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Study of Japanese University Students' Perceptions of Teachers- Ch.3: Perception of Self and Future Prospects in Education

Study of Japanese University Students' Perceptions of Teachers
Chapter Three: Perception of Self and Future Prospects in the Education Profession

1. The Personal Attributes of University Students Majoring in Education

i. Awareness of Self of University Students Majoring in Education
How do the university students majoring in education view themselves? Based on information gained from the survey, we present common characteristics and form some considerations about the personalities of university students majoring in education.

Easygoing Temperament
The majority of university students majoring in education rated themselves as being easygoing in their temperament (23.4% answered "very much so" and 51.3% answered "relatively so" to "I think I am of an easygoing temperament").1 We cannot determine if this is because the subjects were university students majoring in education, but it seems that a high percentage of relaxed, gentle people aspire to become teachers.

A Liking for Children
A characteristic of university students majoring in education is that a majority of them like children.1 According to the survey, 44.8% answered "I like them a lot" and 38.3% answered "I like them fairly well;" in fact 83.1% answered that they like children.

A Strong Ability to Form Human Relationships
A large percentage of students feel "I have a lot of friends,"1 and "When I am in trouble I can ask the advice of friends right away"1 ("very much so" + "relatively so", 57.1%, 66.9%). A majority feels that they can immediately consult friends if they are in trouble, showing that for the students, human relationships are important in everyday life.

Also, 70.1% think that they are good at caring for others1 ("very much so", 25.3%; "relatively so", 44.8%). Here too we can see that students have good feelings about human relationships.

ii. Consideration
From what university students majoring in education say about their self-image, generally we can infer the following about their personalities:

Basically their personalities are gentle and easygoing, and they like people.

We can see that university students majoring in education have relatively good relationships with friends. They are good at caring for others, and consider their exchanges with other people important. Their liking of children would seem to be an extension of this.

The image of the "teacher who interacts with students enthusiastically" and the "teacher who is rich in humanity" is a commonly-held layperson's idealization of educators. From this survey, we can infer that students who resemble this kind of idealized image of the teacher aspire for careers in education.

2. University Students Majoring in Education who are Oriented Toward School Culture

A high percentage of students who are "dedicated to study", "interested in school activities," and "enjoy school life" aspire to careers in education.

i. Grades up to High School
Elementary school High 66.2 % Moderately high 21.4 %
Junior High school High 64.7 % Moderately high 28.1 %
High school High 31.2 % Moderately high 33.1 %

In other words, we can see that in elementary and junior high school, around 90% received grades that were at least moderately high.

While this is self-reported, the fact that more than 60% of their grades are high shows that the majority of the students are enthusiastic about school work. We can consider this too a personal attribute of university students majoring in education.

Research has shown that there are four kinds of subcultures among pupils in the schools: "studying type", "playing type", "deviant type", and "isolated type" (Takeuchi, 1993); we can probably place the university students majoring in education in the "studying type" category.

ii. Experience on Class Committees or Student Councils
A majority of university students majoring in education have had experience on class committees or student councils, and demonstrate an enthusiastic attitude towards school activities. 83.8% of the students answered yes to the question "did [they] belong to class committees or student councils up until high school;" this percentage is very high. This also shows that they tend to be enthusiastic about school culture.

iii. Enjoying School2
The majority of the students answered that their school life was enjoyable.

Elementary school years (Very + Fairly + Somewhat) 86.8 %
Junior high school years 79.3 %
High school years 88.7 %

Looking at these together, it is possible to say that the majority of university students majoring in education have a positive attitude toward school. It is probably safe to say that the reason that they aimed to join the education profession was precisely because they themselves were so enthusiastic about academics.

Nevertheless, it appears that they have great anxiety around becoming teachers. A majority thought that "the teaching profession is right for me"3 ("very much so" 14.4%; "relatively so" 42.5%); 43.1% thought it was not suited for them. Opinions may vary on the question of whether we view this number as large or small, but it would seem to be a fact that there is some degree of uncertainty about the teaching profession among the students.

3. Hopes and Fears About the Teaching Profession: Conflicts with Reality

What kinds of things do university students majoring in education feel confident about when they look forward to becoming teachers? What uncertainties do they have? Let us consider this together with students' views on the schools. Finally, we will reflect on the gaps and conflicts with realities that emerge.

i. Concern for Children
The students seem to have confidence in their ways of interacting with children. They tend to think that they have a lot of concern for pupils and take care of them well. For example, 57.3% answered "I have confidence" to a question about "Understanding children's feelings".4 In addition, 61.8% answered "[I] have confidence" that "[I] gain the trust of children".4 Considering there was also a choice of "neither confident nor not confident", this seems to be a high percentage.

