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More senior teachers to take on managerial tasks as part of work-style reforms

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has decided to request funds for assigning 100 more senior teachers who assist the principal and vice principal at public elementary, junior high and high schools without having their own homeroom classes, it has been learned.

The move comes as part of government-led work-style reforms for school teachers, whose long working hours have become a major social issue. Senior teachers, who act as middle managers, help alleviate the work burden of managerial staff overloaded with school clerical work. Currently, there are no senior teachers at public schools in 11 of the country's 47 prefectures.

Senior teachers undertake some managerial jobs such as supervising school affairs and responding to parent-teacher associations. Although the position was introduced in the 2008 academic year to ease the workload of managerial staff at schools, the system has not worked effectively as the job assignments of senior teachers were not clear. According to a survey on teachers' working conditions in the 2016 academic year, vice principals at public elementary and junior high schools worked an average of 12 hours-plus a day on weekdays -- longer than other school staff.

A special subcommittee of the ministry's Central Council for Education broadly agreed to promote the assignment of more senior teachers as part of efforts to reform the school management system.

The subcommittee classified school work into categories such as academic instruction and student guidance, and proposed assigning senior teachers for each category. This will not only alleviate managerial staff's workloads but will also prevent certain teachers from being overloaded with work related to school affairs.

In response, the education ministry decided to boost the number of senior teachers from 1,728 to 1,828 in its budget request for the next fiscal year.

According to the education ministry, while there were 12,908 senior teachers at elementary and junior high schools across the country in academic 2008, the figure rose 1.6-fold to 21,036 in academic 2017. In the meantime, there were sharp differences among local governments in responding to the system, with Tokyo topping the list in terms of the number of senior teachers at 5,426, followed by Kanagawa Prefecture at 3,279, while Ibaraki, Kagoshima and nine other prefectures had no senior teachers in place.

It appears that the system has not taken root among local bodies hosting a large number of small-scale schools because assigning senior teachers would result in increasing the workloads of other teachers with homeroom classes, and higher personnel costs to cover the senior teachers.

There are also many cases where senior teachers request that they be demoted from their posts after complaining that they have to prioritize school affairs over teaching classes. In academic 2016, the number of senior teachers who were demoted at their request reached 167, well over the corresponding figures for principals at 5 and vice principals at 110. A member of the subcommittee said, "It is necessary to examine and analyze the senior teacher system to make it function."

An education ministry official said, "We would like to promote the assignment of more senior teachers by offering examples of local bodies that are effectively utilizing the system."

(Japanese original by Takuya Izawa, City News Department)

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