Japan: Union demands changes to address teacher workload and well-being

published 16 May 2024 updated 21 May 2024

As Japanese educators face daunting workloads and extended hours, the Japanese Teachers’ Union has launched the campaign, "Schools in Crisis! Sustainable School System for Quality Education and Educators' Well-being," to advocate for comprehensive reforms, including increased funding and systemic changes in public education.

A call for comprehensive reform: Beyond wage adjustments

The Advisory Committee to Japan’s Minister of Education recently proposed increasing the adjustment allowance for public school teachers from 4% to 10% of their monthly salary. This proposal, dated May 14th, is seen as a tentative step in addressing the extensive hours and heavy burdens teachers face. However, according to a JTU survey, lower secondary school teachers work an average of 11 hours and 3 minutes each day, highlighting the urgency for more substantial reforms.

The real challenge: Workload and well-being

The JTU has criticized the advisory committee’s suggestion as insufficient, pointing out that the real issues extend far beyond financial compensation: Teachers urgently need reduced class sizes – currently up to 35 students in early grades and 40 in higher ones – and a rationalized curriculum to enhance both educational quality and their own well-being.

Voices from the ground: Educators and public support

The push for change is strongly supported by the community, with over 700,000 petitions received from educators and citizens alike. These voices have been amplified through national press conferences and street campaigns, creating a robust dialogue about the future of Japanese education.

Government action needed: A call to the Ministry of Education

The JTU is advocating for dramatic changes, including modifications to the National Curriculum Guidelines and the legal framework governing education. The union's demands are clear: enact urgent and effective reforms that will alleviate teachers' burdens and ensure high-quality education for all students.

Echoing Education International’s “Go Public! Fund Education” campaign

The struggle of the JTU highlights a critical juncture for education in Japan. As the government contemplates its next steps, the union's proactive stance and the overwhelming public support for its initiatives underscore the pressing need for comprehensive educational reform, as well increased public investment in the public education system and respected, well-supported and motivated educators at its core. This appeal aligns closely with Education International's " Go Public! Fund Education" campaign, demanding that governments guarantee labour rights and ensure good working conditions, as well as manageable workloads and competitive salaries for teachers and education workers.