57.5% of the students thought that currently employed teachers "show sufficiently careful concern for pupils"3 ("very much so", 17.0%; "relatively so", 40.5%), but 42.5% of the students did not think so. Here, there was no choice of "neither one nor the other," so, judging from that, it seems that the students themselves have more confidence that they can interact well with children than they do of teachers who are currently employed.

ii. A Personal Theory of Education
The majority of university students majoring in education (59.9%) believe that they "have a personal theory of education." Since those who believed that even currently employed teachers "have convictions," it seems that they think that having views or convictions about education is normal, and is an attribute that teachers cannot do without.

iii. Relationships with Colleagues
They do not seem to have much anxiety about relationships with colleagues. 57.9% "have confidence that [they] will work well together with colleagues"; 11.1% answered that they "lack confidence." This is not an unexpected outcome, considering the students' personalities. In the media it is often said that there is not enough cooperation between teachers, but the students seem not to be very concerned about this.

iv. Gaining the Trust of Caregivers
There appears to be a great deal of anxiety on the subject of gaining the trust of caregivers. 50% of the students think that currently employed teachers "gain the trust of caregivers," and half of them have the opposite view. They seem to feel that while cooperation between family and school is necessary, actually achieving this would be difficult.

v. Extensive Knowledge
30.7% of the students answered that when they become educators they "have confidence that [they] will have extensive knowledge;" but, conversely, students who answered that they "did not have confidence" made up 32%. 87% (hardly + not at all) of the students feel that employed teachers have no time for researching teaching materials. Accordingly, it seems that they think that even after they have become teachers, they will have no time for adding to their knowledge. Also, a relatively small number of students (42.7%) " have confidence that [they] can offer classes that are easy to understand."

vi. Personal Appeal
"Teachers who spiritually nourish students" figure in the image of the desirable teacher (Fukaya, 1983). Here, too, when students were asked if they would have personal appeal when they became teachers themselves, 43.8% were confident, and 16.9% were not. The remaining 39.2% answered that they were neither confident nor not confident. On the other hand, when the question was whether or not currently employed teachers were outstanding as people, negative answers rose to 54.9%. The students themselves did not know whether or not they had personal appeal, and it seems that they did not really think that currently employed teachers have it either.

4. Consideration

In this survey, university students majoring in education believe that they themselves "like children and are good at taking care of them". They seem to have confidence that they can understand children's feeling and will be able to earn their trust. However, they do not necessarily think that currently employed teachers show careful concern for children, and here there is a gap between the university students majoring in education and those who have already become teachers. No doubt current teachers also strived with the same kind of hope during their own student days. Perhaps reality does not turn out the way that we think it will. The university students majoring in education seem to know the difficult aspects of teaching (e.g. the hectic schedule of a teacher's life and the difficulty of working in cooperation with families). They seem to feel that they cannot grasp teaching through idealistic theorizing alone. The causes or factors for this gap would be a good topic for further study.

The students seem to think that having one's own individual theory on education is a sine qua non of becoming a teacher. Teachers now in the schools can also be seen as "having convictions", and most of the students hold some kind of personal theory of education. Here we see education being treated as a "sacred space". This is not out of sync with the commonly-held layperson's view. There is a strong belief that the teaching profession is one where one educates with "convictions", that it is like a "spiritual" occupation.

For this reason, while they find "personal appeal" and "excellent character" desirable, they seem to be uncertain, and lack confidence that they themselves have these qualities. The role of teachers in Japan has been called indefinable (Nagai, 2000), and it seems that university students majoring in education also perceive the conflicts within this role.

Bibliography
Fukaya Masashi, ed. Kodomo no motomeru kyôshizo (What children expect from teachers) Monogurafu shôgakusei nau (Monograph: Elementary School Students Now), Vol.3, no.9. Benesse Educational Research Center, 1983.

Nagai Seiji, Gakkô bunka ni umekomareru kyôshi (The teacher buried in school culture) . In Kyôshi to iu shigoto=waaku (The work of the teacher), edited by Nagai Seiji and Koga Masayoshi. Gakubunsha, 2000.

Takeuchi Kiyoshi, Seito bunka no shakaigaku (Sociology in student culture). Chap. 6 of Gakkô bunka no shakaigaku (Sociology in school culture), edited by Kihara Takahiro, Muto Takanori, Kumagai Ichijo, and Fujita Hidenori. Tokyo: Fukumura shuppan, 1993, 109.

1 Subjects chose one out of four possible responses, "very much so," "relatively so," "hardly," and "not at all."
2 Subjects chose one out of five possible responses, "very enjoyable," "fairly enjoyable," "somewhat enjoyable," "not very enjoyable," and "not at all enjoyable."
3 Subjects chose one out of four possible responses, "very much so," "relatively so," "hardly," and "not at all."
4 Subjects chose one out of five possible responses, "I have a lot of confidence," "I have a fair amount of confidence," "I am neither confident nor unconfident," I have little confidence," "I have no confidence."

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