England outdoes Japan in stress league

7th August 2009 at 01:00
Teachers in Far East have heavier workload, but our curriculum testing adds to pressure

Teachers in England who grumble about the long hours they face, as well as the heavy workload and lack of support, should spare a thought for colleagues in Japan.

The Japan Teachers Union commissioned a study to compare Japan's working conditions with those in England, Scotland and Finland in a bid to change government policies in the country.

The report, released last week, showed that although England's teachers fare much worse in their working conditions than their European neighbours, they are still significantly better off than their counterparts in the Far East.

The research showed that, on average, a Japanese teacher works an 11-hour day, compared with the 8.5 hours typical in England. This was accompanied by a daily break of just 20 minutes, unlike England's average of 45 minutes. Teaching staff in Japan also lose out on an hour of sleep each night compared with their English colleagues.

The survey, undertaken by the National Foundation for Educational Research, also indicated that Japanese teachers were twice as likely to admit that their workload was "too much to continue the job".

They were also more likely to "strongly agree" with the statement that their "current knowledge was not enough" to function properly in the role.

Japanese teachers were only a little more inclined than teachers in England to agree with the statement that being a teacher left them "too busy to enjoy my life".

But England's teachers come out on top in terms of stress.

According to the report, despite the longer hours, lack of sleep and unmanageable workload, Japanese teachers are less stressed than teachers in England.

The reason for this, the study says, is national curriculum testing, which the Japanese government is currently considering.

The report said: "England's implementation of a national academic testing system may have contributed to these results (stress levels), as well as its strict policy of defining the contents of the curriculum and at what speed it should be taught to all students in England."

John Bangs, National Union of Teachers head of education, said it was no surprise that national testing was found to be a major factor in teachers' stress levels given the way these are used to evaluate schools.

"Stress is the most poisonous by-product of all work, and it can have terrible effects on both the mental and physical health of teachers, and it is something that needs to be tackled," he said.

"Key stage 1 and 2 tests are a far greater pressure on our teachers than even Ofsted visits - the results of which are then used totally inappropriately as a proxy measure to evaluate the school.

"They are the very embodiment of high stakes - and when there are high stakes, there is stress."



Kindergarten: age three to five

Elementary school: six years - grade 1 (age 6) to grade 6 (age 11)

Lower secondary: three years - grade 7 (age 12) to grade 9 (age 14)

Upper secondary: three years - grade 10 (age 15) to grade 12 (age 17)

University: four years - age 18-21

Colleges of Technology: age 15-19

Number of teachers in 2005: 867,130

Number of pupils in 2005: 2,075,458

Number of schools: 53,525.

Pupil: teacher ratio was 17.3 in secondary; 14.6 lower secondary In 2005


Nursery: age three

Reception: age four

Primary school: six years - Year 1 (age five) to Year 6 (age 10)

Secondary: seven years - Year 7 (age 11) to Year 13 (age 17)

Sixth form: two years - Year 12 (age 16) to Year 13 (age 17)

Number of teachers: 441,200

Number of support staff: 176,900

Number of schools: 27,000

Pupil: teacher ratio was 16.8 in 2008.

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