The different types of teaching licenses in Japan

teachinghowUsually, a teacher who does not possess a teaching license can’t be fully in charge of a class, nor can he be a tenured teacher at a school in Japan. He can only be an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). Though there are some ALTs who are granted the same responsibilities as a tenured teacher, their position is unstable because they do not hold a teaching license. Therefore, it is a good move to get a teaching license in Japan if you plan to teach in Japan for the long term.

– 4 main teaching licenses –

In Japan, there are 4 main types of teaching licenses:

  • For kindergarten teachers;
  • For elementary school teachers;
  • For JHS teachers, for a specialized subject;
  • For SHS teachers, for a specialized subject.

For each license that you have, you can try to take and pass the corresponding recruitment examination.

For each of these licenses, you have 3 further types of licenses:

  • Second grade license: you get it in 2 years, but they are not regarded as sufficient anymore, so it is not a smart move to get a second grade license (nowadays, people who take the examination have at least a first grade license)
  • First grade license: you get it in 4 years (at university bachelor level). Most of the people who take and pass the recruitment examination have this type of license.
  • Specialized license: you get it at university master level. Recently, the government tries to promote this license because they want future teachers to hold master’s degrees in order to increase the quality of the teachers who teach in public schools. (“Does having a master degree make you a better teacher?”; that is a good question, but that’s not the theme of this article.)

You can’t get a specialized license without getting a first grade license first. In other words, the specialized license is a complement to the first grade license, not an independent license. Consequently, you will have to study for 6 years to get a specialized teaching license.

In 2008, 217,626 licenses of these types were granted in Japan.

Be aware that these licenses are valid for a period of 10 years. After 10 years, you will have to renew your license, by taking classes or participating in workshops to obtain more teaching license credits.

– 2 other types of teaching license –

There are other licenses, but they are only valid for a limited period and only in the prefecture that grants them.

There is the “special license”: valid for 10 years, which is granted to a person who is deemed to have special qualities or competencies. The candidate who applies for this teaching license should be recommended and has to take an examination and pass an interview. The Board of Education of the prefecture decides if the candidate is qualified to get this license.

The other license is the “temporary license”. Depending on the prefecture, this license is valid for 3 or 6 years. It is granted temporarily, in order to give time to a person to obtain a normal license.

In 2008, 64 special licenses and 9598 temporary licenses were granted in Japan.

– How can I get these licenses? –

To get a basic teaching license (first grade or specialized license), you will need university credits. These credits are different for each license, though some credits may be in common. Each university that has a teaching license course has latitude regarding some of the credits, but the course has to conform to the directives of the Japanese Ministry of Education.

You can get credits by:

  • Attending classes (with reports to write or tests to take).
  • Taking a course by distance (with reports to write or tests to take), but it doesn’t work for all the licenses, nor does it work for all the credits needed to get a license.

It’s the Board of Education that decides to grant a teaching license to an individual. The BoE can allow people who do not have a teaching license to teach a subject part time in a public school if this person is deemed needed. For some classes, a JHS or SHS teacher can be delegated to an elementary school.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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