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Subject-based teacher assignment system proposed for Japan elementary schools

Signs for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, center; the Agency for Cultural Affairs, right; and the Japan Sports Agency. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- A special task force of the Central Council for Education on Aug. 20 suggested a plan to introduce a subject-based teacher assignment system, under which some subjects are taught by specialized teachers, for fifth- and sixth-grade classes at elementary schools in Japan from the 2022 academic year, with the aim of boosting the quality of classes and alleviating the workload on teachers.

    The council, which has been looking into ways to improve elementary, junior high and high school education, cited English, science and arithmetic classes as examples of subjects to be covered by the new system. English was made a formal subject for fifth- and sixth-graders in academic 2020.

    Currently, it is common for homeroom teachers at Japanese elementary schools to teach most of the subjects to students in their classes, as teaching credentials for elementary school teachers are not given for each subject. Under the proposed scheme, however, teachers specialized in specific subjects will give lessons to students in multiple classes, as currently seen at junior high and high schools.

    The special task force pointed out in the proposal that schools need to strive to offer elementary school students seamless connectivity to junior high school education in light of the content of learning getting more difficult in the upper grades at elementary schools.

    "Through the subject-based teacher assignment system, which enables meticulous instruction by teachers who are specialized in teaching specific subjects, it is essential to attempt to improve the retention rate of the learned content and facilitate advanced learning," the proposal said. One of the advantages of the new scheme, the report said, is that once introduced, the number of classes taught by each teacher would decrease, paving the way for mitigating the work burden on teachers.

    In order to introduce the subject-based teacher assignment system, schools will face the challenge of securing sufficient manpower. The special task force, therefore, called for reforming the current system to make it easier for students aspiring to become teachers to acquire teaching credentials for both elementary and junior high schools, as well as to make it easier for junior high school teachers to get a certificate to instruct at elementary schools.

    The report also referred to the need to boost the quota for teaching positions at schools, stating, "It is essential to try to make concrete examinations to secure the necessary quotas of teachers."

    (Japanese original by Akira Okubo, City News Department)

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