the Prefectural Board of Education often schedules spring/summer camps for the students, which run for several days. I haven't worked at any of these camps, but I have friends who have and they report that they're much like club trips where you're essentially working a 24 hour day, and the teachers take it in turns to wake up at odd hours and check on the kids. And maybe you're picturing a business trip? No way. Everything is on a shoe-string budget, which means you bring your own snacks, sleep in a common tatami room with a dozen other teachers, and if you're lucky you get a bit of thank you money that just about covers your travel expenses.

Even if you're involved in none of these things then there are pre-meetings to attend, students to allocate to classes, reports to write, parents to meet with, students who need extra lessons (because the Japanese government still hasn't corrected the error in the graduation rules that means that the students need to attend more hours of class than there are in a school year), textbooks to read/evaluate/order, equipment to service, ... and of course the last 3 weeks of the summer holidays are spent helping students to prepare for the sports and cultural festivals, during which time they normally make floats, sew costumes, etc.. but all that stuff needs to be ordered/supervised/coordinated/checked for safety. etc.

School holidays? Not even the students have school holidays in Japan.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

In the interests of education I'd like to inform you that you are mistaken.

One would think after our last two discussions that you would have learned to tone it down a bit. However, I do agree with you this time. As has been mentioned all through this thread, the main focus for most teachers does not end up being with their actual teaching. Teaching alone is enough of a hard job, but when you add in all the other responsibilities, it ends up being a huge load physically and mentally on the teacher. That is why so many end up having to take 'sick leave' to recuperate psychologically from breakdowns as a result of the workload and pressure.

There was a recent article about this:

http://www.rttnews.com/2028583/over-5000-teachers-in-japan-suffer-from-mental-illness.aspx

Depression or other mental illness have forced more than 5,000 school teachers in Japan to take leave during the last fiscal year, says a government survey.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Sorry, I have never heard anything you describe above... maybe you should be looking at better workplaces... The people I know that are permanent teachers have quite comfortable vacations

-14 ( +1 / -15 )

Just my experience, I've been teaching English for too long in Japan, and in that time I worked at 5 Junior Highs and several High Schools. The things I've seen done to these teachers by just the students is shocking. Students breaking classroom doors/windows in class during class, students playing with lighters and once a knife, once a student killed the class rabbit in class!, running in and out of class, students calling the female fat or ugly, etc, pushing teachers, hitting teachers from behind, destroying books, destroying my materials, stealing from my bag and it goes on and on. And these aren't exaggerations.

And these bad kids are always just sent back to the classroom with literally no punishment.

Of course, not every school is like this. Just honestly all the schools I've been at.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Yes, teachers are overworked and expected to do the silliest duties that are the biggest wastes of time ever invented. However, they all do absolutely nothing to help themselves. If they banded together and laid out a framework that they all felt was reasonable, the BOE, the Ministry, the principals and parents would have no choice but to accept. But it will never happen.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The things I've seen done to these teachers by just the students is shocking. Students breaking classroom doors/windows in class during class, students playing with lighters and once a knife, once a student killed the class rabbit in class!, running in and out of class, students calling the female fat or ugly, etc, pushing teachers, hitting teachers from behind, destroying books, destroying my materials, stealing from my bag and it goes on and on. And these aren't exaggerations.

Nothing here surprises me, except I've heard those stories about elementary school kids! My best Japanese friend works as a school librarian in a good school district, and the stories she tells me would make your hair stand on end. Several other friends have told me of teachers quitting in the middle of the school year (driven out through the stress of dealing with monster parents and equally monstrous kids), and classes that are so chaotic that they have to be conducted with two teachers at the same time, and even then they resemble war zones. Let's just say that if and when I ever have kids (not likely, in Japan), I'll not be putting them in any public school.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Alex EinzFeb. 26, 2014 - 05:12PM JST Sorry, I have never heard anything you describe above... maybe you should be looking at better workplaces... The people I know that are permanent teachers have quite comfortable vacations

It is quite possible that the people you were talking to were ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers - i.e. native English speakers who teach English in Japan). ALTs are under-utilized in many schools, don't have home rooms, and are normally only responsible for the English club, which doesn't generally have much in the way of competitions, although I have known some ALTs who spent their whole "holidays" preparing students for debating competitions, speech competitions, English tests, etc.

All of the full-time teachers I know are over-worked and stressed out of their minds.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Im an ALT and I work about 10 hours of my 36 hour week. The rest of the time I drink coffee and use the internet. When my coworkers ask me why I leave so I early, I tell them because Im American. They mostly comment, wow thats so cool.

I swear it is a cultural prison for the Japanese teachers.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I work at a Japanese public school. The first day, the contract is explained. The explanation is that the work day ends at 4:45. ....pause....Then the next sentence is about club activity assignments, which generally end around 6:30 in the summer months, include Saturdays and are definitely outside the bounds of the contract. Sheeples.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Is Japan overworking its teachers? One exhausted educator says, 'YES!'

