I can’t talk about life in a Japanese school without talking about the faculty so let’s cover what they’re all about here starting with teachers. Teachers in Japan tend to teach practically all the subjects from math to music and even gym class for the elementary grades but they later switch off during the high school years depending on the subject they specialize in.
Preschool teachers are typically in their 20′s with approximately 99.6% of them being women according to a 1986 survey. Their average age is 27 years old with half being under 25. It’s a relatively prestigious job for young women with the salary comparable to college educated women and is actually the third most popular course of study at the undergrad level after Literature and Home Economics.
Most preschool teachers attract energetic, confident, middle-class and upper-middle-class young women who want to devote themselves to teaching till they retire, usually when their first child is born. They have above-average education and must pass a certification exam to be qualified to teach. 95% of schools do not employ an uncertified teacher so certification is a must.
As mentioned in another article, there is one teacher per classroom for elementary students and teachers will switch off during high school depending on the subject they teach. They work eight to nine hours per day, arriving at 8 am and leaving around 4 or 5 pm unless it’s a Saturday which is a half day. Younger teachers defer to older teachers with more experience for advice and guidance and respectively, all teachers defer to the director or head teacher.
The director, typically a women with 20 – 30 years more experience than the regular teachers on staff, handles the day-to-day management of the school. They know the school policy, tradition, and have plenty of experience with children and know how to handle problems of all kinds. A director’s average age is 51 and only about 5% have any type of teaching responsibility. Preschools are not required to fill a director position and only 1 in 5 preschools have one. Rather, they have a senior teacher who works are the main administrator and adviser to all.
Last but not least, is the principal of the school. 91% of principals are men with an average age of 63 years old according to a 1986 survey. They may be in charge of the school but they are only physically present in the school part-time or irregularly. Principals function more as an honorary adviser than a day-to-day manager like the director and they officiate public functions and serve as liaisons between the school and the supporting organizations. Only 1% of principals have a teaching responsibility and 40% actually have other occupational duties outside of the school itself. I guess that is to be expected of top level positions. They’re more of the corporate face of the company or school in this case and not actually part of the grind of the day-to-day activities.