Education ministry makes move to solve teacher shortage

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An official at the University of Teacher Education Fukuoka, in Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, puts up a recruiting poster for full-time and substitute school teachers in 2019.
Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Koichi Hagiuda, the education minister at the time, announces the de facto abolishment of the teaching license renewal system in September 2021.

The education ministry, facing a serious shortage of teachers, will launch a project to seek out and bring back into education people with teaching credentials not currently employed at schools.

The ministry will develop an online training program within this fiscal year to bring former teachers up to date on the latest advances in school education and dealing with children. The ministry will provide support to get them up to speed and into the classrooms as soon as possible, while also unearthing potential teachers.

According to the ministry, there was a shortage of 2,558 teachers in fiscal 2021 at public elementary, junior high and high schools due to unfilled openings. A similar survey by a university professor and others found that 21% of elementary schools and 25% of junior high school were short-staffed in teachers at the time of opening of the school year in April.

This has led to a variety of problems, such as school administrators having to fill in as homeroom teachers and some schools not being able to offer classes in certain subjects.

In recent years, as the percentage of younger teachers increases, there are more instances of teachers taking maternity or childcare leaves, which in turn raises the need for substitute teachers. That comes at a time that applications for substitute teachers are down, as less are willing to take the job because it has become easier to get a job as a regular, full-time teacher.

To address the shortage of teachers, the ministry will scour the rolls for people holding a teacher’s certificate but working in other fields or former teachers who have left education to raise children. It is said such people number in the millions, and that they have a high level of interest in education.

The training program, which will be voluntary and free of charge, will offer the latest developments in educational methods, such as making use of information and communication technology (ICT), planning lessons based on government educational guidelines established in fiscal 2020 or later, and instructing students requiring special attention.

It will be completely online to make it easier for working people to take, but will also include videos from classes so that users can more easily visualize themselves teaching in a classroom.

Substitute teachers register with the local board of education and then wait for assignments. It is expected that they will take the training program shortly before or after being hired. The ministry hopes that those who take the program become substitute teachers and will aim to become full-time teachers in the future.

Starting July 1, the teaching license renewal system was abolished, relieving teachers of the requirement of attending 30 hours of training before returning to the classroom. Also, teaching methods are undergoing significant changes, as more classes are putting importance on active dialogue in accordance with new government guidelines and ICT has been introduced into more schools.

Some former teachers face the psychological hurdle of not having the confidence in their ability to teach again or interact with students. The training program is aimed at helping them overcome this barrier.