Just one?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The present educational system is excellent. It allows parents the opportunity to be free of their responsibility to raise and instill family values in their children. The teachers are supervising Japan's children more than the parents. The system also works for the teachers. They are not home on the weekends; the teachers' children are being raised by someone else. School functions need to be banned on the weekend. Teachers need to be free to do what they want to do and students should be home doing their homework. More time in the chair in the classroom does not mean more learning and higher test scores.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Plus, don't forget the teachers who are teaching a full-time timetable, doing club etc. - essentially the whole job of a teacher, but who only receive basic pay until they pass the difficult teaching exam. Some fail it year after year. It's definitely not as easy job, especially for Japanese teachers. I saw a youngish colleague burn out and break down from the work load. Luckily he came back recovered after a year or so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I work for a public school system in the U.S. (in IT rather than as a teacher, thank God), and I'm amazed at the unpaid overtime the teachers have to put in to keep their lesson plans flowing along. On any given day as I leave the building (usually an hour or so after the teachers are supposed to leave) I can guarantee at least THREE random teachers are still in their rooms either grading, or working on approaching lessons. And this is in an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! About the only after-school "club" we deal with is the intramural basketball program and some teachers volunteer to be team coaches.

I chuckle at the people who say the teachers must have it nice because they get 2.5 months off every year. Teachers are 10-month employees and are paid for only 10 months of work. This 10 months of pay gets spread over the full 12 months so they are at least getting SOME sort of pay every two weeks. Ask any teacher if they only work 10 months a year at teaching and they may die laughing at your naivety.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The present educational system is excellent. It allows parents the opportunity to be free of their responsibility to raise and instill family values in their children. The teachers are supervising Japan's children more than the parents.

Yup! You said it.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

“The public junior high school after-school club advisory system is definitely illegal!!”

This most definitely is blatantly illegal with respect to Japanese labor law, particularly when you consider the non-classroom extras that every full-time teacher must volunteer for — year-long clubs/sports held most days after school, and all day Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays, summer vacations; parent briefing sessions, all varieties of "camps" (ski camps, overnight study camps, club camps) coupled with other non-class-related preparation and extracurricular activities (school excursions, festivals, events, standardized exam proctoring, duties with the entrance exam process, and much more — an endless laundry list).

Teachers are supposed to clock in and clock out by stamping a "shukinbo" (出勤簿) attendance record with their seals (hanko), and that record is checked several times a year by Japan's labor department. This means, to sidestep these labor violations teachers face subtle pressure not to stamp in when doing the extras. Lots of undocumented overtime, very little paid overtime.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am glad that so many of you are supportive of teachers in Japan. As I have said, I also think teachers are overworked. But I get the feeling that some of you who think they know about Japanese schools are only seeing it from the "outside." That is---that teachers are always busy, busy, busy. And this is just not true. Name me one time when a Japanese person will claim that they are not busy. They won't. Because in this society, you must appear to be busy, even when you are not or are just wasting time.

The average Junior / Senior high teacher teaches from 15-20 hours a week. That's 3-4 classes a day. That means that they have 2-3 hours a day to prepare for classes, etc. during the day. They are usually teaching the same subject / textbook to two or three different classes which means they are recycling the class. Recycling lessons cuts down on preparation time. Also, as teachers get more experienced, so does teaching the subject matter...which means less preparation tme is needed.

One of the downfalls of experienced teachers is that they spend less time looking at the text before teaching it. They actually do have time to think of something extra or more meaningful for students, but it is easier to just do it the same as always. Thinking of something new requires effort. How do I know that they have time? Because I see them chit-chatting, going for repeated smoke breaks, or surfing the internet.

Also, I don't expect my private high to represent all high schools in Japan, but we regularly send students/teams to national sports tournaments. And those teachers who are coaches are usually P.E teachers. And the few who aren't are Social Studies teachers. I feel sad for P.E teachers because they are usually the ones who are here from early morning until late at night. They usually have the longest days. And no offense intended, but it doesn't take much preparation to give the kids a basketball or soccer ball and let them play for 50 mins.

In Japan, there are educators and coaches. There are teachers who became teachers to teach. That is their passion. And there are teachers who became teachers to coach. Coaching martial arts or baseball is their passion. And the latter group, as I said, are usually P.E. teachers.

Lastly, some of you who keep claiming that all teachers are expected to be at club from start to finish or that club lasts all day Saturday and Sunday.....well, that isn't quite true either. It depends on the club to be honest. In general, yes...the teacher must go to club everyday. But if they have an outside parent, OB, or coach helping out, they may go later because of unfinished work. Or...they may leave earlier to go home. It all depends on the club and the support you have in helping out. But ask a teacher what they did after school or on Sat/Sun, and they will all say "Club" as if they spent every minute there. Because...on the surface, they must appear busy.

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maxjapank Yes there is definitely truth to a lot of what to say and thank you for pointing out that not all teachers are total slaves to their clubs.

