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Japanese adults top in reading, math skills: OECD study

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Japanese adults are way ahead in math and literacy skills than their peers in 23 other countries, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published Tuesday.

The study, conducted in 22 OECD member states as well as Russia and Cyprus, involved tests on 166,000 people aged between 16 and 65.

Only 4.9% of Japanese adults had scores of 1 or less on a scale of 1 to 5, indicating difficulty in reading a simple text.

The highest level 5 denotes the ability to search and process information from dense texts and evaluate evidence based arguments.

"Roughly every fifth Finn and Japanese reads at high levels (Level 4 or 5 on the Survey of Adult Skills)," the OECD Skills Outlook 2013 report said.

"This means, for example, that they can perform multiple-step operations to integrate, interpret, or synthesise information," it said.

The corresponding figure was less than one per 20 for Spain and Italy. The OECD average was 15.5%.

The report said Japanese nationals aged between 25 and 34 who had only finished secondary education were far ahead in writing skills than university graduates in the same age bracket in Spain and in Italy.

The results were similar for mathematical ability with the Japanese outstripping the others. Only 8.1% had problems in tackling a basic sum and were evaluated at level 1 or less.

The figure for France was 28% while it was more than 30% for Italy and Spain.

In digital technology, at least 10% in nearly all the countries lacked basic skills to use a computer.

Swedes topped the ranking in computer literacy and digital skills with 8.8% ranked at a very high level, followed by Finland and Japan.

The study also showed that those with strong literacy skills earned salaries about 60% higher than others less competent.

And those with literacy levels of 1 or less were at greater risk of being unemployed. The figure on an average was seven percent for them against four percent for those placed at the highest levels of 4 and 5.

The ones lagging behind in literacy levels also reported poorer health and were less committed citizens.

The study also said that "immigrants with a foreign-language background have significantly lower proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments than native-born adults."

© (C) 2013 AFP

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The report said Japanese nationals aged between 25 and 34 who had only finished secondary education were far ahead in writing skills than university graduates in the same age bracket in Spain and in Italy.

I bet Japanese aged 25 to 34 are a lot better readers overall than those aged 17 to 24, and that the latter group won't improve that much. Many Japanese used to read novels... now they're reading manga. What does the future hold, I wonder?

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

Reading Manga and Counting Japan's National Debt Figure of over Y1000 trillion will always keep the Japanese ahead of anybody in the world !

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Huh, I always wondered if the people in the convenience store, reading dirty manga, would ever amount to something... I guess they actually lift our image to the world... who would ever guess!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

so what?

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Farmboy: "I bet Japanese aged 25 to 34 are a lot better readers overall than those aged 17 to 24, and that the latter group won't improve that much. Many Japanese used to read novels... now they're reading manga. What does the future hold, I wonder?"

No kidding. I was shocked when I visited a junior highschool once only to see that the kids were reading manga as 'history textbooks'.

Anyway, good to see Japan back on top in terms of math. What about the social subjects?

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

Full speed forward into the left-brain future!

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A key reason is probably the amount of time spent studying in Japan rather than some naturally higher or gifted intelligence. Don't get me wrong, not bashing. My children are J/UK, go to a Japanese school, and they do longer school hours and get much more homework than they would in the UK. Through to 6th grade their homework also had to be reviewed and signed off by a parent...every day.

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Farmboy. I think you are spot on there. The Manga/Smartphone generation will lag behind in reading I am sure.

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Japanese adults top in reading, math skills: OECD study

hmmm, does it include Mr. Taro Aso who cannot read Japanese Kanji? But anyway, this is a very impressive record. You go guys!!

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In the age category 16-24 Japanese came second in literacy and third in numeracy. This does suggest that standards are declining in recent years.

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But the Japanese results are far better than those of England and the US, which languish near, or at, the bottom of the table.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

But the Japanese results are far better than those of England and the US, which languish near, or at, the bottom of the table.

That's absolutely true, and my grumpy, negative views about the state of literacy of 17-24 year olds in the world include those in my own country. There are people graduating high school who can barely read a comic.

