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Published in Print: March 1, 2006, as Dispatches

Dispatches

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JAPAN

Head Cases: Teaching can sometimes drive its practitioners close to insanity, but the profession seems to be pushing an increasing number of Japanese educators over the brink. According to a recently released government survey, more than 3,500 public school teachers took leaves of absence for mental illness in fiscal year 2004, the Japan Times reports. The record-setting number, which has tripled over the past decade, represented the 12th straight yearly upsurge. “Numerous teachers have had trouble communicating with parents and working out teaching methods while they are coping with busy schedules,” an unnamed education ministry official told the paper.

JORDAN

Rights and Wrongs: Jordanian textbook writers are making things up as they go along, according to a recent study co-commissioned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. “School textbook writers are incompetent and not well-informed on human rights issues,” report author Suleiman Sweiss told a round-table meeting in the kingdom’s capital. For example, according to the Jordan Times, the researcher and activist ran across a reference to “oriental democracy,” an apparent neologism that the text helpfully defined as “the rule by a small group of educated people who know very well how to run the state.” The nation’s Ministry of Education declined to immediately comment on Sweiss’ revelations.

TAIWAN

Missing Persons: The job ad recruiting foreign English teachers to work in rural districts seemed to have everything going for it: Competitive salaries. Housing stipends. Medical benefits. Even free airfare. But the three-year-old solicitation has proved all too resistible. Initially aiming for 1,000 educators, the effort has netted only 40, not all of whom even lasted a full year, the Taipei Times reports. Professor Shih Yu-hwei told the paper that the idea, copied from Japanese and South Korean plans, was fatally flawed. “The foreign teachers usually had difficulty in coordinating with the domestic teachers and were often treated as simply ‘living recorders’ who did nothing but regurgitate native English pronunciation.”

CHINA

Unfunded Mandate: As elsewhere, teachers in China are accustomed to being underpaid. But when they don’t even get all of their paltry salaries, working poverty can quickly become working penury. China Business News reports that the government will now cover the more than $1 billion in back pay that rural schools owe educators and end the “temporary teacher” program that has kept their compensation in limbo. Lu Yugang, a senior official with the Ministry of Education, said the department would work out a plan to “properly arrange the future of these temporary teachers,” many of whom have been working as long as 20 years for as little as $5 or $6 a month, when they were paid at all.

—Scott J. Cech

Vol. 17, Issue 05, Page 15

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