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Education ministry hosts Twitter campaign to recruit teachers, but it backfires right away

46 Comments
By Ingrid Tsai, SoraNews24

When it comes to hiring the best person for the job in a capitalistic society, typically the course of action is to provide better wages than competing companies or great benefits as incentives to attract the most talented and driven individuals in the field. However, when it comes to recruiting more teachers for schools, Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, MEXT from hereon, has chosen a different route instead: a social media campaign.

▼ Translation below

Screen Shot 2021-04-04 at 10.11.35.png

“#passthebaton Project, start! We’re beginning this new project calling for all teachers nationwide to post advice and messages to incoming teachers! Through these posts, current teachers can #passthebaton to young individuals aspiring to become teachers. Definitely follow us and check out what teachers have to say!”

Titled the “#passthebaton Project,” the ministry has jumpstarted a Twitter hashtag campaign to coax more young folks into the teaching profession. The campaign calls for current teachers to tweet about their experiences on with “#passthebaton,” and thus inspire the next generation of educators in Japan.

At first glance, the concept seems like a great opportunity for teachers on duty to relay their stories to incoming educators, except the campaign has backfired spectacularly. While some folks took the chance to offer encouraging words or nuanced thought-pieces, a majority of posters have taken the moment to share their tough experiences on the job as well as understandable grievances against the current education system.

From feelings of despair to reflecting over work conditions, current as well as past teachers have shared their thoughts through #passthebaton: 

“I really want to support this project, but it’s really hard when I go to work on Saturdays for the mandatory supervision of club activities while local government offices are closed for the day…”

“I just came home from work. I’m on the brink of karoshi. Good night, everyone.” [note: karoshi is the phenomenon of dying from overwork.]

“I gave birth and took a break during the middle of the academic year. Even though I was so happy, I excessively received calls from my school principal about how I was inconveniencing everyone. They never even congratulated me on my newly born child. To my baby, thank you for being here. Thanks to you mama can rest now.”

“I’ve been a teacher for 38 years. Tomorrow, I’ll be retiring. When I was young, from morning to evening, and even on Saturdays, I worked. I thought my days were fulfilling. But now that I think about it, I feel like I’ve lost too many things in the process.”

Underpaid, under-appreciated, and underserved—educators in Japan juggle a lot between teaching, lesson planning, supervising extracurricular club activities, and at times, ridiculous administrative duties.

In the wake of these messages and inquiries about reform, the #passthebaton Project has posted an official statement in response on Japanese social media website Note. The statement acknowledged several requests teachers made, such as shortening work hours, adjusting wages, as well as increasing the number of faculty and staff in schools, and promised to enact changes to help relieve current teachers of their work-related burdens.

However, since the official statement was published on the Twitter campaign’s Note account, and is not necessarily a formal statement published by MEXT itself, there’s no doubt folks are wondering if any further action will actually occur.

MEXT has decided to phase out the mandatory supervision of club activities, but it supposedly won’t be until 2023 when teachers will see any changes. 

At the end of the day, teachers want to support their students, achieve a healthy work-life balance, and be properly compensated for their labor. Identifying what isn’t working in a system is important, and while the path to reform has its challenges, hopefully with many teachers sharing their experiences, more awareness can be built about the current plight of Japan’s educators. Hiring more teachers and staff is crucial, but hopefully MEXT realizes improving work conditions to safeguard the mental health of current teachers is just as important.

Source: Twitter/@teachers_baton via Kinisoku, Note/#passthebaton Project (MEXT)

Read more stories on SoraNews24.

-- Crushing workload at schools is causing more Japanese teachers to crumble from chronic depression

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

-- Japanese government promises reduced teacher responsibilities, right to refuse club supervision

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

46 Comments
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Well, i wouldn't say it backfire considering it was a success that everyone was able to share their grievances to the rest of the world and reveal the struggles of the education system. They should keep it up and continue with this campaign.

25 ( +28 / -3 )

Being a teacher in Japanese School is a HORRIBLE career choice. Overworked, underpaid is the lifestyle. If you work at a International School you can make much more money, and when you leave for the day at 5 PM, your day is over. Want a year baby leave? No problem!

