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Only 36% of Japanese high school students feel they 'have worth as a person,' survey shows

24 Comments
By Steven Simonitch

According to a report published by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japanese high school students have markedly lower self-esteem and self-confidence than students in America and other Asian countries.

The report was published on Aug 10 and compares the attitudes and emotional well-being of high school students from Japan, America, China and South Korea.

The results are based on data compiled from three different MEXT studies conducted over the past three years. While the sample size varies slightly for each study, an average of around 1,000–1,200 high school students from each of the four countries were surveyed each year from 2009-2011.

We’ve translated a few of the results and posted them below. The report can be found in full here.

■ “I believe I have worth as a person” (Agree + Somewhat Agree)

South Korea – 75.1% China – 87.7% America – 89.1% Japan – 36.1%

■ “I tend to give myself positive feedback” (Agree + Somewhat Agree)

South Korea – 70.5% China – 82.6% America – 76.2% Japan – 37%

■ “I am satisfied with myself” (Agree + Somewhat Agree)

South Korea – 63.3% China – 68.5% America – 78.2% Japan – 24.7%

■ ”I believe I am a capable person” (Agree + Somewhat Agree)

South Korea – 46.8% China – 67% America – 84.5% Japan – 15.4%

A few of the more striking survey findings are:

■ ”I think I am a good person” (Agree + Somewhat Agree)

South Korea – 70.2% China – 81.5% America – 90.6% Japan – 43.7%

■ ”I think I can do most things if I make an effort” (Agree + Somewhat Agree)

South Korea – 83.7% China – 88.8% America – 89.2% Japan – 44.4%

On the other hand, 80.4% of Japanese high school students claimed that they “enjoy school life”, compared to 77.4, 77.5 and 75.4% for America, China and Korea.

The report is chock-full of other interesting statistics and should be an interesting read for anyone interested in education, assuming you can read Japanese.

Source: MEXT

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24 Comments
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So how do we know who is underestimating or overestimating their goodness or their worth? Are there people who give estimates? Don't be ridiculous - you're very valuable! Sorry, you're worth much less that you think. That sort of thing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

they should move Indonesia,where they can be appreciated as human,less stress,less ijime.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This really sounds like a dumb survey. In that the cultures are totally different. Jpns humility, approaching any project or undertaking thinking "whatever I do, it's not enough" is not necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to committing more resources and more energy leading to greater results.

And ppl here just don't admit they have skills when they do, or show off in front of ppl. It is so frowned upon, I can't imagine getting a "straight" answer to the question like you might in America, where ppl are taught to look at themselves "objectively" and evaluate that they do in fact have these strengths and these possibilities in front of them, so "Let's go for it!" It's just two totally different approaches.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Where did this survey take place? It sounds so negative and shallow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, Japan's suicide rate is two times higher than vehicle crashes, factory accidents, and deaths from all non-fossil fuel energy combined. This just shows one of the causes of it, and people need to learn to view this as an unacceptable result rather than just teenage angst

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Lowly

"whatever I do, it's not enough" is not necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to committing more resources and more energy leading to greater results.

It obviously is a bad thing, because underneath that "humility", there's arrogance that one CAN do more than one can possibly do.

Saying "I'm not good enough" is just another way of saying "I should be better", which is really arrogance when taken to extremes.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Kids look for approval from their parents, siblings, friends, teachers you name it. I thinks parents should relax the perfection thing. Praise these kids even if they come home with a C or score a 70 on tests, they passed right. Praise them even if they are not good at sports, kids will make an effort and that is good enough. Let these kids feel good about themselves and that they are special just because they were born.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is not really surprising, because the Japanese society/education:

1) Kills individuality and pressures kids to conform (the nail that sticks out gets hammered down)

2) Overwhelms them with so much rules and regulations that they are sure that they are infantilized and unable to function in the real world settings.

3) Tells you in general terms, that you are worthless at anything that you do, that you don't work hard enough, etc (I'm serious)

4) Expects perfection. Perfectionism permeates in the Japanese society. If anything goes wrong, then it's your fault. If you get less than 100% on a test then you are worthless.

5) Yet at the same time, they are told that Japan is the BEST, the most humble, the nicest, the most talented, etc.

So is it any wonder that Japanese kids have low self-esteem... unfortunately, no.