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Can't knock it. Congrats to them. Those skill are basic but very important.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

how about critical thinking? cultural awareness? world history, or even accurate Asian history?

I taught in public schools for 5 years here in Japan. I was amazed at the math they were doing. They were touching on stuff in highschool that I didn't get to until my Engineering classes in college.

Tell them that the UK is four countries. Their minds explode.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

@Farmboy I don't get it, Manga has been a part of Japanese culture for a long time so i don't know what you are getting at, kids here are reading a lot, it is better than being illiterate, the only thing that the smartphone does is decrease the kanji knowledge IMHO.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Those who went to school after WWII and before 1964 are probably the worst educated generation in Japan. Those who wen to school between 1964 and 1985 may have been the best educated in Japan. Japanese education has been slipping ever since. I would say that Japanese culture have been slipping too. But I am not saying it is just Japanese culture, but world civilization that has been slipping as indicated by current events and news. If you look at OECD better life index, you would want to be living in Australia, Sweden, or Canada. And if you believe education is important, Canada wins related to the % of population 25-65 who has tertiary education. Then again not sure if anything of this have anything to do with success or happiness.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

From what I have seen Japanese education is far better than that of most western countries when it comes to ensuring that all students have good levels of literacy and numeracy. They are far better here at looking after the middle, whereas western education systems seem better at seeking out those with above average intelligence but neglect those who struggle. The problem is that in the western education systems there is a far bigger gap between the top and bottom, good schools and bad schools. I would rather be poor in Japan than in Europe or America.

I can't help thinking though that we are teaching redundant skills when we insist that mental arithmetic, spelling and remembering facts is still important. Computers have made these things unnecessary now and I think that going into the future education will need to change to reflect this new reality. The truth is that children these days have been brought up in the digital age and their brains are wired differently. Japanese schools are good at teaching these skills but I question whether a lot of these skills are really even needed anymore. They do seem a bit out of touch with the times.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Where's the complete list and does it include places like Hong Kong?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"Japanese adults are way ahead in math and literacy skills than their peers"

Perhaps only the journalists are behind than their peers in syntax and grammar...

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we are teaching redundant skills when we insist that mental arithmetic, spelling and remembering facts is still important. Computers have made these things unnecessary now

Not at all. The purpose of teaching the basic skills is to develop the capacity of the brain overall. We don't all walk around with a computer strapped to our arm and even if we did, my computer is a lousy speller; no matter how often I reset it, it keeps defaulting back to US spelling and has to be corrected. And if people don't learn how to remember stuff, if they have to check their computer for every little fact, won't their lives be much poorer - not to mention slower?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

You're probably right that these skills are still important but I believe they are becoming redundant. The children of today were born into the digital age and they think in different ways from us, education systems all over the world are already behind them. I believe there will come a time when mental arithmetic and spelling are unnecessary skills. I could be very wrong.

We don't all walk around with a computer strapped to our arm

Come on Cleo most of us walk around with a small computer in our pockets these days called a smartphone, at least the kids do. Think back 20 years ago, could you have imagined that? Do you think the technology is going to stop there? You can check facts in a second, so why spend hours of history lessons learning the dates of battles and the reigns of kings.

if they have to check their computer for every little fact, won't their lives be much poorer - not to mention slower?

Their lives will be richer in other ways. They are already able to do things that we can't do and they will do things we can't imagine. There are plenty of things that our ancestors could do that we can't do anymore, why are mental arithmetic and spelling any different. They are not sacred, they are only skills and skills always become redundant when technology changes. There are many ways to develop the capacity of the brain, we are holding our kids back with our out of date education systems. Communication has changed more in the last 30 years than all of history and we are still sending our kids to sit in rooms with desks all pointing towards the adult telling them what he has been told they should know. Education will completely change to reflect a vastly different world than we grew up in. You say their lives will be much poorer but you these kids can communicate with people from the other side of the world in seconds, I had to write a letter to a pen pal and wait for a reply. The world they live in is bigger than the world we knew and this will enrich their lives. I'm sorry but we are completely out of touch with the educational needs of today's children and we think that because their spelling is bad and they know a few less kanji our standards are declining. In many cases it is the adults who are out of touch with a new standard.

