Teaching in Japan not all it’s cracked up to be

The number of first-year teachers who leave their job for health reasons has increased 20-fold over the past 10 years, according to a survey by the education ministry. By "health" most of the teachers mean "mental health."

More than 100 teachers left after their first year in 2010, complaining of depression and stress. Only five quit in 2000. If so many teachers feel that much stress, one can imagine how the students in their classes feel.

Of the 8,600 teachers who took a leave of absence for health reasons in 2009, two-thirds cited psychological problems. Others complained of difficulties in human relationships, particularly with so-called monster parents.

Read the rest of the story: Teachers leaving jobs.

English to be compulsory subject in Japan’s primary schools

With just weeks to go before English becomes a compulsory subject at Japan’s primary schools, doubts surround the boldest attempt in decades to improve the country’s language skills, and its ability to compete overseas with rival Asian economies.

The new curriculum is to be introduced after intense lobbying from the business community, amid fears that Japan’s competitive edge could be blunted unless it takes English communication as seriously as China and South Korea.

The new classes, which start in April, will be aimed at fifth- and sixth-grade pupils, aged 10-12, at all of Japan’s public primary schools. The lessons will be held only once a week – or 35 times a year – with each lasting 45 minutes.

Read the rest of the story: Japan launches primary push to teach English.