24 ( +26 / -2 )

Another ministry with its head in the sand.

This money could have been used for salary increases, continuing education scholarships, awards for innovation, any rewards fof merit for the numerous, dedicated professionals trying their best within the unrevised, dogmatic and ‘failing’ educational ‘system(?)’.

MEXT: Your attention should be on the bullying of young teachers by the older staff, bullying amongst the children, suicide prevention and ‘weeding out the repeated yet undocumented sex offenders and pedophiles’ within the system.

Clean house and make it an attractive profession for young people again.

19 ( +22 / -3 )

have a friend whose daughter and SIL were both teachers at the same public JHS. his daughter had to go on mental health leave after a few years working those insane hours (for no additional pay of course) and then just didn't return, she didn't think it was worth it and went to work in their family business. SIL stuck to it. so now first train every morning, one of the last trains at night, every day including weekends, a few days off a year. listening to him, that is pretty much the norm for everyone at that particular school. yet another example of policies by MEXT types who haven't been in a classroom since they graduated from whichever university mom and dad bought their entrance into...

22 ( +22 / -0 )

Understood @Hiro 6:45a. You’re saying consideration should be given to all of the resulting opinions, positive or negative. And, we aren’t always to believe the way media portrays ‘a story’ with just the headline.

“wouldn't say it ‘backfired’ ...everyone was able to share their grievances and reveal their struggles. They continue with this campaign.” -

Thankfully, their website’s original intent wasn’t over-moderated and over-edited, so there was an unintended, yet beneficial result:

“a majority of posters have taken to share their tough experiences as well as understandable grievances.” - 

Let’s hope its not anotherempty’ promise from MEXT.

“...posted an official statement in response, acknowledged several requests and promised to enact changes to help relieve current teachers of their work-related burdens.”

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Underpaid, under-appreciated, and underserved—educators in Japan juggle a lot between teaching, lesson planning, supervising extracurricular club activities, and at times, ridiculous administrative duties.

I think this comment sums up the life of a Japanese teacher quite well although, it fails to mention the ‘proxy parent’ scenario in Homeroom and the Monster Parents

I remember one case when I was teaching in high school where a junior 3rd grade girl ran away to Osaka from Tokyo. Her homeroom teacher went to Osaka to retrieve her, not her parents.

They can’t guild this lilly. They have managed to remove all the glamour and respect of being an educator and turned them into babysitting administrators.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Maybe the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology should rename it #passthebuck.

The sad thing is that it seems very few professions are untouched by Japan's culture of overwork and de-humanizing of the workforce to make up for management inefficiencies and overbearing beaurecratic red tape.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

For living in inaka, the regular kyoin salary at public schools is fine. Ones employed on non-regular contracts may get much less, but that is the same for every job out there.

The problem is the workload, especially all the non-classroom stuff. For JHS and SHS, this includes clubs of course, but my elementary kids brought home a newsletter pretty much every day. This would have two or three lines of "bring this" type important information hidden among trivial news like "The children studied science in Science class. They were very interested!". It should be obvious, but teachers who are overworked to start with also have less time and energy to deal with issues like bullying.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Can you believe that with teachers pretty much doing all the parenting, all their unpaid overtime and zero life outside of work, there's not a "Teachers Day" in Japan?

13 ( +14 / -1 )

many teachers I know don't even have sunday off. they work 7 days a week. its sick.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Overworked...underpaid..karoshi style work life..Welcome to Japan!!

12 ( +13 / -1 )

The sad reality of the nation's poor attitide towards education and welfare of children. I feel sorry for the poor teachers.

God bless the conscientious ones who have given thier all for the kids in spite of the hardships

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I worked one year at a suburban high school in Oita. The teachers seemed ok and could have some feeling of value by helping kids get into good colleges. However, they are frequently rotated and if you end up at a tech high school it may be miserable because the kids don't care. I participated in the judo club a few months there and it was pretty much student run and the supervising teacher just sat in his office.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

more like a bullying campaign to wash over all the complaints

2 ( +3 / -1 )

teacher is a hard and thankless job. It would be great if we could elevate actual teachers to the correct level in society and in the salary scale.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Expectations are high and the pay is low. It never turns out well in the end. This job attracts people who are not always the best, and it pushes out those that are talented out. It also forces teachers to act out in ways that are sometimes criminal. It is similar in the US, but the cause is more obvious in Japan.