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Scrote: "But the Japanese results are far better than those of England and the US, which languish near, or at, the bottom of the table."

Math is universal, so in that respect it's hats off to the people in the study. When it comes to literacy, though, that's a different matter. Japanese is, phonetically, one of the simplest languages on the planet, so kids being able to read/write the syllabaries is really not that big a deal (you'll note that kids will still ask why 'ha' is pronounced 'wa' as a preposition), whereas with many other languages spelling and pronunciation are completely at odds, and that's after the consonant blends, dipthongs, and other linguistics the Japanese language doesn't have. Now, if you asked them Kanji literacy you'd probably get a different story.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

@Rob

Tell them that the UK is four countries. Their minds explode.

To be fair, there's people in a lot of other countries who would not know either. I've asked various westerners with supposedly superior knowledge of the world to name 20 Asian or African countries and am dismayed at how many fail. Backpackers? Yeah, including them.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Is like to see the results of an extended criteria rest that includes, open mindlessness, critical thinking, free thinking and common sense. The Japanese are trained to pass tests from elementary school. The ability to pass a test does not reflect over all intelligence.

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Japanese who went school after WW II and before TV appeared were more good in reading and math. Only pleasure was reading books, Going theaters was no, no. Schools brought student together once in many months. Math. When middle schools (4 years) became Jr HS and Sr Hs, Calculus and analytical calculus. Statistics and probabilities. trigonometry were taught in Jr. HS. Even in Girls schools. (boys and girls went different schools then. Novels: Restrictions in contents (schools) but children read in their homes of any kind. Schools just ignored if children read weeklies and monthly magazines such as Shukan Asahi, Sunday Mainichii, Shincho, etc even these have rensai' novels including a variety of mangas as long as children did not sneak into movie theaters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ive found it very interesting that my two older kids, slotting into US schools after so far only being in Japanese schools, are so far slowly coming up to speed with their English (Reading, Language Arts in particular) but are peeing all over the other kids in Math, even in their second language. The J system must be doing something right in that respect.

But I agree, Math is just one aspect of overall intelligence.

The schools here are also way more advanced technologically. We are in a particularly good school district so I guess it may not be representative of everywhere, but they have computer classes every day and each child is assigned an ipad. Ive been pretty impressed so far after hearing very mixed opinions on US education. But maybe we just got lucky with the school district.

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Is like to see the results of an extended criteria rest that includes, open mindlessness, critical thinking, free thinking and common sense.

Having returned to Australia for 5 years (2007 and 2012) and observed the locals and immigrants alike, I think you are really overestimating the levels "back home" big time.

"open mindlessness"? Was that Freudian? Because after watching the behaviour of some of the above mentioned locals and immigrants back home, I'd say this expression correctly describes the pseudo-intellectual nonsense that some of them actually believe. Free thinking is not the norm, it is the exception.

By the way, tertiary education back home has all of the negative aspects of what you'll find here. Don't kid yourself.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Social skills wa?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

There are so many faults in the way the USA students are tested that it would take pages to explain. The short of it is the USA tests students based on the consecutive number of years in school. A 12 grade (3 high school) is tested as a 12 grader regardless of the grades he or she received in the traditional 4 years of high school in the USA. The grade level is determined by the consecutive number of years in school. Can anyone expect a student who just sat in class year after year or often never went to school to have high scores compared to students who attended? Adults who graduated in any country tend to participate in surveys and testing. "Liars figure and figures lie."

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I always find these test results a little dubious. Is everyone in every school tested? Do all scores count the same in every country? Why I ask is because, as we all know, statistics lie. For example when it comes to infant mortality, the way a baby is considered still born or a live birth varies from country to country. Also, pre-natal life saving measures taken vary from country to country affecting the number of children who will be considered live births. So when studies say country X is ranked ___ in infant mortality and every starts wringing their hands and wondering what is wrong, they'd do well to look at how those statistics are compiled.

