Japan: Education union calls for government action as teachers average daily workload exceeds 11 hours

published 23 January 2024 updated 7 February 2024

During their national assembly, the Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU) called on authorities to implement seven recommendations to improve the situation of the public education system and educators.

The education unionists made the demands as part of their campaign "Schools in Crisis! Sustainable school system for quality education and educators' well-being."

In his opening remarks, JTU President and Chairperson of the Education International (EI) Asia-Pacific Regional Committee, Takimoto Tsukasa, pointed out that “while the Education Ministry does not understand the reality of educators working in schools, it determines policies, which is a problem. Dedicated educators work so hard that they have ‘work-life-unbalance'". According to the latest JTU survey, lower secondary school teachers work in average 11 hours 3 minutes daily.”

During the panels, four members shared their experiences.

  1. A primary education teacher had to overcome challenges to take parental leave as a father.
  2. A nursing and health teacher did not exercise her rights to paid leave as she needed, because current laws and standards did not allow for the allocation of a substitute to replace her while she was out.
  3. Another primary teacher had difficulty accessing fertility treatments because she was too busy with work.
  4. A high school teacher got sick after she took on the additional position of manager for sport activity, which is not part of the curriculum, but many teachers are responsible for these activities in Japan.

The panels concluded that the present legal system does not ensure sustainable and quality education and educators’ well-being.

JTU’s seven recommendations

JTU therefore put forward seven recommendations to improve the situation:

  1. Enough time for teachers to fully prepare for teaching.
  2. Smaller class size (maximum of 35 students for 1st and 2nd grade classrooms and 40 students for others).
  3. Cooperation between teachers and other professionals, such as school counselors and social workers.
  4. Reduction of the content of the national curriculum.
  5. Reduction of teacher workload.
  6. An urgent initiative from the Education Ministry to respond to this issue.
  7. Major amendments to and/or abolish laws and rules that do not support teachers.

“One of the participants simply asked: ‘Why does the Japanese government not allocate more budget for education?’ He is right: we need more funding for quality education and educators' well-being!” Takimoto said.

Education International’s Go Public! Fund Education campaign

He also said that JTU is joining colleagues working together across borders to guarantee every student’s right to have a well-supported qualified teacher and a quality learning environment.

JTU’s “School in Crisis!” campaign is in tune with Education International's “Go Public! Fund Education” campaign, an urgent call for governments to invest in public education, a fundamental human right and public good, and to invest more in teachers, the single most important factor in achieving quality education.

On January 20th, 300 people attended the event, and an additional 4,700 participated online.