National

Japan looks to lower teachers’ workloads by having municipalities collect fees for student lunches

JIJI

In a bid to lower teachers’ workloads, the education ministry will compile guidelines by the end of next March on how to reduce their burden with regards to the collection and management of school lunch fees, informed sources have said.

As part of work style reforms for teachers, the guidelines will contain, among other things, examples of school lunch fees being managed by municipalities, rather than by schools themselves, the sources said.

One factor that makes the collection of fees burdensome is that teachers need to deal with outstanding fees. They often have to meet parents or guardians at night or over the weekend to ask them to pay overdue fees, forcing them to work extra hours.

Late last year, the Central Council for Education, which advises the education minister, suggested that entities other than schools, such as local education boards, should take charge of collecting and managing school lunch fees in principle.

The ministry believes that teachers’ workloads can be reduced if school lunch fees are managed by municipal governments and staff of local education boards deal with parents or guardians who have not paid their fees.

The guidelines will also explain how municipalities with remote islands can deploy staff for the lunch fee-related tasks and an example in which an electronic system is used to indicate how collection is going, according to the sources.

Tips for collecting overdue fees will be also be included.

In addition, the ministry will present effective ways to persuade parents and guardians to accept a switch to a system involving the automatic withdrawal of lunch fees from their deposit accounts.

According to a sampling survey by the ministry, 60.3 percent of schools managed lunch fees on their own in fiscal 2016, while 39.7 percent had municipalities take care of them.