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Japanese education ministry to expand certification of ‘specialists’ to P.E., art, science

Looking to draw on a diversity of human resources as it faces a shortage of teachers, the education ministry will expand eligibility for its “special certificate,” which allows individuals with certain expertise in specialized fields but lacking standard certification to teach in schools.

The program will allow for specialists to teach courses in physical education, art, science and other specialized subjects.

The special certificate was established in 1988, setting certain criteria for each field. Examples are having worked for three years or more at a company that uses English for business, or having 600 hours or more of classroom experience as an assistant language teacher (ALT) of a foreign language.

In the system, schools put forth those whom they want to hire, and the prefectural board of education grants the certificate according to the teaching field. However, in the 2018 academic year, the number of certificates granted for teaching in elementary, junior high or high schools totaled just 208 nationwide.

As such, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will establish a framework for the certifying of individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional achievements in such fields as sports and the arts.

The ministry envisages conferring the certificate on athletes who have competed on a global level such as the Olympics to teach physical education, or musicians who have taken part in prestigious international competitions to teach music classes.

In addition, the ministry will grant special certificates to those who have earned a doctorate degree to teach in their field of expertise.