But if you look at this closely then here we see a pattern... they are saying, "You are worthless, because you are NOT PERFECT".... "I am not good enough because I AM NOT PERFECT", which leads to "I am not good as who I am", which obviously leads to low self-esteem.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wish they'd call granny's two children from Tochiga to raise that %.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ThomasA,

Yeah while some of what your saying has truth in it I dont this survey has anything to do with what your saying. The way people are brought up hasnt changed much over the decades, but I have noticed a real SEVERE decline in overall confidence in all age levels.

Back when I first landed beginning of the 90s there were no shortage of people spouting off about how Japan is this that & the other thing, all heaping praise, yeah sure it was cetainly over the top but at least people had some confidence.

Now a days its mostly head hung low, dreary, shoganai crap, bottom line is Japanese are overall in a funk, they need to get out of it before their prophecies of doom simply become more & more self fufilling.

Went on a short trip home early in July & met lots of friends family etc man it was real uplifting at how much more positive people were, like night & day!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Somthing's missing here in good ole Nippon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Public voice, private thoughts. You only need to spend a couple of days in Japan to understand that this is the cultural expectation, so I'm not taking the Japanese responses at face value. The statistic on enjoying school is probably more accurate though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A western type survey questions for the Japanese mind, yeah that works.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@ares7

Is there another way to phrase these questions to suit the japanese mind. And 36% is good enough to show that the question were understood by the japanese mind. The japanese mind is not the issue it would be the society. Dont think that that 89% of Americans is all Caucasian. The are Japanese people in America too. There minds are still japanese but the society they live makes them different.

I'm proud of these kids. Everyone should feel that they are valuable.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As someone who's been here for a while, I'll back up what GW said. Japan is like a different country now compared to the late 80's.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is pretty depressing reading... I feel so sorry for these kids. I think a more useful follow up question would have been "why?" to each of the set questions. It's not good enough for the answers to be taken as they are without understanding why they feel that way.

I am also mystified as to why American was included in the survey. Americans couldn't be more different from the Japanese if they tried.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This has got to do with the Japanese education system which is among the worst in the world.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

T Anderson,

Well, sure, you're right. Except it is a two sided coin. I have seen enough arrogance and self-centeredness beneath the surface of polite humility here, yes, b ut there is also polite humility that is... polite humility.

Same w/the US "I have worth, I am good enough" can be a source of / evidence of self-confidence, can also easily be arrogant self-centeredness too tho.

My point was the average Japanese thinking, whether the individual in question is actually living up to those ideals or not, is going to automatically yield different answers than the American thinking.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It goes to show that Japanese youngsters are showing their true feelings of imperfection. There is lots of room for improvement, see the percentages...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A western type survey questions for the Japanese mind, yeah that works.

Ares7,

Well actually I believe it is, btw how wud you explain the Korean & China percentages................

0 ( +0 / -0 )

gw

if you see my posts, similar to ares.

Personally, I was a little surprised that Korea and China were the same as the US, in comparison to Jpn. However, the fact is I don't really know those countries so well. I have been involved in jpns martial arts, music and religion for many yrs, and all I can say is the "shokunin" approach of always pushing yourself to change and get better, and never giving into your ego and self-congratulation is an idea that has imo seeped out of Zen (wholly? partially?) and especially thru samurai and martial arts, gone into the shokunin mindset (builders, lacquer makers, chefs, musicians etc) and really become the ethos or ideal of the whole country, or one of the big ones anyway. (As I said in my last post, sure, "I am humble, look how humble I am" is a total ego game, so the ideal, like any country, isn't always the reality).

I don't know how it is in China and Korea, but while Zen does come from China, I know it is a small sect now and maybe always was. Both countries are very strongly Confucian, more than Buddhist I believe, and maybe that has some influence.

Maybe Ares7 knows better than me...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Zen has nothing to do with these questions and is not a reason for these answers. Zen is about not be arrogant, but at the same time zen teaches you that everything in life has value and should not be wasted. Zen masters recognize their own skill level they just dont boast about it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is exactly why I became a teacher. I remember back in Uni, my friends would babble on about their visits to Japan like it was some kind of paradise on Earth, and I'd snort at them. Despite its positive points, I view Japan as my great dystopia to be slain. Not by myself obviously, I just do what I can by eating away at my own hours. Changing as a person and growing as a person are one and the same. If there's ever to be any change, it'll start with the people still growing.

tl;dr A sudden and wholly unnecessary Philosophy on life from someone you don't even know.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If only 36% of the students feel that they have any self-worth, then we can safely say that such a society is highly dysfunctional. Psychology, psychiatry, self-help and therapy have never spread to Asia that's an area where Japan can improve upon. Japan's mentality is clearly still stuck in the 1900's mentality.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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