Record Number Of Japanese Teachers On Mental Health Leave Raises Concerns

Himalaya Times
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A record high number of teachers in Japan were reported taking leave due to mental illness in the fiscal year of 2022, reaching 6,539, local media reported on Saturday, citing an education ministry survey as saying.

According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the figure from April 2022 to March 2023 marks the second consecutive annual increase, with a rise of 642 individuals compared to the previous year, national news agency Kyodo reported.

The figure, accounting for 0.71 percent of all teachers across elementary, junior and high schools, as well as special needs schools, highlights the growing impact of mental health challenges within the education sector.

Experts suggest that the increased workload, particularly arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for infection prevention measures, may be contributing to the surge, the report said.

Over the past two years since the onset of the pandemic, the number of teachers on mental health leave has risen by more than 1,300, breaking from the previously stable trend of around 5,000, according to the survey.

The shortage of school teachers in Japan is considered a serious issue, with a declining interest among young people due to the perceived heavy workload. Additionally, experts note that more teachers are taking leave due to illness or childbirth.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the education ministry plans to address these challenges through workstyle reforms, including reducing paperwork and tackling long working hours.

Breaking down the data by age group, the survey revealed that the largest number of teachers on mental health leave were in their 30s, which came in at 1,867, followed by those in their 50s, 40s, and 20s, according to the survey.

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