Wednesday, October 08, 2003

An article from the Asahi Weekly
site says:

"Just 6 percent of teachers at elementary and junior high schools have confidence in their ability to counsel students in social skills and other nonacademic matters, according to a recent survey.

The figure was markedly lower than in Britain and China, where 47 percent and 73 percent, respectively, of teachers were confident of their ability to shepherd students toward becoming more well-rounded individuals."

In the Yokkaichi Teachers' Development Initiative that I coordinate with Andy Mellor, and in the TOPLINE program that I coordinated with Paul Beaufait in Kumamoto, we asked teachers about their confidence levels in English language use and in teaching. Paul and/or I reported the data from the TOPLINE program at some point on those issues. We did not have another population of teachers with which to compare them, but the numbers were not nearly as bleak as the figures above.

What I do see, though is a general trend of low self confidence among teachers in Japan. The reason I say this is the data from the report above, and from another report out of the International Study Center at Boston College. In a report from the 1999 TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and science Study) it shows that while Japan is relatively strong (5th in their data behind Singapore, Korea, Taipei, and Hong Kong) in math achievement scores, Japanese teachers have very low confidence levels IN THEIR PREPARATION to teach mathematics. Their data shows that the confidence highs of 85% for Macedonia, the US, the Slovac Republic and Cyprus, are contrasted with the lowest score of 8% in Japan. Data on science teachers reflects the same kind of differences with high confidence levels in Macedonia and Japan with the lowest confidence levels.

If this data is reliable, teachers are far less than confident in their preparation for these two teaching careers. Can this data be extrapolated to cover English teachers? I am not sure that the levels would be as low as those for math and science, but they would be lower than 85%. I am making that judgment based on the data collected from the seminars with English teachers, and the teachers that attend those seminars are special in a number of ways, if not only their motivation to improve themselves professionally.

There may be factors that account for some of the data collected, like a generally low level of self esteem that passes for modesty here, a result of the general tendency by those in power to bully and focus on their subordinates' faults rather than to build on strengths. This behavior is perpetuated by the "sempai/kohai" social structure.

In any case, teachers in Japan, of whatever grade or subject, are hardworking, honest, dedicated people who desperately need ways to build confidence in their ability to contribute to their students and their professions.

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