So you want to be a teacher? Spotlight on teacher-training schools…

The articles below feature teacher training programs of Waseda U’s School of Education; Miyagi U. of Education (Sendai) and Tokyo Gakugei U.

EDUCATIONAL RENAISSANCE / More universities join effort to train teachers(Feb 25, 2010 Yomiuri Shimbun)

The following is an excerpt from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Educational Renaissance series. This part of the series, continued from last week, focuses on teacher training.

In recent years, an increasing number of private universities have started programs to train future primary school teachers. Waseda University joined this trend in 2008. Sophomores taking a training program for future primary school teachers at the university’s School of Education recently played the role of primary school students in simulated classes in Living Environment Studies, a required subject for first- and second-year primary school students.

Living Environment Studies takes an activity-based learning approach to help children develop relationships with people around them and learn about their local communities and local natural environment.

The sophomores were given a Living Environment Studies assignment with the theme “Find people who support your campus life,” for which they interviewed various people working on and around their campus in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, such as owners of nearby restaurants. On the day of The Yomiuri Shimbun’s visit, the students were preparing for presentations to share their findings.

“I’ve designed this lesson to make the students play the role of children so that they can understand what it is like to learn something while having fun,” Prof. Chiharu Fujii, 51, said.

Since its establishment more than 100 years ago, Waseda’s School of Education has been dedicated to training those wishing to teach at the middle and high school levels. It additionally embarked on the new program to train future primary school teachers two years ago.

To start the program, the institution invited four outside experts, such as those who served as professors at specialized teacher-training colleges. The program accepts only 30 students annually so that it can provide small-group guidance.

Sophomore Yurie Nakae, 20, described the program as “stimulating,” saying, “While enjoying detailed instruction from our teachers, we have a lot of opportunities to have discussions with classmates on various educational issues.”

Future primary school teachers like Nakae have to study the methodologies of all subjects taught at the school level, which include science and social studies. The School of Education assigns specialists among its faculty to handle the courses on how to teach these specific subjects.

“When it comes to providing firsthand experiences, we may still be behind specialized teacher-training colleges or departments, which can take full advantage of their attached [lower education] schools,” Prof. Hiromi Kobayashi, 56, said. “However, our School of Education features specialists in a wide range of fields. We can take advantage of these teaching resources.”

After World War II, the training of future teachers was no longer limited to specialized colleges or departments. It was open to any institution or department approved by the education minister.

But as for the training of primary school teachers, the government still limited these programs to schools or departments specializing in teacher training. In addition, the government long maintained a policy of not increasing the number of seats for training programs for future primary school teachers. As a result, private universities were discouraged from entering this field.

However, the government abandoned this policy from the 2006 academic year because of increasing demand for primary school teachers, caused mainly by the fact that teachers in the baby boom generation are reaching their mandatory retirement age.

The change has encouraged many private universities to enter this field, especially at a time when higher educational institutions are making desperate efforts to attract students as the pool of applicants shrinks.

As of 2008, 118 private universities offered training programs for future primary school teachers–about three times as many as in 1998–according to the education ministry.


Colleges put emphasis on lab work to nurture future science teachers (Feb. 25, 2010 Yomiuri)

This article features Miyagi U. of Education in Sendai and its science teaching course for future primary school teachers.

The university established the science course at the start of the 2007 academic year to nurture teachers who could play a role in science teaching at primary schools.

The science course provides students with educational programs that gives them a basic knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics and geology, while also offering them practical experience in conducting experiments in the laboratory and field work research around Mt. Aoba, an area richly endowed with nature.

Meanwhile, the university makes it mandatory for all students of teacher training courses–not only those in the science teaching course–to take laboratory experiment classes.

“Many students [in the teacher training courses] graduated from non-science courses [at high school],” Prof. Takeshi Ikeyama said, adding that the national policy of “pressure-free education” has reduced the number of areas students are expected to study in science-related subjects up to high school.

“Under the revised school curriculum guidelines, however, teachers will have to teach more aspects [of every subject], which suggests that enhancing science education is a matter of urgency,” he said.

In a similar effort to foster capable science teachers at primary and middle schools, the Japan Science and Technology Agency has launched a project to train “core science teachers” who could play a leading role in science teaching at primary and middle schools in each region.

In this project, the agency, an independent administrative corporation based in Saitama Prefecture, is coordinating the establishment of centers aruond the country to foster competent science teachers in conjunction with local universities and education boards for students of teacher training courses and acting teachers. Currently, 16 universities–mainly teachers colleges and teacher-training courses –have joined the agency’s project and implemented special training curriculums to nurture capable science teachers.

Among these 16 universities is Yamanashi University in Kofu, which launched a training program for science teachers this academic year with the help of Yamanashi Prefecture’s education board and the prefectural government-run Science Center.

The Yamanashi project has 20 trainees–10 sophomores of the university’s teacher training course and 10 acting teachers in their 30s and 40s from public primary or middle schools in the prefecture.

According to a survey jointly conducted by the agency and National Institute for Educational Policy Research in academic 2008, about 50 percent of homeroom teachers who were also in charge of science classes felt they were weak in science teaching. The survey results further showed that about 70 percent of those who felt they were weak thought they lacked sufficient knowledge and skills to teach the subject.


