1. National guidelines and legislation on ITP

Act on Special Measures for Assurance of Educational Personnel for Compulsory Education Schools for the Quality Standards of School Education (1954, revised 2015 – in Japanese).

Originally enacted to prevent highly qualified teachers from taking other occupations at a time of rapid economic growth in Japan, the act sets more favourable salary scales for teachers compared to general civil servants. In 2015, the act was revised to further ensure a higher salary for teachers compared to general civil servants, even under severe financial conditions.


Education Personnel Certification Act (aka. School Teacher’s License Act) (Act No. 147 of 1949 – in Japanese).

School Teacher’s License Act sets the criteria for licensing of teachers to both ensure and improve the qualities of teaching personnel.


Educational Personnel Certification Law (1953, revised 2015).

The law sets the minimum standards for teachers’ pre-service education in Japan. It gives MEXT authority to regulate the content of ITE programmes, organisation of teacher education institutions, faculty credentials and other issues pertaining to initial teacher education, for example requiring prospective teachers to complete “teaching practice” for 2 to 4 weeks in all universities and university departments offering ITE programmes in Japan. The minister of MEXT is responsible for approving all applications for setting up the ITE programmes reviewed by the Accreditation Board within the Subcommittee on Teacher Preparation, which is set under the Central Council for Education.


On Induction Training (2014), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Tokyo.

The document provides guidelines for Boards of Education to develop 1 year induction programmes for new teachers. It includes a proposed schedule and content for teachers for on-site and off-site training.


Law for Special Regulations Concerning Educational Public Service Personnel (EPSP) (1949, revised 2017).

This law mandates Boards of Education in Japan to provide new teachers with induction training during their first year of appointment. New teachers are placed under a conditional employment status during their first year, and BOEs must evaluate new teachers before removing their conditional status. The law also requires the assignment of a mentor teacher for every new teacher with a regular-term contract.

Ordinance for the Enforcement of the School Teacher’s License Act (Ordinance of the Ministry of Education No. 26 of 1954, revised 2017).

The ordinance sets the minimum number of credits and the details and methods of curriculum for teacher education institutions. The ordinance was revised in 2017 to include new curricular requirements for teacher preparation courses.

2. Policy and research on ITP

Forlin, C., N. Kawai and S. Higuchi (2015), “Educational reform in Japan towards inclusion: are we training teachers for success?”, International Journal of Inclusive Education, Vol. 19/3, pp. 314-331.

The article investigates whether Japanese pre-service teachers are ready for an inclusive education. The study examines the perceptions of 619 pre-service teachers under the age of 25 years who will be teaching at elementary or special schools. A questionnaire was used for data collection with a set of items requesting teachers’ backgrounds, perceptions about inclusive education, and potential concerns about the topic. The result shows that pre-service teachers’ perceived readiness for inclusion is considerably low and they reported negatively on the necessary skills and knowledge for the inclusive approach to education. The paper concludes that there is an urgent need for the improvement of initial teacher education to promote inclusive education.


Fujita, H. (2007), “The qualifications of the teaching force in Japan”, in Ingersoll, R. (ed.), A Comparative Study of Teacher Preparation and Qualifications in Six Nations, CPRE, Philadelphia, PA.

The study compares the teacher preparation and qualifications in six countries and economies. Chapter 4 focuses on Japanese initial teacher preparation system and the author outlines teachers’ education programmes, the types of teaching certifications and teachers’ qualifications in Japan. The author also describes how the teaching profession is regarded in Japan, teachers’ perceptions of their profession and work lives in Japan, compared with China and the United Kingdom. The author concludes that teachers’ autonomy and professionalism should not be undermined when designing and implementing reforms in initial teacher preparation.


Iwata, Y. (2004), Recent Trends on Teacher Education Reform in Japan.