If teachers were paid like professions like doctors lawyers or even university professors, then they would draw the most qualified and talented, and the affects of a well-educated population would reverberate throughout the society.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Teaching is a PASSION, you either LOVE IT or HATE it.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Not to mention the difficulty of maintaining control of classes of 45 teens who no longer have to knuckle down and study to get into "university", suffering abuse from parents who don't have their backs, having to trudge to each of your homeroom student's houses once a year, and dealing with all of the difficulties of socialization and proxy-parenting foisted off on teachers. It's no wonder people are running from this profession and academic standards have fallen so far. Public schools are little more than baby sitting services, these days.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

far too many troublemakers it seems. they should show more "japan spirit" and work for the betterment of the youth and schooling system, not to complaining on the Twitter! very disappointment

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Irony never works very well on readers forums...

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Teaching is a PASSION, you either LOVE IT or HATE it.

It's not unique to Japan, but possibly the biggest complaint from teachers is the time and effort taken up by activities outside the classroom. A common complaint for UK teachers is about hours and hours of marking, but that does not seem to be an issue in Japan. Most kids here never write reports or essays. In Japan, there is other time consuming rigmarole, a lot of which seems to relate to the role expected of schools and not learning itself.

Expectations are high and the pay is low

The huge number of juku, kumon centers, online courses like Benesse, etc. suggest expectations are actually low. Nobody in their right mind expects a Japanese school to teach your kid any remotely usable English.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Japanese special education teachers are fantastic.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Underpaid is total BS. Someone who Midway through their career earns between 350k and 400k a month not including a bonus twice their salary twice a year. This was 10 years ago at an ES in Aichi. Don't see it changing much. The principal at our school that does absolutely nothing was earning 800k a month plus said bonuses. Just outrageous. Source: One of my adult students working at the city office.

I personally witnessed teachers just lounging around killing time afterschool at ES rather than go home. They were working but at a snail's pace. Chatting for an hour. Marking homework. Then talking again. Doing more school work. You know, the norm here. The majority didn't want to go back home. The minority that do, are stuck!

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

wtfjapan?

I should say ALTs at es/jhs/hs are underpaid.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

20+ odd years in the high school system and watching those brave teachers trying to keep their heads above water and motivated was something I’ll take with me to my grave. You basically are married to the job and she is an ungrateful , ever demanding and thankless bride. Watching the teachers cannibalize themselves through stress wasn’t a pretty sight either. Know one thing though, the amount of energy left for the actual ‘education’ part of the job is minimal at best. The zest for lifelong learn that we must impart to our young students just fails to happen.

Having said that, some manage to actually thrive, smile and keep a bounce in their step. The ones that are in it for the kids, the pure teacher types, they are the quiet unspoken hero’s of a broken system.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Go visit a special education classroom. You will see dedication 110%

Amazing teachers.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The system is a total mess.

Club system not only shouldn't be mandatory for teachers it should be eliminated completely even for students.

A simple problem that even if it is no longer mandatory us that club participation counts in the scoring system in junior high school towards the "level" of high school one applies to.

My daughter has ASD (Autism) so did not participate in any clubs but her study scores were very good.

My son was a basic average student but did multiple clubs.

So went looking at applying to high school my daughter was told she had few choices because her point score was so low and the school couldn't give her a recommendation letter while my son with far lower actual grade points got multiple recommendations letters.

As long as high school applications rely on "participation" scores that are based around club activities, teachers will still have to do clubs mandatory or not.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Teachers in other countries may not have to do all the hours under the sun or be totally responsible for the students, but they do have to deal with aggressive students/parents, religious woes, violence.

Teaching is a vocation and government policy should reflect that. Teacher power, I say

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Underpaid is total BS. Someone who Midway through their career earns between 350k and 400k a month not including a bonus twice their salary twice a year.