With these academic tests, it would seem that countries with high immigrant populations would be at a disadvantage. I don't mean to suggest in any way that immigration is a bad thing. What I'm saying is that in a place, such as the U.S., where a lot of immigrants come from non-English speaking countries, it takes the children a while to become a good enough speakers to be able to matriculate into regular classes. They may attend regular classes, not be quite up to native level and still be included on such tests. It is the law in the U.S. that all children must be educated. To the best of my knowledge, that is not the case in Japan where education is compulsory only for Japanese children.

Having lived here as long as I have, I know that there are plenty of Japanese who struggle with what should be easily recognizable kanji and can't do simple arithmetic without a calculator.

Then there is the issue of university education. The top ranked Japanese university for 2013 is the University of Tokyo at 27th. The next is 54th. Canada has two universities in the top 30 and has less than a third of Japan's population. Does education stop in high school?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

It's interesting that universal tests esp of numeracy & literacy place Japanese students - and in this case adults - always in the very top group. Something good must be happening.

But many of the professors at the university I work part time, bemoan the fact that so many students can't write a coherent report, (special writing classes are held), can't initiate and develop discussions well or put forward creative ideas and suggestions. I'm particularly referring to Engineering and Economics faculties. A professor said to me, one day in a science seminar while trying to elicit responses, a student stood up and said " But, just tell us the right answer"

Skills are only as good as they are applied.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If I did not know many Japanese I would be bowing my head to them, but everytime I go back to the USA etc..I have to help many Japanese who CAN NOT READ the SIMPLE ENGLISH instructions in the airports that say, take off your belt, shoes, etc..and I just explain it to them in JAPANESE and always have the homies that work for TSA with their mouths wide open, "You speak Japanese??" and I say, chotto dake, meaning just a wee bit! and the Japanese dudes that I help ASSUME I am Japanese because of my intonation, etc..until they look at me, A MEXICAN speaking to them in Japanese??? Arigato ne! Let us all try to study harder to have fun time overseas!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't mind the thumbs down but would much prefer a reasonable explanation of why you disagree with my post. The article is about education after all. Show how good yours was by refuting my points.

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Take a bow, japanese school teachers and juku professionals. Yes - they cop a bit of stick at times from society and parents - but maybe they are doing something right!

And encouraging to see Australia as the top english-speaking nation for literacy - 5th overall - but definitely a need to catch up on maths - 13th overall. I see some hand-wringing in the UK press regarding their low "ranking", with business groups having a whine.

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For numeracy Japan ranked 3rd behind Finland and the Netherlands.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Really? There's always a minute of silence/inactivity when something costs 1, 861 Yen (example) at checkout and I give the cashier 2,411 Yen, just to empty my purse and get 2 coins in return for many. But even though they just need to input the amount in their computers correctly, they are so confused that 2 out of 10 cannot complete this task ;)

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The study also said that “immigrants with a foreign-language background have significantly lower proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments than native-born adults.”

Pretty much sums it up. You don't have as many non Japanese speakers flooding the schools in Japan as you do in places like the USA. Even with Japanese learning to write 3 different writing styles, they still have a common language. Compare that to a place like LA, where when they send information home to students, they have to send forms not only in English, but Spanish, Chinese, Persian, Tagalog, Arabic, etc, etc all in the name of "diversity."

Yes America is a land of immigrants, but when they came in the past, they made sure that the the offspring learned English and took up the "American culture."

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@AKBFan

Social skills wa?

Stick your head out the window and check out all the couples walking down the street. I'd say things are not too bad :-)

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Then there is the issue of university education. The top ranked Japanese university for 2013 is the University of Tokyo at 27th. The next is 54th. Canada has two universities in the top 30 and has less than a third of Japan's population. Does education stop in high school?

So the university ranking is OK but the tests that put Japan at the top of the tree are dubious? You can't have it both ways

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I find such studies interesting. Math skills? Perhaps. Though most of my students can't figure out their score out of 100% if I don't show them how to do it - I am being totally serious and I teach engineers FFS. I also question reading and writing. Many of the university students I have taught over the years can't remember basic kanji. Their notes are often full of hiragana. Can they read it? Yep but I don't know if that means what many assume these tests are suppose to demonstrate.

