Current concerns (15): When juku goes to school; would-be teachers from rural areas courted by metropolitan areas

Cram school teachers have started teaching special winter-holiday lessons to third-year students at Ryogoku Middle School in Sumida Ward, Tokyo.

Seventy of the 199 third-year students are participating in the lessons, which began Sunday and will continue through Jan. 3, with the exception of New Year’s Day. The teachers are from Sapix cram school, which specializes in helping students pass entrance exams.

Sumida Ward’s education board permitted the use of the public school during the year-end and New Year’s holidays as an exceptional case. The participation fee of 24,000 yen is about half the amount that a cram school would charge for such lessons.

The students were divided into four classes according to their level of academic achievement. A male student said: “I understood the lesson well as the cram school teacher adjusted the teaching pace to me.” A female student said it was good to be able to get lessons from cram school teachers at a reasonable cost. “I wonder why our school’s teachers don’t give us special lessons,” she remarked.

The special lessons are sponsored by a local community group formed to support the school, which comprises members of neighborhood associations and former members of the board of the school’s parent-teacher association.

Touting the benefits of offering special cram school lessons at schools, Isao Hinata, 72, chief of the community group, said: “It’s the job of teachers to teach students the basics of subjects equally. They can’t teach students how to pass entrance exams individually.”

(Dec. 30, 2008)
This move is similar to the earlier initiative taken by Osaka Prefectural Board of Education see article Cram school tutors to help Osaka Pref.

Demographics favor rural teachers as city schools widen search for staff

HIROSAKI, Aomori–In late November, Hirosaki University’s education department received a visit by an official from a board of education as part of its efforts to encourage students to take its professional exam. It appeared to be a normal promotional campaign, except for the fact that the official had traveled all the way from Saitama Prefecture.

“Teachers from the Tohoku region [including Aomori Prefecture] enjoy a good reputation, and many principals want them to work at their schools,” Saitama Prefectural Board of Education official Makoto Honjo, 44, told a group of about 40 students. “Your alumni have been showing notable performances. I hope you’ll follow the path of helping children in our prefecture to gain [sound scholastic] skills.”

The national university’s education department received visits by the boards of education of Chiba and Tochigi prefectures, as well as Saitama city, around that time. In addition, it also organized a meeting earlier this month between students and some of its alumni who now work at schools in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Since 2005, Hirosaki University has been encouraging its students to take teacher recruitment exams for boards of education in the Tokyo metropolitan area. As the Educational Renaissance series in The Yomiuri Shimbun reported in the summer of 2006, the northern university even chartered a bus to take students south to the exam sites.

As a result, the university had 37 successful examinees in the 2005 teacher recruitment exams conducted by Tokyo itself, three surrounding prefectures and four nearby ordinance-designated major cities–Saitama, Chiba, Yokohama and Kawasaki. The number increased to 55 last year.

However, out of 37 successful examinees, four had declined to fill any vacancies by April 2006, and this number has been steadily increasing. Instead, many have chosen to work as part-time lecturers or have found positions with companies in the Tohoku region.

“Our students seems to have less and less resistance to taking recruitment exams [in urban areas],” said Prof. Shuichi Miyazaki, 55. “However, it’s still hard for them to make a final decision [to become teachers there].”

For prospective teachers in nonurban areas, it has been difficult to get full-time positions at local schools. The recruitment exam conducted by the Aomori Prefectural Board of Education for the April 2008 recruitment, for example, drew 16.5 applications for each available post–the third highest rate of competition nationwide.

In contrast, exams conducted by boards of education in the Tokyo and Osaka areas have been far less competitive–about three to five applicants for each available position for the 2008 recruitment–mainly because these boards of education have many teachers from the baby-boom generation who are now approaching retirement, creating a large number of vacancies.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education expects to employ about 3,000 teachers this coming April. “Mass retirement will continue for about five more years,” one official said.

However, the advantageous position examinees enjoy for teacher recruitment exams in the metropolitan areas is not expected to last long. Many universities in the urban areas have been increasing the number of students they admit to their teacher training programs. Moreover, the number of students will continue to fall due to the nation’s declining birthrate.

Therefore, it could become possible in the future for would-be teachers in metropolitan areas to have to compete strongly with each other to be recruited. In other words, for prospective teachers in rural areas, moving to urban areas would no longer be such an effective career path.

(Jan 29, 2009) Daily Yomiuri

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