My recent university graduates son and daughter make more than that and have only been working since last April one works IT the other workplace diversity.

The view of an ALT at low pay us what I see here.

I raised 2 children in the Japanese public school system.

I know what most of these teachers have to put up with, the hours they work.

I am a single father and when I was at work my son got seriously ill was rushed to the hospital straight into emergency surgery.

I wasn't there I had to get there from the office.

The teacher was the one with him, the teacher was there still when I arrived at the hospital, the teacher remained at the hospital until 3:00 in the morning when it was said he would be Ok.

The next morning she was back in class teacher the other students and that night and every night at the hospital checking up on him and making sure he didn't fall behind in his studies.

And this is not uncommon.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

The teacher was the one with him, the teacher was there still when I arrived at the hospital, the teacher remained at the hospital until 3:00 in the morning when it was said he would be Ok.

That is a great teacher.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Teaching is a PASSION, you either LOVE IT or HATE it.

Or you’re a privileged white foreigner who doesn’t have to work to 10:30pm and weekends with no overtime. Paid pretty well considering you could probably never get a job back home.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

far too many troublemakers it seems. they should show more "japan spirit" and work for the betterment of the youth and schooling system, not to complaining on the Twitter! very disappointment

BANZAI!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I know several Japanese who are or were teachers.

Summer vacation doesn't exist.

Oh in theory they are on vacation but in reality if students are at school for clubs , sports teams, etc..

Then the teacher also has to be there.

Unless these activities are eliminated, even if mandatory club participation by teachers goes away the rule of teachers having to be present while students are at school means teachers will still be in school though not officially for club activities.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Mark

Teaching is a PASSION, you either LOVE IT or HATE it.

The problem is, that in Japan the teacher's schedules are filled with so many unnecessary things (like the said mandatory club activities, which they can't choose), that there's rarely time for the teachers to really show their passion, and really teach the way they'd like to teach, prepare the materials they'd really like to use, etc.

kohakuebisu

It's not unique to Japan, but possibly the biggest complaint from teachers is the time and effort taken up by activities outside the classroom. A common complaint for UK teachers is about hours and hours of marking, but that does not seem to be an issue in Japan. Most kids here never write reports or essays. In Japan, there is other time consuming rigmarole, a lot of which seems to relate to the role expected of schools and not learning itself.

My experience is different for the part of marking - it happens in addition to activities outside the classroom. The teachers I've worked and interacted with, were constantly buried under the endless task of marking multiple-choice tests, reports and essays, on top of bukatsu duties, arranging school events, contributing to the school news letters, interacting with parents, etc. That's why they also complained about the bukatsu duties; that they still had stacks of reports and tests to mark, after the afternoon's club activities were over, meaning they'd had to stay at the school until 23PM or so, just to be back there at around 6AM the next morning. Not much time for sleep, let alone any other life outside the school environment.

This is where I'd love to see a change, to help both the students and the teachers to achieve better results, and to generally be more content, happy, even: the amount of rather pointless but mandatory tests (same tests done at every school), focused on memorised trivia, takes a huge amount of teachers' time (and wastes a huge amount of paper), and doesn't really teach the kids anything really useful, like really understanding the causes and effects of things, entities, connections between things. Kids are also drowning under all the pointless tests, trying to memorise numbers, dates, names, also resulting in them hating school, hating studying. I'd love to see more learning methods that encourage critical thinking, independent information acquisition, team work, interdisciplinary content. Less tests, more projects, presentations, excursions, etc.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The sad thing is that it seems very few professions are untouched by Japan's culture of overwork and de-humanizing of the workforce to make up for management inefficiencies and overbearing beaurecratic red tape.

Post of the day! Well said.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The teacher was the one with him, the teacher was there still when I arrived at the hospital, the teacher remained at the hospital until 3:00 in the morning when it was said he would be Ok.

That is a great teacher.

And a great human being.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

common complaint for UK teachers is about hours and hours of marking, but that does not seem to be an issue in Japan. Most kids here never write reports or essays. In Japan

Not sure what schools you are talking about but my two children went to public school in Japan and book reports, essays, homework where very common form junior high school to university.