The paper addresses the challenges of teacher education in Japan and the curriculum reform introduced in Japan in 2004. The author points out several issues stemming from the open system such as “teaching practice pollutions” involving mentor teachers’ burden, increasing competition ratio in the teachers’ employment examination, and decreasing respect for teachers. The author also raises issues around minimum standards for teachers’ quality and the power shift between multiple teacher education institutions related to teacher education. The author analyses the characteristics and limitations of the then new curriculum model for teacher education including “Core Subjects for Teacher Education”. The article discusses national teacher education reform strategies such as the establishment of professional teacher training graduate schools, the introduction of a teacher certificate renewal system, and the evaluation for higher education institutions.


Iwata, Y. (2015), “On ‘Japanese style’ teacher education reform: Considering issues of quality development under an ‘Open system’”, Educational Studies in Japan: International Yearbook, Vol. 9/March, pp. 81-97.

This paper describes the uniqueness of Japanese’s teacher education system and its reform. The author first compares different approaches to teacher education reform supported by the main political parties in Japan. The prevalence of ‘open system’ in Japanese teacher education and its limitation are discussed in the paper. The author illustrates curriculum approval as an example of a quality assurance measure in Japan, arguing that the ‘top-down’ approach in policy development may erode the autonomy of universities.


Jensen, B. et al. (2016), Not So Elementary: Primary School Teacher Quality in Top-Performing Systems, National Center on Education and the Economy, Washington, D.C.

The report analyses how initial teacher education policies and practices promote subject expertise of elementary school teachers in 4 high-performing systems: Finland, Hong Kong, Japan and Shanghai. Sections 6 and 7 of the report covers Japan’s initial teacher education programmes, certification, employment, induction and ongoing professional development policies, including Tokushima prefecture’s school-based and external training induction programme and lesson study. The report concludes that the keys to success in these systems are strong assessments of teachers’ subject knowledge and requirement of specialisation in more than one subject, in addition to coverage of foundational concepts in teacher education and providing opportunities for new teachers to enhance subject expertise.


Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (2015), Improving the Quality and Ability of Teachers.

This national document released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) outlines national strategies for improving the quality and ability of teachers. The measures include the development of effective management systems particularly targeting outstanding or underperforming teachers as well as teacher evaluation and the newly implemented Teacher Certificate Renewal System. The diagrams in the paper illustrate the current path of teacher improvement, the process of employment examination for public school teachers, and teachers’ professional development by experience. The paper provides relevant data including the number of teachers’ certificates issued, applicants, and newly hired teachers.


Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (2016), Country Background Report. OECD Initial Teacher Preparation Study. Japan, MEXT, Tokyo.


This is a self-evaluation report providing background information for the team of experts visiting Japan as part of the OECD Initial Teacher Preparation study. It outlines issues and challenges along the six stages of the OECD Teacher Education pathway: attracting candidates into initial teacher education (ITE), selection into ITE programmes, what teacher candidates need to know and do, ensuring quality delivery of ITE programmes, teacher certification and hiring, and support for new teachers.


Nakayama, N., A. Takagi and H. Imamura (2010), “Teacher certification renewal system: An analysis based on a nation-wide survey of Japanese teachers of English”, Educational Perspectives, Vol. 43, pp. 28-37.

This paper reports the results of a survey of secondary English teachers in Japan to determine their perceptions toward the Teacher Certification Renewal System, which sets a 10-year period of validity for teaching licenses (rather than issuing a permanent one). Teachers expressed the need for concrete professional competencies and diversification of criteria for teacher appraisals. In terms of license renewal courses, the authors emphasise the importance of combining theory and practice, incorporating demonstration lessons and class observations, and offering various options, arguing that teachers’ input should be carefully considered to better design effective certification renewal training courses and evaluation methods.


Ramírez Carpeño, E. and Y. Mekochi (2015), “Initial teacher education in Japan and Spain”, Revista Espanola de Educacion Comparada, Vol. 25, pp. 101-127.

