Relief sought for Japan’s teachers forced to supervise extracurricular activities

by

Staff Writer

The education ministry said Tuesday it is calling on boards of education nationwide to provide a holiday for overworked junior high and high school teachers, many of whom are exhausted from having to supervise extracurricular activities such as sports, even on weekends.

Compared with other countries, even though the length of class times are about the same, Japanese teachers work extremely long hours, education minister Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference Friday.

It is the extra tasks assigned to them, including club activities and counseling for students and parents, that cause teachers here to work longer than their counterparts in other countries, he said.

According to the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey conducted in 2013, Japanese teachers spend roughly 7.7 hours a week supervising student clubs. That far exceeds the OECD average of 2.1 hours.

Moreover, according to data released by the Japan Sports Agency in December, roughly 42 percent of schools surveyed said Saturdays and Sundays are not set aside as specific holidays for teachers so that they can rest. Out of 9,534 schools surveyed, 87.5 percent required teachers to supervise or coach after-school clubs.

Matsuno said that the ministry will “decrease dramatically” the workload of teachers engaged in such activities, and that a guideline on the appropriate amount of time teachers and students spend together during extracurricular pursuits will be submitted by the end of March 2018.

“It is of the utmost importance that the ministry as well as the boards of education check on classrooms, and that they are actually following” the notification, said Ryo Uchida, an associate professor at Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. “It’s the only way” to solve the problem.

He added that the education ministry made a similar statement in 1997 but failed to ensure compliance. The ministry should make sure at least once a year that schools are adhering to the guideline, he said.

Given the education ministry’s first-time publication in December of the actual data from the Japan Sports Agency showing the demands that are being made on educators, Uchida said chances are improving that each prefecture will take measures to improve working conditions for teachers.

“There’s no reason to hold club activities six or seven days a week in the first place,” he said. “If you want to train an Olympic sportsman, such training should be done outside of school.”