The strengths of Japan’s initial teacher preparation system are characterised by high levels of competition between universities and competitive entrance to teaching.  This selection process drives quality, commitment to developing teachers’ subject knowledge  and strong culture of collaboration, reflective practice and support, especially for new teachers. However, Japan still faces some challenges, such as work overload, especially for new teachers and mentors, embedding research in practice and reform fatigue. But new ITE policies to revise selection into ITE and review the curriculum also create opportunities to further improve teacher quality.

Who's who in ITP in Japan?

From 5-9 September 2016, the OECD Review team spoke to more than 100 different stakeholders in initial teacher preparation – in the national ministry, Boards of Education, teacher education institutions, schools, national associations and teacher unions – around Tokyo, Sendai, Chiba and Miyagi.

Meet the stakeholders
National ministry of education

National ministry of education

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)

MEXT is responsible for setting the regulatory framework for higher education. MEXT’s responsibilities regarding ITP are to develop and disseminate guidelines or minimum requirements for:

  • selection mechanisms into initial teacher education institutions;
  • teacher training curriculum based on the national curriculum for schools;
  • different certification, including length of teaching practicum;
  • national teacher examinations;
  • formal inspection and accreditation of initial teacher education programmes through an Accreditation Board;
  • induction training;
  • certification renewal; and
  • conducting annual surveys of basic schools. MEXT is currently developing a legal framework to enable each university and Board of Education to have teacher competency standards.
National Institute for School Teachers and Staff Development

National Institute for School Teachers and Staff Development

National Institute for School Teachers and Staff Development (NITS) (National Centre for Teacher Development, at the time of investigation) is an institution affiliated to MEXT responsible for providing advice, conducting research and providing school management training for school leaders on issues around initial teacher education, induction and continuous professional development. NITS also helps to build capacity in school leaders and mentors to plan and implement training organised by Boards of Education.

National Institute for Educational Policy Research

National Institute for Educational Policy Research

National Institute for Educational Policy Research (NIER), an agency of MEXT, is the national research body in Japan responsible for collecting and analysing academic research data and translating these findings for policy improvement. In 2013, it published “Survey Results on the Improvement of Teacher Preparation”.

 

National Institute for School Teachers and Staff Development

National Institute for School Teachers and Staff Development (NITS) (National Centre for Teacher Development, at the time of investigation) is an institution affiliated to MEXT responsible for providing advice, conducting research and providing school management training for school leaders on issues around initial teacher education, induction and continuous professional development. NITS also helps to build capacity in school leaders and mentors to plan and implement training organised by Boards of Education.

National Institute for Educational Policy Research

National Institute for Educational Policy Research (NIER), an agency of MEXT, is the national research body in Japan responsible for collecting and analysing academic research data and translating these findings for policy improvement. In 2013, it published “Survey Results on the Improvement of Teacher Preparation”.

 

Sub-national authorities

Sub-national authorities

Boards of Education

Boards of Education (BOEs) exist in each of the 47 prefectures in Japan. BOEs are responsible for:

  • organising and delivering ITE programmes, most often in collaboration with teacher education institutions;
  • providing induction training for 1st year teachers;
  • awarding certificates for those who have completed university studies;
  • administering the examination and interviews as part of the Teacher Employment Examination;
  • selecting and hiring teachers for schools in their jurisdiction; and
  • delivery and context of induction programmes.
Chiba General Miyagi Education Center

Chiba General Miyagi Education Center

Established by the Board of Education, the Centre provides training for teachers, as a cramming school, for teachers in their first year and for teachers of students with special needs.

Miyagi prefecture

Miyagi prefecture

Established by the Board of Education, the Centre provides training for teachers, as a cramming school, for teachers in their first year and for teachers of students with special needs.

Chiba General Miyagi Education Center

Established by the Board of Education, the Centre provides training for teachers, as a cramming school, for teachers in their first year and for teachers of students with special needs.

Miyagi prefecture

Established by the Board of Education, the Centre provides training for teachers, as a cramming school, for teachers in their first year and for teachers of students with special needs.

Teacher education institutions

Teacher education institutions

Universities and university colleges

Though MEXT sets the regulatory frameworks, teacher education institutions in Japan have a large degree of autonomy in setting admission requirements and mechanisms and developing curricula. Universities typically have a joint council that seeks to maintain close, positive, and collaborative relationship between universities and host schools.