Shoko Okuda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
The following is an excerpt from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Educational Renaissance series. This part of the series, to be continued next week, focuses on teacher training.
Two years ago, Tokyo Gakugei University started a new teacher training course that takes students six years to complete and is aimed at teaching them to deal with various problems in primary or middle school classes. “Children won’t listen to you if you just lecture them,” was one piece of practical advice given to students in the course last autumn. It was part of a talk by Kazuhiro Fujihara, a visiting professor who first made a name for himself after leaving a company to become a middle-school principal in Tokyo. He was speaking on the importance of communication in classes.
“Classes must unfold as teachers and children–as well as the children among themselves–communicate with each other,” Fujihara, 54, said to a classroom full of future teachers at the state-run university’s campus in Koganei, Tokyo.
Then the students played the roles of schoolchildren, breaking up into groups of three to discuss different topics, such as a plan to open a hamburger shop or how to prevent suicides. At the same time, they were to ask themselves how they would run such a class if they were the teachers.
“I used to think it would be difficult to communicate well with the kids and control the class at the same time, but now I feel maybe I can manage it. I feel more motivated,” said Yui Komatsu, 20, a sophomore in the Elementary School Education Program at the Teacher Preparation Division, who took Fujihara’s lecture.
Launched in fiscal 2008, the course is aimed at producing teachers armed with advanced knowledge and practical classroom skills by completing six years of study: four at the undergraduate level and two at the graduate level. In most teacher-training courses, only a limited number of hours are spent on teaching prospective teachers how to guide individual children or how to run a homeroom. The curriculum for the new course is designed to ensure that students actually learn those skills as undergraduates. Fujihara’s class is part of the curriculum as well.
The Democratic Party of Japan, which took the reins of the government after winning the August 2009 general election, had announced in its election manifesto a plan to make all teacher-training courses six-years to improve the quality of schoolteachers.
For about a decade, such measures have been studied on and off at Tokyo Gakugei University, a state-run university exclusively dedicated to education.
“As educational issues diversify, quite a few students [majoring in education] leave university unsure of whether their four years of study have fully prepared them,” Yasuko Muramatsu, 65, the university’s vice president, said. “We felt we needed the option of spending a good six years training quality teachers who are ready to face a classroom full of students as soon as they graduate.”
The university’s emphasis on training classroom-ready teachers addresses a structural problem schools have with their teachers. Traditionally, older teachers passed on the wisdom and skills they had acquired in classrooms to younger teachers. However, restrictions on the hiring of new teachers in the past generation means there are many fewer reasonably experienced teachers in their 30s and 40s than there used to be. So there has been an insufficient passing down of those skills and knowledge to younger teachers.
Another problem is keeping students in teacher training courses motivated.
“The more they face the various educational issues, the less confident they become, and some of them decide to change their majors,” said Prof. Hiroaki Nakajima, 52, the head of the team running the new course. “If they learn how to deal with those issues from early on, it will help strengthen their resolve to become teachers.”
In the program, a particularly strong emphasis is placed on communication. Students learn how to handle various problems, such as bullying, classroom breakdown and issues involving parents, while incorporating different methods, including role-playing and counselling. In their senior year, they embark on a special study of their chosen subject, in addition to actual classroom experience.
At the Graduate School of Teacher Education, which was established in concert with the new course, new graduates and current teachers learn school management, various teaching methods and other subjects with an emphasis on practice. Some of the education methods used at the graduate school are employed in undergraduate studies as well. Currently, 33 students–sophomores and juniors–are on track to complete the six-year course. They take up just 2.4 percent of all the sophomores and juniors studying at the university’s Teacher Preparation Division.
“Teacher-training universities today need to be original and creative in their fulfillment of their students’ education,” Nakajima said. “There aren’t that many students [in the new course] yet, but I think our attempt will be a starting point for examining training methods.”
Nuts and bolts over theory
Classroom breakdown, bullying, lack of motivation to study–the more serious such problems become, the more important a role teacher-training universities and departments must play.
Universities and university departments specializing in teacher training offer students specialist education for becoming primary and middle school teachers. Students are required to obtain a teacher’s certificate before graduation. Such programs are available at 44 national or local public universities, 11 of which are specialist teacher-training universities, and at four private universities.
Such educational institutes shoulder the central role in training and producing teachers. According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, there were about 420,000 teachers at public or private primary schools in fiscal 2009, excluding substitute teachers. In fiscal 2007, about 60 percent of such teachers were graduates of a teacher-training university or the education department of another university.
However, what students mainly learn during four years of study at such universities or departments are the basics and theories of pedagogy and teaching methods, with less of an emphasis on teaching practice. Therefore, it has been argued that students do not spend enough time on practical education that would prepare them to handle various problems at schools today.
In fiscal 2008, graduate schools of education were launched at 24 universities, most of which specialize in teacher education. Compared to other graduate schools of education, which are more research-orientated, the emphasis at the new graduate schools is on practical aspects of teaching classes. Students also learn school management and various teaching methods.
(Feb. 18, 2010)
MEXT (i.e. the Education Ministry) explains the system and the requirements for teacher qualification at this page “Teacher Training Institutions“.

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