Japanese teachers are an essential element in the success story. Japanese society entrusts major responsibilities to teachers and expects much from them. It confers high social status and economic rewards but also subjects teachers to constant public scrutiny.
Because Japanese culture views the school as a moral community and a basic training ground for becoming a good citizen, teachers have broad responsibility for moral education and character development and for instilling fundamental Japanese values, attitudes, and "living habits" in students at all levels. These responsibilities are equal in importance to the academic roles of developing student motivation and helping students meet the high academic standards required for success in secondary school and university entrance examinations.
Teachers are expected to infuse cultural values throughout school activities and to be concerned about students' lives both in and out of school. Their efforts and influence often extend into the home and the community.
Long an attractive profession in status terms, the appeal of teaching as a career has heightened further during the past decade because of a substantial increase in remuneration. The average salary of teachers is now higher than that of other public employees and compares favorably with salaries of other professionals in the private sector. Competition for entry into the profession continues to be intense. The 200,000 applicants now vie annually for approximately 38,000 vacancies in the public school system.
No recent survey adequately compares the prestige of the teaching profession to other professions and occupations. However, a 1975 Japanese study of social stratification and social mobility provides evidence on the situation at that time. It included relevant data on the prestige ranking of elementary and lower secondary school principals and elementary teachers.
According to the 1975 survey, elementary principals and teachers ranked 9th and 18th in public esteem, out of 82 occupations. Principals' prestige was higher than that of department heads of large corporations, public accountants, and authors. Elementary teachers enjoyed higher prestige than civil and mechanical engineers, white collar employees in large firms, and municipal department heads. University professors were ranked third, below court judges and presidents of large companies, but above physicians.
Japan's school system is staffed by approximately 1,000,000 full-time teachers at the elementary and secondary levels. In addition, about 99,000 teachers served in preschools under the Ministry of Education, about 38,000 in schools for the blind, deaf and otherwise handicapped, a total of about 50,000 in technical colleges, special training schools and miscellaneous schools, and another 128,000 in universities and junior college. To be notified that the distinctive difference of Japanese teacher to traditional teacher is to act as a teacher and a researcher, as well.
Teachers must hold a degree from an institute of higher education. Any higher education institution, including junior colleges, can provide teacher training as long as their courses satisfy the Ministry of Education’s requirements and the Ministry has approved the syllabus. Prospective teachers must take a National Entrance Examination in order to be considered for admission into an undergraduate teacher education program. This exam assesses candidates in five fields: Japanese language, foreign language, math, science and social studies. National universities also often administer their own examinations alongside the national exam. While in training, prospective teachers must take courses in both subject areas and pedagogy, and are evaluated by an experienced teacher under the supervision of a principal. After graduation from a teacher education program, teachers must undergo a three-week teaching practicum. Primary and lower secondary school teaching candidates must also complete a one-week nursing internship. Prefectural boards of education also typically require a prospective teacher to pass several tests before being hired. These often take the form of proficiency tests, interviews, or essays, and examine a candidate’s pedagogical and subject area knowledge; the interview also usually includes a demonstration lesson.
Once teachers have been hired, they undergo a one-year induction period. During this period, they are supervised by a senior teacher and do not have access to all teacher benefits, including membership in the teachers’ union. Upon successful completion of this first year, they become full teachers.
There are different legal requirements for certification to teach in preschool, elementary school, lower secondary school, and upper secondary school. For preschool, elementary, and lower secondary teachers, the basic qualification for a first class certificate is a bachelor's degree. The basic qualification for a second-class certificate is 2 years of study (the acquisition of 62 credits) in a university or other postsecondary institution. For upper secondary school teachers, the basic qualification for a first class certificate is a master's degree. The qualification for a second-class certificate is a bachelor's degree. The first class certificate is now the preferred credential at all levels.
Japan Teachers Union: No account of the teaching profession or postwar educational development in Japan would be complete without attention to the Japan Teachers Union (JTU), Nikkyoso in Japanese. The JTU is the dominant organization of educators (there are a number of smaller ones), the second largest public sector union, and a very influential member of Sohyo, the General Council of Japanese Trade Unions.
The JTU has been an active force in educational and political matters for almost 40 years. It has been at odds with Monbusho on most matters during virtually the entire period. The government has often been characterized as "conservative" and the union as "radical." Neither label is necessarily helpful in cross-cultural translation.
Fundamental philosophical differences between the government and the JTU transcend the education sector. The government views teachers as neutral professionals who perform a duty for the government, while the JTU regards teachers as workers and participants in broad political and economic struggles. The JTU interprets its relation to the government in labor- management terms and takes strong stands on many government policies, including sensitive domestic and international matters that have little or no relationship to education.
At as last matter, the educational experience of Japan indicates that Education is the foundation of all infrastructures; peace and security, economic development, cultural issues and so on… depend to education. Good educational strategies can lead to economic growth, peace and prosperity.