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Japanese town to demand end to school lessons by teachers licensed in different subjects

The Tosa Municipal Government building is seen in the town of Tosa, Kochi Prefecture, in this March 6, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Yusuke Kori)

KOCHI -- A town assembly in the prefecture of Kochi is set to submit a written document demanding the prefectural government and education board end a system in which teachers can give classes in subjects they are not qualified for, after some 80% of the prefecture's public junior high schools were found using the system.

    The Tosa Municipal Assembly in Kochi Prefecture will submit the written demands in March at the earliest, and they are expected to be passed in a town assembly plenary session beginning March 9. The Tosa Municipal Assembly claimed that junior high schools have regularly held art classes taught by teachers without a license in the subject, and it aims to encourage other local governments to follow its example by raising the current education issue.

    In principle, teacher's licenses are needed per subject taught at junior high schools in Japan. However, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology allows exceptional cases where educators can -- if they file an application with the prefectural government -- give lessons on subjects for which they do not hold license for a period limited to one year.

    The Kochi Prefectural Board of Education said that of the total 108 public and national junior high schools in the prefecture, classes given by teachers without qualifications are being held at 81 schools in this academic year, in the subjects of art, technology, home economics, or health and physical education.

    The written opinion was compiled by the Tosa Municipal Assembly's standing committee on general affairs, education, and welfare with these circumstances in mind. According to the committee, there is now just one specialized instructor with an art teaching license in public junior high schools in the four municipalities in Kochi Prefecture's Reihoku area.

    Furthermore, in response to questions at the municipal assembly last December, Masaharu Yoshimura, head of the Tosa Municipal Board of Education, said that art classes by non-specialized teachers at middle schools in the town had started in 2013 at the latest. Yoshimura responded questions saying, "The absence of specialized instructors cannot be ignored when considering children's rights to receive an equal education." He revealed his intention to collaborate with three neighboring municipalities and demand the prefectural government take measures to improve the situation.

    According to the Kochi Teachers' Union, under the prefectural government-specified standards, only eight faculty members, including the principal, can be assigned to small-size schools with one class per grade. As the number of teachers is lower than the number of subjects taught at junior high schools, the written document asserts that the current system allowing teachers to give classes outside their qualifications is a "structural issue."

    It demands that the prefectural government and prefectural education board act to end teaching of subjects by unqualified teachers, correct the standards for assigning teachers, and develop an understanding on the reality of the issue as well as analyze its cause.

    Daiyu Suzuki, a town assembly member serving as the head of the town assembly's standing committee, said, "Classes on subjects outside teachers' specialized areas are an issue involving children's right to learn. As this problem is not limited to Kochi Prefecture, we'd like the prefectural government to face it with the determination to be the one that takes the lead."

    (Japanese original by Shiori Kitamura, Kochi Bureau)

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