The study examines initial teacher education systems, the latest policy reform and key aspects for improvement in Japan and Spain from a comparative perspective. Drawing on international and national legislation and documents, the authors conclude that the two systems are most similar in student selection processes and structure of programmes. However, there are notable differences in the duration of programmes, and amount and distribution of credits in the two countries.


3. Other reports on Japan

Jones, R.S. (2011), “Education Reform in Japan”, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 888, OECD Publishing, Paris.

After providing a brief overview of the education sector and expenditure on education in Japan, the author describes a range of policies to address current challenges in Japan’s education system. The first challenge relates to policies to improve educational outcomes, which could be addressed by investing more in early childhood education and care, improving the quality of primary and secondary schools, and raising the quality of tertiary education. The author also describes challenges around increasing efficiency or value for money in education, which could be addressed by integrating childcare and kindergarten to reduce costs, consolidating schools, using teachers more effectively by allowing them to focus more on teaching and liberalising regulations on tertiary institutions. Other key challenges outlined are reducing the burden on families by raising the public share of spending on early childhood education and care, reducing dependence on juku (and lightening the burden of tertiary education on parents). The author also advocates for reducing inequality in education, strengthening vocational education and training and increasing the role of the education system in innovation. The paper concludes with a summary of recommendations.


Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) (2004), Teachers’ Matter. OECD Country Background Report. Japan, MEXT, Tokyo.

This document is part of a reporting exercise undertaken by Japan as part of the OECD study “Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers” conducted between 2002 and 2004. The report describes teacher policy in Japan and the status of teachers; selection into ITE, course content, recruitment and hiring, and salary; and pre- and in-service teacher training. It concludes by describing features and themes of national teacher policy in Japan. The report highlights teachers’ relatively high social status and positive perceptions towards teaching profession by young people in comparison to other countries. It also highlights how building trust in school and developing an effective teacher assessment system can ameliorate the quality of initial teacher education. The report emphasises the importance of considering teachers’ abilities and aptitudes when designing in-service education and collaboration of boards of education with universities.


OECD (2011), “Japan: A story of sustained excellence”, in Lessons from PISA for the United States, OECD Publishing, Paris.

This chapter explores how Japan has been achieving consistently high standing in international rankings on education surveys since PISA 2000 – and what other countries might be able to learn from the Japanese experience. The chapter describes the historical and social context of Japan’s education system, from the Tokugawa era to today. It then outlines the key features of the Japanese education system: a standard and demanding national curriculum, a teaching approach that emphasises student engagement; strong school-home communication, long school hours and after-hours schooling, focus on teacher quality, carefully-targeted financial resources, a focus on equity, and a system of teacher accountability in schools that is not based on student assessments. The chapter then addresses how Japan’s education system is changing to meet today’s challenges by fostering creativity and the group versus the individual; maintaining the social fabric and student enthusiasm; and pursuing a new reform agenda for the 21st century.


OECD (2012), “Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education” Lessons from PISA for Japan, OECD Publishing, Paris.

The publication focuses on how Japan is reforming its education system not only to produce better learning outcomes, but to equip students with the skills they need to navigate through the unpredictable labour market and to participate in society as active citizens. This is the second in a series of reports examining how education systems are handling the challenge of preparing their students for a world of interconnected populations, rapid technological change, and instantaneous availability of vast amounts of information. The report presents examples from other countries with consistently high-performing education systems or countries that, by redesigning policies and practices, have been able to improve their education outcomes, as measured by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).


Japan – Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education

OECD (2013), “Country note. Japan. Programme for International Study Assessment (PISA) Results from PISA 2012”.