I would say often it can also heavily depend on the culture of the school at that particular time and how strict the kocho wants to be. I spent three years at a school that was on the lax side. Teachers commented that in general this school was pretty easy-going compared to some others in the area. Unless the teacher was one of those who "became teachers to coach," many of them would go for the first 15-20 minutes of practice, head back to the office to work, then go close out practice around 6:00 and be on their way home.

It is true though that the competitions and practice also ate up basically their entire weekends as well. They'd often spend Saturdays either practicing or at games leaving Sunday the only day to themselves.

There are definitely teachers that are at school until 8 or 9pm every day, but after learning the ropes and really getting to know everyone I realized these were the teachers who didn't know how to manage their time. The best teachers got their sh*t done and could be out the door on time if they wanted to be.

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You have to really, I mean deep in your bones and really give your whole life to want to be a teacher. Otherwise it's not worth it.

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Add all the total hours, and teachers would do better working at a combini!

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I have been worried about elementary and Jr. High teachers for years because of all the things they have to do beyond teaching. I agree that the burden of the after school clubs "bukatsu" at the Jr. High level is just far too much for them. It is too much for the kids too, in my opinion. What about FAMILY time for both parents and kids? Family values get left behind with the over commitment to these Bukatsu! Who is raising the kids of Jr. High teachers? They cannot even go to their own Kids' Sport day festivals, concerts, etc. because they are with MY kid at Bukatsu.....

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well then, go on strike with a few other teachers for better pay and working conditions. That's what strikes are for. It should result in also more jobs for the extra requirements

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Yea as the last commentators say, it seems that's just the same trend as in any jp company, they just trying to appear busy for sake of appearing busy and the good teachers who know how to manage time are out by 6 with long relaxed vacations, so the sooner bad teachers quit - the better education system will become.

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I work in a large city with about 50 JHS and elementary schools. I briefly worked with a woman who quit after 10 days of work, a woman stabbed herself to avoid going to work, and a student teacher who jumped off the roof (luckily she survived). It seems each year teachers get more responsibilities, but nothing is taken back. What takes up a teacher's time is all the school events and special activities.

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I don't know too much about the education industry but I would say that teachers in general should be better paid considering the enormous role they play in society. That would at least provide better incentive to work long hours, which is probably unavoidable as a teacher.

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It's not just the teachers, it's the students too. Club & study commitments are absolutely nuts - which carries on to the "shouganai" attitude regarding overtime later in life. Their schedules are so jam packed from a young age that it stays with them for the rest of their lives. It's a fundamental problem with Japanese society. Kids have no time to "explore" and develop on their own (ie. BE KIDS!).

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Glad to hear the teachers are busy. It'd be nice to hear they are being productive as well though!

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If I was the teacher I would QUIT TOO! From what I am reading there is no life for her to raise or enjoy her own family she is being taken granted for being a under paid babysitter. Yes she should Quit and find something better in life and raise her own family not the parents who send their child to school and cry foul because the teacher wants to quit and they can't have a babysitter/teacher/gopher.

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My football team used to train on an elementary school football pitch every Wednesday. We finished training at 9pm and the teachers' room was always filled with teachers still at their desks. I used to comment to my teammates about what on earth about this school required its teachers to still be at work 5 hours after the students have all gone home. Do these teachers not have families to spent time with and look after? It beggared belief, it was the typical Japanese philosophy of the longer you are in the office, the harder and better a worker you are. I'll never understand or respect that attitude. I feel sorry for these people.

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Having my son enrolled in night middle school till last yr. left me with so much awe for the Japanese teachers esp the middle school night shift teachers. Despite of the many challenges facing the educational system, the probably many personal strife of those educators, they did their duties beyond time. I've been a high school teacher for 10 yrs in my home country but the skills, dedication of the Japanese teachers are very laudable. Mere words just can't describe my gratitude to the teachers of my son in Komaki koko gakko. The teacher in the article may not be the only one with that sentiment but surely there are a lot of other dedicated Japanese teachers out there.

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Japanese are like ants : true. No personal life development. Hardly ever self- decision. My French background gave me insight and understanding of what is "enlightment", total opposite of actual Japan vision. No happiness and full use of creativity power. At any time, one is only the decision-maker. Most Japanese cannot even understand that simple idea.

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To be blunt, you’re not suited to being a school teacher. I feel bad for your students. You shouldn’t wait until next year to quit your job. Being able to handle both classes and after-school clubs – that’s just natural in this world. Saying you can’t handle your classes because of the clubs is nothing more than an excuse.

I couldn't agree more.. back then when I was in High School as a student I was in Science, Choir and Folklore-dancing clubs, doing also catechism for my confirmation (I'm Catholic) and cram school and still managed to graduate ok and entering a good university with a scholarship.

When I taught at the university I had a pretty heavy workload, but I was still able to be in the Choir at church And now working at a mining company I'm still able to teach parft-time at the university 200km away on weekends... Not being able to handle with that is related with your skill level and how much you love teaching..., on the other hand a teacher that is only able to teach but bot to expand knowledge in other areas is ... boring

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