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Teaching Profession

The aftermath of World War II saw significant changes in teacher training that had been in existence since the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Prompted by the recommendations of the 1946 U.S. Education Mission to Japan, the education of teachers was upgraded. Previously, most teachers received their training at "normal schools" or gained a certificate by passing an exam. The postwar reform grouped teacher training curricula into three main areas: general education, professional courses related to the subject matter being taught, and professional courses related to the practice of teaching. Other changes included the restructuring of the normal schools into professional teachers' colleges that required four years of education and the introduction of teacher training programs into traditional universities.

Teacher training today occurs at various types of institutions, depending on the level. Preschool or kindergarten teachers are educated at private junior colleges or at special institutes approved by the Ministry of Education. Teachers in primary schools or in special schools (e.g., schools for the handicapped) are trained in education departments of universities and at national teachers' colleges. Finally, middle and high school teachers are educated mainly at regular universities.

Teaching certificates, which are required for the profession, are divided into two groups, first class and second class, according to the amount of education received and the level of education being taught. Teachers can sometimes be given temporary certificates. They may advance from temporary to second class or from second class to first class by taking additional coursework, such as through in-service training while they are employed. Japanese educators have three main types of in-service training available to them:

  1. Training done on their own or through the school where they work
  2. In-service training completed at designated education centers operated by the Ministry of Education
  3. In-service training at regular universities

A variety of opportunities exist for teachers to upgrade their skills. In addition, teachers who strive to advance their skills through such training often are selected for midlevel management positions within their school systems.

Teachers' incomes tend to be comparable to employees in other industries and actually slightly higher than other types of government workers. They have a standardized pay scale that is based primarily on their level of education, and middle school teachers have a separate salary scale than do high school teachers; however, beginning teachers in both groups with the same educational level start their career at the same salary. Besides their basic salary, teachers receive family allowances, bonuses, and other types of special pay adjustments. All teachers receive their bonuses three times each year. The amount of these bonuses is considerable, possibly totaling five times the individual's monthly salary. Teachers certainly deserve all the salary they earn because they are charged with a wide range of responsibilities within their schools.

Besides teaching in their subject areas or grades, teachers are responsible for guidance counseling, student activities such as clubs, homeroom supervision, and oversight of field activities conducted outside the school. Like teachers in many other countries, they also are obliged to commit time to tasks associated with their parent-teacher associations. One way that the system attempts to reduce "burn out" and stagnation in the profession is by periodically transferring teachers among schools within the same prefecture.

Teachers are appointed in various ways, depending on level and affiliation. If they teach at schools associated with national universities, the minister of education is responsible for appointing or dismissing them. If they teach at public elementary or middle schools, they are appointed or dismissed by the board of education in their prefecture. And if they teach in public high schools, they are appointed or dismissed by either the prefecture or municipal board of education. Oversight of the profession corresponds to the general administrative hierarchy for the national prefectural, and municipal governments.

Unions continue to play a role in the Japanese education system, with well over half of the teachers belonging. The largest teachers' union is Nikkyoso (the Japan Teachers' Union, or JTL), founded in 1947. Over the years it has tended to oppose the educational policies of the Ministry of Education. There are also more conservative teachers' unions such as the Nihon Kyoshokuin Remmei (Japan Federation of Teachers) and the Nihon Kyoshokuin Kumiai Rengo (New Japan Federation of Teachers Union). Union membership among teachers is most prevalent in the public schools at compulsory levels, but certainly unions are also represented in the high schools and even in the universities.

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceJapan - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education