Reform panel eyes teacher improvement

Fast-tracking the best and removing the incompetent

Kyodo News

A government panel on education reform will propose measures next month to help improve the quality of teachers in a bid to “rebuild” the education system, panel sources said Saturday.

The measures will feature numerical hiring targets for holders of doctorates and experts in various fields from the private sector, a review of previous reforms that introduced a lighter curriculum, and introduction of a renewal system for teachers licenses.

The proposal to introduce a license renewal system is aimed at screening out the incompetent while rewarding good teachers with bigger raises and faster promotion, the sources said.

Headed by Ryoji Noyori, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2001, the Education Rebuilding Council will also call for the decentralization of education administration as well as clarification of the central government’s responsibility over national education.

Consisting of 17 members from government, business and academia, the panel is considering a proposal to introduce an assessment system for schools and teachers in which parents, students and community members would take part, the sources said.

However, some panelists are concerned such a system would lead to a diminishment of teachers’ authority or lead teachers to curry favor with those making the assessments, they said.

To reform local boards of education, the panel will propose disclosing their activities and allowing residents and local assemblies to monitor them.

The council is addressing this because of the failure of boards of education to deal with the recent spate of child suicides attributed to school bullying and the revelation that hundreds of high schools have failed to let their students complete the compulsory curriculum.

The panel will also propose a review of how board members are selected, such as removing the requirement that their chairmen, currently superintendents of schools in their regions, have experience in education.

As for education to better nurture respect for social norms, it will propose that more classes are held on Japan’s social climate, history and traditions, and that opportunities are offered for students to experience nature and volunteer activities.

The panel will ask the business sector to cooperate in a proposal to promote “work-life balance” so that parents and community members can engage more in education.

In a bid to flesh out the proposals included in what will be the first of a series of reports, the panel is slated to hold intense discussions this Wednesday and Thursday in Tokyo, the sources said.