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The Finance Ministry’s recent proposal to cut annual salaries and numbers of teachers at public elementary and junior high schools is mistaken and misguided.

Teachers need more pay and the country needs more teachers. These cuts will not be helpful in reducing costs and promoting fiscal health, but they will have adverse effects on teachers and students and the overall quality of education in Japan.

The Finance Ministry’s reasons made little sense. Even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has called for salaries in general to rise as a way to end deflation. Cutting ¥100,000 on average from teacher’s pay is hardly going to prime any economic pumps. However, those cuts directly and immediately affect the learning environment across the country.

The current proposal suggests teachers’ salaries should be brought in line with municipal officers, who earn less than teachers. Raising those officers’ pay would be a better choice.

Teachers are already being asked to accept overtime, attend meetings, oversee student activities and regularly give up their free time for the good of students. Teachers are the ones who have already been asked to do more for less.

It is deplorable that the Finance Ministry fails to understand the simple fact that the value of education extends beyond numerical calculations. The value elementary and junior high school teachers create cannot be calculated only in monetary figures. Teachers have an impact on society that far exceeds concrete calculations. If teachers are adequately compensated and class sizes kept at acceptable levels, a better educational environment is created that positively affects the economy in the long run.

The most effective school systems around the world invest in teachers, not divest, as the Finance Ministry is proposing. Japanese teachers have comparable pay to other developed countries. But they also have one of the highest levels of stress, sick leave and resignation in the world. Japanese teachers already have an extremely low degree of job satisfaction. Reducing pay only lowers teachers’ social status, satisfaction and prestige.

Were the ministry to suggest re-allocating budgets to other educational necessities, such as study abroad programs, professional development or expanded school facilities and library services, which are also greatly needed, probably most teachers and parents of students would be persuaded to accept the cuts.

The proposal is not about improving overall education; it is about the bottom line — balancing budgets. Given the range of other options and places to cut, the Finance Ministry should look for other ways to reduce the central government’s costs than burdening one of Japan’s most important assets — its teachers.

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