Now add in the need to learn 51 hiragana, 51 katakana and thousands of Kanji and the different ways they are used all needing to be checked by the teacher and those essays and book reports in the UK seem not so bad after all.

I felt really sorry for my children's teachers as being a single non Japanese father and unable to help them with Kanji, the teachers had to step in to do extra work in their case.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The best thing for teachers is to avoid most schools, particularly, state schools, altogether. The worst thing a school can do to you is transfer you to remote place away from your family and anything civilized. The best way to get into that state is to join the Teachers' Union (unless it is bought off), show any little bit of originality in your teaching and argue with your corrupt principal.

I helped my spouse to get out the high school system into university. Happiness! Lots of free time. Teach what you want the way you want to.

The Board of Education would not accept my spouse's resignation at first. Too valuable to lose. We took a holiday in Europe to celebrate.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sounds like it's a success. Anyone looking to be.a teacher sorta knew about those points right? So it was all good.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kabukilover

The best thing for teachers is to avoid most schools, particularly, state schools, altogether. The worst thing a school can do to you is transfer you to remote place away from your family and anything civilized. The best way to get into that state is to join the Teachers' Union (unless it is bought off), show any little bit of originality in your teaching and argue with your corrupt principal.

Oh yes, this as well! Personally I think this forced rotation of teachers is absolutely horrible, not just for the teachers themselves, but for the students as well. How can you ever really make any real progress at any schools, when the staff keeps on changing? Teachers can't get rooted, kids don't really bond well with their teachers, schools have no direction of their own (but maybe that's the purpose - all should be the same, bland, monotone, rigid - heaven forbid for any progressive ideas or methods at any school). Suddenly a teacher might be sent to a school tens of kilometres away from their home, making their commute unbearable with the working hours - but they have no choice. Where I'm from teachers change schools only and if they wish to do so themselves. Many teachers have been working in the same schools for decades.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Drinking with teachers in Japan was a real eye opener, it is not surprising the ministry has so much trouble recruiting.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nice, inspiring story @Do the hustle 7:41am - Sounds like a manga and/or a popular, evening dorama.

- “it fails to mention the ‘proxy parent’ - I remember one case teaching high school where a junior 3rd grade girl ran away to Osaka from Tokyo. Her homeroom teacher went to Osaka to retrieve her, not her parents.” -

Sadly, can’t imagine it’s much of a possible reality anymore without some kind of liability or misunderstanding as a result.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The best thing for teachers is to avoid most schools, particularly, state schools, altogether. The worst thing a school can do to you is transfer you to remote place away from your family and anything civilized. The best way to get into that state is to join the Teachers' Union (unless it is bought off), show any little bit of originality in your teaching and argue with your corrupt principal.

I understand the thinking here, but aren't private schools more likely to employ teachers on non-regular contracts for much lower pay? It's also private schools that have the most hardcore club activities, because they can recruit from outside their catchments and build all-star teams.

fwiw, a common criticism of the International Baccalaureate for the schools in Japan who do it is that it involves lots of kadai, homework and coursework, far more than a regular Japanese high school. I think most Japanese would assume Japanese high school must involve more work than an international qualification from the liberal West.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

*On the topic of the responsibilities of MEXT and ‘teachers helping desperate children*’, preventing child suicides is a pressing issue. If MEXT can respond to ‘*recruiting*’ feedback quickly ... -

*“...posted an official statement in response, acknowledged several requests and promised to enact changes to help relieve current teachers of their work-related burdens.” -*

... then, we should also anticipate a followup to their earlier MEXT promise from Feb 16, 2021 -

*- “MEXT announced a “social media support platform’...prepared for the ‘growing number of children with smartphones’. - in the article: “No. of juvenile suicides in Japan hits record-high 479 in 2020”.*

We are all still hoping this was not just ‘lip-service’ and there will actually be a ‘follow-through article’ with that information shortly.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This isnt just a situation that exists in Japan alone...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ALTs are not teachers.

You're just assistants with no qualifications whinging about how hard life is because you chose an easy path in your early 20s and now stuck with it and full of regret.

And teachers do not work any harder than anyone else. Just more self entitled whinging.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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