Teacher educators

In Japan, there is mandated professional development for teacher educators, who are also involved in university associations, like JANU.

Teacher candidates

In Japan, all teacher candidates are required to study specific subjects (Significance and Purpose of Being a Teacher; Theories on Teaching and Learning; Curriculum and Pedagogy; Instructional Guidance, Educational Counselling and Career Guidance) for a certain number of hours in order to obtain certification for different levels of education. They must also complete a 2-4 week practicum.

Miyagi University of Education

Miyagi University of Education

Criteria for selection: Example of Faculty of Education in a regional university. Number of programmes: The Faculty of Education has
3 departments:
– Elementary Education: 4 programmes, based on subject area.
– Secondary Education: 10 programmes, based on subject area.
– Special Education: 4 programmes, based on the type of disability. No. of enrolments: 1 494

Tamagawa University

Tamagawa University

Criteria for selection: Example of Faculty of Education in a regional university. Number of programmes: The Faculty of Education has
3 departments:
– Elementary Education: 4 programmes, based on subject area.
– Secondary Education: 10 programmes, based on subject area.
– Special Education: 4 programmes, based on the type of disability. No. of enrolments: 1 494

Miyagi University of Education

Criteria for selection: Example of Faculty of Education in a regional university. Number of programmes: The Faculty of Education has
3 departments:
– Elementary Education: 4 programmes, based on subject area.
– Secondary Education: 10 programmes, based on subject area.
– Special Education: 4 programmes, based on the type of disability. No. of enrolments: 1 494

Tamagawa University

Criteria for selection: Example of Faculty of Education in a regional university. Number of programmes: The Faculty of Education has
3 departments:
– Elementary Education: 4 programmes, based on subject area.
– Secondary Education: 10 programmes, based on subject area.
– Special Education: 4 programmes, based on the type of disability. No. of enrolments: 1 494

Teacher educators
Candidate teachers
Schools

Schools

Schools

In Japan, schools are responsible for working with Boards of Education to select new teachers and to provide support for new teachers in their induction year.

School management

In Japan, vice principals, head teachers and principals are teachers who have passed the managerial class examinations. The National Center for Teachers’ Development (NCTD) provides training for building core school leaders; general management training for school leaders; and training for instructors and leaders to be able to plan and implement the trainings by Boards of Education.

Teachers

In Japan, a teacher’s responsibility includes, but is not limited to, subject teaching, student guidance, class management, leading school events, leading club activities, career guidance, and other educational affairs. Monitoring and managing student behaviours, even outside the classroom and working time, are also considered to be a part of teachers’ responsibility.

  • Experienced teachers

    In Japan, after gaining more experience in classroom teaching, teachers can be chief-teachers of a grade, responsible of managing a group of teachers. Then, they would be promoted to senior teachers who work in support of principals and vice principals.

  • 2nd career teachers

    In Japan, while special certification can be obtained to teach in kindergarten and elementary schools (Second-Class Teaching Certificate) and special needs schools and special programmes (First-Class Teaching Certificate), 2nd career teachers must study regular programmes and sit the national teacher examinations.

  • Mentor teachers

    In Japan, mentor teachers by law are assigned to every new teacher with a regular contract. They do not receive training and are typically appointed by the school principal on the basis of seniority.

  • New teachers

    In Japan, new teachers usually start their teaching career as homeroom teachers and/or as subject teachers of their specialized area(s). New teachers with regular contracts by law are assigned a mentor teacher, who teaches at the school.

Oogashiwa Elementary School

Oogashiwa Elementary School

Criteria for selection: Large metropolitan public school
Location: Chiba Prefecture
Enrolments: 7 411 (Grades 1-6)
Teaching staff: 32

Nishikigaoka Elementary School

Nishikigaoka Elementary School

Criteria for selection: Large regional public school
Location: Miyagi Prefecture, City of Sendai
Enrolments: 1 059 (Grades 1-6)
Teaching staff: 52

Arahama Junior High School

Arahama Junior High School

Criteria for selection: Small regional public school
Location: Miyagi Prefecture, City of Sendai
Enrolments: 78 (Grades 7-9)
Teaching staff: 16

Tamagawa School

Tamagawa School

Criteria for selection: Large metropolitan private school
Location: Tokyo, City of Mcshida
Enrolments: 1 913 (Grades 1-12)
Teaching staff: 130