Computer skills? I have all of my classes this year about their experience with computers. Less than 10% feel confident using a word processor and even less than that actually had school computer classes to learn how to do such things. Yes, they can download apps, play games and the like but when it comes to working skills, many of them don't have a clue on how to find a file on a USB - let alone SAVE a file a USB - that fun that has been this year in writing classes!

I, like others, will also question the lack of decision making skills and critical thinking. Heck, asking a university class of 32 to get into even groups can take 10 minutes if you refuse to help and watching them try and figure it out.

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Considering Japan has a negative immigration number those figures are hardly surprising.

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pochan: So the university ranking is OK but the tests that put Japan at the top of the tree are dubious? You can't have it both ways

Well, since the way universities are ranked and the way these tests scores are compiled are completely different, yes, you can. Additionally, I never said that Japan had a bad educational system or that the people can't read or do maths better than those in other countries. My contention is with the way that the information is gathered and the fact that, it's apples and oranges when you've got countries with huge, multi-cultural populations, where adult immigrants, who may not speak the native language at all, and their children not yet speaking it at native level, are being tested against countries with extremely low immigrant populations where most everyone, or at least everyone tested, has grown up speaking the same language.

alphaape: Yes America is a land of immigrants, but when they came in the past, they made sure that the the offspring learned English and took up the "American culture."

23% of first generation children of Hispanic immigrants said they speak English very well as compared to 88% of the second generation. That is according to the Pew Center, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute. I'm not sure what the statistics are for other immigrants from non-English speaking countries and I'm not sure what elements might make someone say that don't speak English well.

I know plenty of Americans who are forth or fifth generation and who, to my mind, speak English atrociously but would, in all likelihood, tell you they speak it "very good".

I am unsure what you mean by "took up the American culture". The beauty of American culture is that it is comprised of so many different elements and can vary from region to region, city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood.

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My ex's son is fantastic at maths... scarily so, but he only reads manga. His mum has tried to get him to read for pleasure but all he does is watch TV, play his with PS and read comics. She on the other hand reads a LOT... and is also scarily hot at maths. They make me feel stupid at times, lol

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Very few students these days actually read books for pleasure. Manga? Yes. Books? No. I actually wonder if it has anything to do with the summer reading homework ele and JHS kids are assigned here. If you are forced to do something in school, most students won't find it pleasurable when they get older. I also see a lack of parents reading to their kids - such a bedtime stories and the like. I think reading/books were highly respected one or two generations ago but not so much now - I don't think this is just a Japanese thing either. It seems very few students "back home" read for fun these days. Games and chatting online are much more popular.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Japanese adults are way ahead in math and literacy skills than their peers in 23 other countries

Obviously a journalist's math skills need brushing up - Japan came 3rd in math, behind the Netherlands and Finland.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But, poor in English; the language of most parts of the world for business and social communications.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

when you've got countries with huge, multi-cultural populations, where adult immigrants, who may not speak the native language at all,

I absolutely agree with you but don't you think that the higher ranking of universities in UK, US, Canada etc. is at least partially due to the fact that they are made up of multi-cultural student populations (like the larger population) and have the advantage of attracting those students because they already speak English as a second language. Like I said you can't have it both ways. Also I think you are being entirely disingenuous if you are claiming that the university ranking system is devoid of any sort of bias. How many points are given to entirely subjective criteria like reputation and international diversity?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well done, academic wise generally they can be smart, common sense, street smart wise they can be slower than most.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Probably too much emphasis placed on maths, not a problem in itself. Though when I asked a group recently "how many weeks are there in a year?" They all answered 48, claiming they were taught that in school. Hell, one even got a pen and paper and proceeded to calculate........

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can I ask something here?

If Japanese education is so great, then why does everyone go to juku?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If Japanese education is so great, then why does everyone go to juku?

It is because they go to juku

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Interesting reporting.

inakaRobOCT. 09, 2013 - 09:45AM JST how about critical thinking?

