More than 500 teachers at public schools across Japan were branded as incompetent in the 2005 academic year, down about 10 percent from a year earlier but still the second-highest number since the teacher assessment system began in 2000, the education ministry said Friday.

The teachers in question, 506 in the year through March, are rated on such points as skills in communicating with pupils and their knowledge level, based on standards set by each of the nationwide education boards.

The latest figure is down from a record-high 566 in the 2004 academic year but still translates into one in every 2,000 teachers among the 898,000 or so employed by public elementary, junior high and high schools across the country.

But the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry expects the trend to continue as more and more education boards have established retraining programs for substandard teachers, an official said.

Out of the 506 branded inept, 103 resigned voluntarily, six were discharged and two were transferred to clerical posts, the ministry said.

Among prefectures and major cities, Yokohama had the highest number of incompetent teachers at 23, followed by Chiba and Mie prefectures, which both had 22. Only the city of Shizuoka had none.

Among 20,862 new teachers, a record-high 198 were not offered further employment after a year of probation, up by seven from the year before, according to the ministry.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, set to become prime minister Tuesday, has said he will reform education, saying teachers with poor performances will be urged to quit.

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