Oogashiwa Elementary School

Criteria for selection: Large metropolitan public school
Location: Chiba Prefecture
Enrolments: 7 411 (Grades 1-6)
Teaching staff: 32

Nishikigaoka Elementary School

Criteria for selection: Large regional public school
Location: Miyagi Prefecture, City of Sendai
Enrolments: 1 059 (Grades 1-6)
Teaching staff: 52

Arahama Junior High School

Criteria for selection: Small regional public school
Location: Miyagi Prefecture, City of Sendai
Enrolments: 78 (Grades 7-9)
Teaching staff: 16

Tamagawa School

Criteria for selection: Large metropolitan private school
Location: Tokyo, City of Mcshida
Enrolments: 1 913 (Grades 1-12)
Teaching staff: 130

School management
Teachers
Experienced teachers
2nd career teachers
Mentor teachers
New teachers
National associations

National associations

Associations of universities

In Japan, there are 3 national associations – for national universities, private universities and municipal and prefectural universities – which meet to exchange policy information and make policy proposals to MEXT on the topic of initial teacher preparation.

Japan Association of Universities of Education

Japan Association of Universities of Education

JANU has 56 member institutions (i.e. education universities and faculties of education in national universities), all with affiliated schools, and 12 000 faculty members as part of these universities. Its main role is to provide policy recommendations to the MEXT Council for Education (e.g. on teachers’ curriculum, programme accreditation); to award grants for research on all teacher education, especially in its a affiliated schools, collaboration between community and universities, and contemporary issues in education; and disseminate the findings of this research through journals and conferences.

Japan Association of Universities of Education

JANU has 56 member institutions (i.e. education universities and faculties of education in national universities), all with affiliated schools, and 12 000 faculty members as part of these universities. Its main role is to provide policy recommendations to the MEXT Council for Education (e.g. on teachers’ curriculum, programme accreditation); to award grants for research on all teacher education, especially in its a affiliated schools, collaboration between community and universities, and contemporary issues in education; and disseminate the findings of this research through journals and conferences.

Teacher unions

Teacher unions

Teacher unions

In Japan, there are 3 teacher unions – for mostly public school teachers, private schools teachers and university staff – and their role main role is to negotiate with the authorities (the employer) over employees’ salaries, working hours, and other working conditions, in addition to social and welfare-related activities.

Japan Teachers' Union

Japan Teachers’ Union

(Nikkyoso) is the largest and oldest teacher union in Japan with nearly 300 000 members. Founded as a federation of prefectural schoolteachers’ unions in June 1947, it is composed mostly of teachers from public schools. It also co-ordinates with many regional teacher unions, which provide JTU with responses from teacher surveys, and private school unions. It is a member of the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) and (internationally) of Education International (EI).

Japan Teachers’ Union

(Nikkyoso) is the largest and oldest teacher union in Japan with nearly 300 000 members. Founded as a federation of prefectural schoolteachers’ unions in June 1947, it is composed mostly of teachers from public schools. It also co-ordinates with many regional teacher unions, which provide JTU with responses from teacher surveys, and private school unions. It is a member of the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) and (internationally) of Education International (EI).

The study focused on which levels of education in Japan?

JAPAN’S FOCUS WAS ON PRIMARY AND LOWER SECONDARY EDUCATION

Who contributed to
the OECD Japan study?

A national co-ordinator was nominated by each participating country to manage the ITP OECD Review Team study with the OECD and the 4-person OECD Review Team.

Meet the team
NATIONAL
CO-ORDINATORS
OECD
REVIEW TEAM
NATIONAL
CO-ORDINATORS
Tsutomu Takaguchi
Deputy Chief Executive
National Institute for
School Teachers and
Staff Development, MEXT
Kumiko Kakinuma
Research Associate
National Institute for
School Teachers and
Staff Development, MEXT
Makito Yurita
Senior Researcher Fellow
National Institute for
School Teachers and
Staff Development, MEXT
OECD
REVIEW TEAM
Hannah von Ahlefeld
Project Lead, 
OECD Initial Teacher 
Preparation Study
Francesca Caena
Lecturer
University of Venice
Italy
Danielle Toon
Manager
Learning First
Australia
Kjetil Helgeland
Analyst
OECD Initial Teacher
Preparation Study

OECD wishes to thank…

The OECD is grateful to the National Institute for School Teachers and Staff Development for organising such a memorable and inspiring visit to Japan!