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7.5% of teachers at Japan public primary, junior high schools are temp. workers: survey

This 2009 file photo shows people taking the teacher employment exam in Oita Prefecture. (Mainichi/Eisuke Obata)

TOKYO -- The number of temporary teachers in Japan at public elementary and junior high schools has reached 7.5% of the total, according to the results of a survey by the education ministry.

    According to a Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology survey, there are 43,900 temporary teachers in Japan at such schools this academic year (excluding substitutes for teachers on maternity and child care leave), a 24% increase from the 35,374 in the 2008 academic year -- the earliest year for which data could be confirmed by the Mainichi Shimbun. The ministry also says that the number of teachers stipulated by law to maintain an adequate level of education is 583,488 this academic year. Of these, 7.5% are temporary teachers, or one such teacher for every 13 students.

    These temporary teachers work in the same way as regular instructors, such as homeroom teachers and advisers for club activities. Some experts have pointed out that this trend is having a negative influence on education, as temporary teachers cannot continuously instruct children. Regular teachers must obtain a teaching license from a university and have passed the employment examination by the boards of education of prefectures or government ordinance cities. In comparison, temporary teachers hold a teaching license but many of them have not passed the employment exam.

    There are two types of temporary teachers: those with a maximum contract term of one year and those with a fixed-term contract that can last for multiple years. The salary level is said to be 60% to 80% of the pay of regular teachers. There is no guarantee that temporary teachers will be able to sign a contract the following academic year, and even if they do, the school they work at often changes.

    The degree of dependence on temporary teachers varies from prefecture to prefecture. The highest percentage of temporary teachers among all teachers is 16.4% in Okinawa, 15.4% in Nara, and 11.8% in Miyazaki. Many boards of education are encouraging candidates who failed teacher employment examinations to gain experience by becoming temporary teachers.

    "It's possible that they are holding back on hiring regular teachers because they cannot foresee the number of teachers they will need in the future due to the declining birthrate and the consolidation of schools. In addition, administrative reforms have curbed funding for teacher personnel, and this has likely had an impact," an education ministry official speculated.

    The national government uses a system called a "national treasury charge" to pay one-third of personnel costs for all teachers that are among the country's legally required number to maintain education levels. The remainder is borne by prefectures and other governments and is covered by the "local allocation tax" distributed to local governments by the national government. The ratio used to be evenly split between the central and local governments, but as part of decentralization reforms, the ratio of the local allocation tax has been increased since fiscal 2006, leaving more room for local government discretion.

    (Japanese original by Akira Okubo, City News Department)

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