What this JToday article doesn't mention is that Japanese did not fare so well in "problem-solving in technology-rich environment" - scoring 35%... barely above average of all participants (34%). Sweden was tops in that, by a considerable margin. Interestingly enough, the Japan Times reported this as well... but gave the full story - not shying away from the negative aspects of the testing. From JT:

Japanese adults excel at reading comprehension and handling mathematical information compared with their overseas counterparts, but are less competent when it comes to using technology for problem-solving and other tasks.

Pretty much as you allude to, InakaRob.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The article states the plain and simple conclusion that the OECD has come up with. Why is it so necessary to try so hard to find something to refute the findings? Parochial, selectively biased anecdotes don't provide any convincingly counter arguments to the articles conclusions, they do however, emphatically state the obvious need for those to criticize...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@Teresa: Mot all. just children whose parents can afford. When parents are planning to sent their children to Universities in USA, probably Eigo-julu. It is not cheap.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Re: juku

In the area I'm living in (solidly middle-class, but then don't 90% of Japanese claim to be just that?) virtually every single child starts juku from the 4th grade, and many of them start earlier. I've even heard of children demanding to be put in juku simply because all their friends are going there. From where I sit, juku seems to be a vital part of the education system in Japan. Did the above report calibrate for that, or did they survey only people who had never attended juku?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is everyone in every school tested?

@ambrosia: you obviously failed the reading comprehension test as well ;-) Read the first two paragraphs again...

On other sites I have seen some of the questions which were used for this test and it leaves me puzzled as to how anybody can manage to achieve anything else than a top score. It seems I have to adjust my assessment of human intelligence in general.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Maybe many Japanese students are puzzle nuts and game nuts? Tests are easier than Sudoku or puzzles.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

how about critical thinking? cultural awareness? world history, or even accurate Asian history?

InakaRob - Does that include making an ironically hyperbolic generalization?

Tell them that the UK is four countries. Their minds explode.

Nobody's mind would "explode" over such a trivial fact as how many smaller countries the UK consists of. Those who didn't know would have been little surprised at best. How many kids did you talk to and how many of them didn't know? Were you able to explain the meaning of "United" to them? And have you ever told non-Japanese kids of the same ages the same stuff? Now a question for YOU: how many countries does the ASEAN have? You don't have to name them.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I've downloaded the report and it's pretty interesting. String that England and Northern Ireland are included but not Wales or Scotland.

I agree that in Japan, poorer people are likely to get a better education than in many other countries.

The report only briefly mentions immigration. I think this has a huge impact on academic results, especially these sorts of tests, as I suspect that (for example) the tests for England were only available in English.

This report also enforces my opinion that Finland is the best place in the world to bring up children.

As for high achievements in these test by the Japanese... yes it seems that the Japanese are pretty good the nuts and bolts (numerical problem solving, literacy) but in my narrow experience of living in Japan for 10 years and being married to a Japanese woman, the 'common sense / real world' aspect seems to be lacking. But hats off too Japan for equipping kids with the basics so well.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

randommanOCT. 09, 2013 - 07:33PM JST The article states the plain and simple conclusion that the OECD has come up with. Why is it so necessary to try so hard to find something to refute the findings? Parochial, selectively biased anecdotes don't provide any convincingly counter arguments to the articles conclusions, they do however, emphatically state the obvious need for those to criticize...

Err... actually, it doesn't. It reports the positive half of the report from the OECD. The negative aspects (that the Japanese tested did not do so well in problem solving) was left unreported in the Japan Today article.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Err yes it does, the article is the messenger as reported by the OECD. Go and look up Huffington Post's report if you want to contest the message...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Math is universal, so in that respect it's hats off to the people in the study. When it comes to literacy, though, that's a different matter. Japanese is, phonetically, one of the simplest languages on the planet, so kids being able to read/write the syllabaries is really not that big a deal (you'll note that kids will still ask why 'ha' is pronounced 'wa' as a preposition), whereas with many other languages spelling and pronunciation are completely at odds, and that's after the consonant blends, dipthongs, and other linguistics the Japanese language doesn't have. Now, if you asked them Kanji literacy you'd probably get a different story.

