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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 June 28 - July 4  > Teachers exhausted from excessive workloads and long working hours
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2017 June 28 - July 4 [LABOR]

Teachers exhausted from excessive workloads and long working hours

June 28, 2017
Teachers in Japan are forced to work excessively long working hours, exceeding the government-set danger line for death from overwork. It is a serious social problem that needs to be tackled.

“I always leave home at 6:30 am and return at around 9 pm. Even on weekends, I have to spend hours at school to create tests and engage in other work. I’m exhausted physically and mentally,” said a male teacher working at an elementary school in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The standard work schedule at his school is from 8:15 am to 4:45 pm with a 45 minute paid break. However, even during the break, the 34-year-old teacher has a lot to do such as lesson preparation and giving guidance to pupils. It is difficult for him to take an uninterrupted rest period before school is over. Furthermore, he normally stays at school until 8 pm to deal with requests from parents, attend staff meetings, and complete various paper work.

The 2016 Education Ministry survey on working hours of teachers showed that the average hours that a teacher every day spends at school was 11 hours and 15 minutes for elementary school teachers and 11 hours and 32 minutes for junior high school teachers. They work three and a half hours longer than the prescribed regular working hours. In the survey, 33.5% of elementary school teachers work more than 20 hours of overtime a week, equivalent to the 80-hour monthly overtime limit which is used as the yardstick for official recognition for overwork-induced death. As for junior high school teachers, the figure stood at 57.6%.

One of major reasons why teachers have excessively heavy workloads is the shortage of teacher. At elementary schools in Japan, for example, the number of students per teacher is 20.3 on average, higher than the OECD average of 16.6. The number of students per classroom is 22 in primary schools in OECD countries and 29 in Japan.

Other reasons for teachers’ overwork are having to engage in various routine duties, including drafting reports to school principals and education boards.

The above-mentioned elementary teacher said, “I want the national government to increase the number of teachers and ease our heavy workloads. If the current situation remains unchanged, it will weaken the ability to maintain good relations between teachers and students.”

Past related articles:
> Workload for teachers in Japan stands out in worldI [ July 6, 2014]
> Teachers work 91 hours of overtime a month [ October 18, 2013]

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