Record number of public school teachers on fixed-term contracts, only working part time

A record 15 percent of public elementary and junior high school teachers across the country are full-time instructors with a fixed-term employment contract, or are only working part time, a government survey has found.

Experts have expressed concern that the tendency could worsen the quality of education at schools, noting that such instructors are employed for a short period and that they cannot teach students from a long-term perspective.

As of May 1 last year, 699,567 teachers were working at public elementary and junior high schools throughout Japan, the ministry said.

Of them, 588,794 were regular full-time teachers, 59,150 were full-time instructors on a fixed-term contract and 49,835 were part-time instructors, while 1,788 were employed in other forms.

The full- and part-time instructors — totaling 108,985 — account for 15.6 percent of all public elementary and junior high school teachers. Over a six-year period from fiscal 2005, the number of regular full-time teachers decreased by about 8,000 while that of full- and part-time instructors kept increasing each year over the same period.

This is not simply because local bodies are trying to reduce personnel expenses in the face of a tax revenue shortfall.

Such instructors have teacher’s licenses like regular teachers, but there are hardly any training programs for them like those for regular teachers. Since there is no guarantee that they can work at the same school the following school year, homeroom teachers could change every single year at some schools.

Additionally, many schools have seen an increase in the number of low-income teachers employed irregularly, who are forced to teach at cram schools at night or do other part-time work to make up for a shortage of money to cover their living expenses.