Another puzzling comment from smith. Flip side of that is since Japanese language contain many words that have the same pronunciation, the only way to distinguish one from another is through Kanji. So, in essence, the test does include the ability to comprehend the Kanji words.

One of the interesting findings was that the reading ability of Japanese adults who only finished Junior High level exceeded those with adults of those who finished only high school level of U.S. and Germany.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

pochan: I absolutely agree with you but don't you think that the higher ranking of universities in UK, US, Canada etc. is at least partially due to the fact that they are made up of multi-cultural student populations (like the larger population) and have the advantage of attracting those students because they already speak English as a second language.

No doubt students from other countries bring a lot to universities in the U.S., Canada, the UK, etc. and I'm glad they are there but if those students are from non-English speaking countries they have to achieve a certain level of English-readiness on the 4-section TOEFL. In the elementary and high school system, in the States, at least, there is no national standard to judge how or when a non-English speaking student is ready to matriculate into regular classes. For many, they simply attend regular classes while getting ESL help on the side. This means that for many of them they are simply not understanding the majority of what is happening in those classes. If they also participate in OECD sponsored tests, they are very likely bringing down the overall average. Again, school is compulsory for all children in the States, not just for citizens, unlike in Japan. Compare that to universities, not one of any standing that doesn't require a high TOEFL score. Even with that, students on the low-end of that requirement will often major in the sciences or maths, where their lack of English skills will not be a problem.

The rankings done of high schools by the OECD are purely test based. The rankings done for universities, the one I looked at anyway, is based on how difficult it is to get into the university, the overall high school class rankings of entering freshman, academic achievements awarded the university, how many seniors get jobs within a certain period after graduation and so on. It's not "trying to have it both ways". They are simply different.

Like I said you can't have it both ways. Also I think you are being entirely disingenuous if you are claiming that the university ranking system is devoid of any sort of bias.

I'm sure there is some bias when it comes to the university rankings and have never claimed otherwise. I still contend that there is far more bias in ranking, with a simple test of math and reading skills, countries that are so different culturally, mainly meaning immigration. There's nothing disingenuous about what I'm saying.

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randommanOCT. 09, 2013 - 09:48PM JST Err yes it does, the article is the messenger as reported by the OECD. Go and look up Huffington Post's report if you want to contest the message...

Gee. Thanks... but as stated earlier, I can read something even closer to home. <>http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/08/national/japan-adults-tops-in-reading-math-but-slip-in-tech-related-tasks-oecd/#.UlUvfFAcZ8F

THAT is better reporting - commenting on the whole result, and not just the positive aspects of it.

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BUT, the crucial element - critical thinking - is something not taught in Japanese education. I've studied at universities over here and it's like an extension of high school, as opposed to a forum of discussion / debate. 30% of my grades back home were based on class participation!

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Ambrosia

I completely agree with you that these international comparison tests have always been dubious but I am just questioning the fact that you used the university rankings as a point of comparison. We have to come to our own conclusions about the test based data and the variables that are and aren't included. Personally I don't trust any data that compares across nationalities because I think that countries have their own agendas and too often the results are manipulated but whether or not that is the case with these results I don't really know or much care.

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Spain Italy France Sweden

Show us the Americans

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pochan: My point wasn't so much a comparison between two tests because there isn't a universal standard test for universities, as far as I know. My point, which I mistakenly thought was clear between the lines, was that if Japan does so well with its educational system why aren't its universities ranked higher? And if America does such a bad job why are its universities ranked so highly? They are both rich countries with a high number of college graduates so you'd think that the university rankings would fall into similar positions as test score rankings of school children. My reaction to tests such as the one mentioned in the article is the same as many people's: how are people tested, how do people in various countries typical test in school (i.e. regular standardized tests, multiple choice tests, essay tests, etc.) as compared to the OECD test and who is tested, maybe not so much for this test but for OECD tests especially of school children. People hear about the results of these tests and either feel proud or begin the hand wringing, in both cases, often without fully understanding everything behind the results and how they apply to each particular country.

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Teresa: Is this report done in only your area in Japan?

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