This “Country note” was prepared for Japan for the release of results from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment 2012. It summarises key findings for Japan compared to previous PISA cycles, related to student performance in mathematics, the main literacy domain for the 2012 PISA cycle, science and reading literacy. Students in Japan remain higher performers in mathematics, reading, and science, improving significantly in reading between 2009 and 2012. While the Japanese school system ensures equity in education opportunities (i.e. the relationship between students’ socio-economic status and performance is weaker than the OECD average), performance differences between advantaged and disadvantaged schools have widened since 2003. The note describes data related to students’ engagement, drive and self-beliefs: students in Japan derive less pleasure and interest in learning mathematics, are less open to problem solving, and are more anxious about learning mathematics compared to other countries. Students in Japan generally feel less confident about their ability to solve a set of pure and applied mathematics problems than the average student across OECD countries, but have shown improvement over time. Finally, the note explores what makes schools successful by citing data on the learning environment, learning time, resource allocation, accountability arrangements, school governance, and sorting students. The note also provides key data tables and a description of the PISA study.


OECD (2014), “Education Policy Outlook: Japan”.

This policy profile on education on Japan is part of the “OECD Education Policy Outlook” series, which presents comparative analysis of education policies and reforms across OECD countries. Each profile reviews the current context and situation of a country’s education system and examines its challenges and policy responses, according to six policy levers that support improvement: Students: How to raise outcomes for all in terms of 1) equity and quality and 2) preparing students for the future; Institutions: How to raise quality through 3) school improvement and 4) evaluation and assessment; and System: How the system is organised to deliver education policy in terms of 5) governance and 6) funding. The Japan profile highlights the challenges of maintaining high performance and equitable access at the school level, especially in early childhood education; providing adequate structures and incentives to further activate women’s skills for the labour market; supporting teachers through a school improvement agenda; maximising use of evaluation and assessment results to promote better student achievement across the system, particularly at school level; reforming local education administration to reflect the voice of citizens in education; and defining where priority investment is needed to revitalise Japanese education. The policy profile also includes a map of the education system, key statistics and indicators, and references for Japan.


OECD (2015), “Country note. Japan. Programme for International Study Assessment (PISA) Results from PISA 2015”.

This “Country note” was prepared for Japan for the release of results from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment 2015. It summarises key findings for Japan compared to previous PISA cycles, which are stable, related to student performance in science, the main literacy domain for the 2015 PISA cycle, mathematics and reading literacy including gender differences in each of the literacy domains. Japan outperformed students in most other OECD countries. It describes students’ engagement in science in Japan, with regard to students’ disposition towards the scientific method of enquiry, students’ expectations of a career in science, students’ science self-beliefs and motivation for science learning, which is around the OECD average. Japan reported very low levels of truancy compared to other OECD countries. The note also describes Japan’s high levels of performance and equity, whereby less of the variation in student performance is attributed to differences in students’ socio-economic status. Finally, the note describes policies and practices at school in Japan, such as opportunities to learn science at school, extracurricular science activities, teaching strategies, learning time, resource allocation, school governance and selecting and sorting students. The note also provides key data tables and a description of the PISA study.


OECD (2017), “Japan”, in Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris.

This “Country note” was prepared for Japan for the release of results from the 2017 edition of the annual OECD publication on statistics and indicators, Education at a Glance. It focuses on six major topics: educational attainment, skills and participation in the labour market; equity in education and the labour market; financing of education; the teaching profession; tertiary education; and early childhood through upper secondary education. Key results from Japan indicate that households account for more than 50% of the funding for early childhood education and tertiary education, placing a significant financial burden on families. Science-related fields are not particularly in demand in Japan, compared to business, administration and law, and science-related fields of study are still strongly dominated by men, although women represent half of all entrants to tertiary education. Teachers work longer hours than in other OECD countries, and while teachers’ starting salaries in Japan are lower than the OECD average, they rise faster with experience than in other countries. Half of the working-age population are tertiary-educated and the share has increased to 60% among the younger generation, one of the highest attainment rates among OECD countries for this age group. Japan has some of the highest tertiary tuition fees among OECD countries with available data and they have been increasing in the past decade.