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Survey ranks Japanese children's problem-solving skills near world-best

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So, Japanese kids perform well in a test. They should perform well considering they do more tests than most other countries. Mind you, these are middle school kids. I'm sure their problem solving skills will be replaced with memorising skills by the time they graduate senior high.

4 ( +12 / -8 )

They scored highest in working as a group. This I believe.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

In analyzing the result, an official from Japan's National Institute for Educational Policy Research said Japanese people's tendency to work harmoniously in teams may have influenced the students' performance.

Solving problems is one thing, it's putting the results into action that is something TOTALLY different in the workplace.

Oh and Japanese students prepare for tests like crazy, and often times when standardized tests are scheduled, often times those students who do not typically perform well will be absent from school.

Of course the results are good, there is no way they would report about a test they did badly on now would they?

2 ( +12 / -10 )

Japanese work well with their compatriots but not nearly as well with non-Japanese team members.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

So, Japanese kids perform well in a test. They should perform well considering they do more tests than most other countries. Mind you, these are middle school kids.

The survey conducted 15 year-old students which they should normally be in high school. Perhaps you were still in middle school but I doubt the usual 15 year-old kids would be in high school.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

*the usual 15 year-old kid would be in middle school.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Maybe so on tests but what about in real daily life situations?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Anyone know WHAT kind of problems were to be solved?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Agree with Yubaru about practical knowledge.

I find young kidz here to be quite enthusiastic about studying and they form hard working habits young and it’s impressive. They are also very good at calculating in their head and doing homework.

However I am not impressed when I come to Japan by the conversations I end up having with a lot of young people.

They seem very immature, naive, and unmotivated.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Can these kids be sent to replace a few of my colleagues, pleeeeeeease????

11 ( +13 / -2 )

lol now that was so as expected: Japanese kids are world class and the Japan-bashers find only negative things to say, you're so pathetic, they're number one because they work very very hard, that's a fact!

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

This makes sense, high school kids back in Sydney seem barely able to function by themselves, let alone collaborate in a group to solve problems. Very good result by Japan

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Working in a group doesn't really happen though in Japan. It may look this way to an outsider. What is actually happening is that, sure, a certain amount of group discussion takes place, then the most senior person (purely by age) in the group decides the outcome and all the others agree and do what he (not she) wants!

9 ( +12 / -3 )

So...scratching your head and breathing in through your teeth is a problem-solving skill? Cool.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Franz, yes, good on the kids for doing well.

If junior high kids are so good at solving problems in a group, what happens to them by the time they are company employees? Solving problems seems to be alien to most employees. Look at Toshiba, Takata, Nissan: employees just doing what they are told to do.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Makes you wonder why this doesn't follow through to adult life. Real social challenges and problems are largely ignored or put in the "muzukashii" basket. How does this shift happen?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I have seen these exemplary team problem-solving skills at work in my office. What usually happens when a member of the team has a conundrum, a group of people gradually accumulates around her and mutters “Eh? Eh? Do shiou?” repeatedly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Moderator: Readers, the story refers to children. Please stay on topic.

Problem solving strategies is not putting 8 jr high or high school students together and asking them to solve a problem. The motivated students accept the challenge and go for it while the lazy students sit and wait for the answer. What is the teacher doing - taking a break. If every student were given a problem and the others at the table evaluated it, perhaps something could be learned.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The key part of this study is that it focused on kids working in GROUPS. Now, that is wonderful and of course group work is necessary in many facets of life, but I daresay if it were a study of problem solving as individuals Japan would finish dead last. Don't get me wrong -- that's not a comment on intelligence, it's just the way much of society is. The kids need to be told what to do or assigned something, and THEN they can get to work on it so long as they have set parameters and guidelines. Even in groups often one person will be designated Hanchou and then they get to work.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Not really much to the article considering it doesn't tells us about the problems they were asked to solve. I think Japanese kids are great at solving certain types of problems. Certainly not the best in solving others. Without knowing the kinds of questions they were asked, hard to form an sort of opinion of the article itself or the results.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Well done kids! This isn't a Japanese test, so I'll assume its reasonably objective and more meaningful than something Monbusho would have come up with for some self-congratulation.

Japanese education gets a lot wrong, English lessons in particular, but it does get some things right. My parents live very close to the schools I went to in the UK. Its logjam around them now in the morning with cars dropping kids off and, shocking to me, 17 year olds driving to school. Gardens in our street feature litter thrown away by kids at lunchtime. A noticeable number of the kids look overweight.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I hope Japan will change to better perspectives, just to say the problems of workers lack in skills and many recently issues coming down in big companies and affiliates. One of the better way to consist the skills for new generations is to government build up training places and adopt skilled aged ex-workers(pensioned people) to advice and instruct them. Another point is what smithjapan (the comment as above) to have instructors of fast-resolutions to any issues. It can be instructors from many other nationalities to make decisions faster, what is still in these days, directors/ managers spending so many hours in conferences and not resulting well to resolutions.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

good at problem solving while a teenager? yet in the world creativity rankings Japan doesnt even make the top 25, so something clearly goes wrong between HS and adult working life. http://martinprosperity.org/media/Global-Creativity-Index-2015.pdf

2 ( +4 / -2 )

for all of Japans supposed problem solving skills they still haven't figured out how to break 25+ yrs of economic stagnation!?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The countries at the top of the list are those with kids who go through the wringer studying.

Still, it is nice to see Japanese children beating Singaporean children, who are typically at the top of test results.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Results are not surprising, placing countries/cultures with strong collectivist values at the top. I'd like to know how 'working well in a group' was defined, and on what kinds of 'problem'. Some problems are best solved by individuals, and with a lot of other factor throw in. Anyhow, as with any testing, cultural variations have a say.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So much negativity on this thread. This is great news for Japan and shows the value of co-operation. Yes it's a rather contrived test in some ways but some posters here need to give credit where it's due.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@Rik314

It seems it involved interactive questions. Some example questions can be found at the link below:

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test/

Some other interesting results:

girls performed better than boys in almost all countries (e.g. Canadian girls performed better than Japanese boys) Although oddly, boys value teamwork more than girls.

Students who play video games outside of school score slightly lower in collaborative problem solving than students who do not play video games 

Other links here:

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-volume-v-9789264285521-en.htm

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The negative comments are amazing. If they do well, the result is discounted and bashing starts. If they do poorly, the bashing just starts.

Can Japan win in a JapanToday comment section?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

The negative comments are amazing.

Perhaps made by those who don't get on so well with others. :-)

Working in a group doesn't really happen though in Japan.

I wonder what kind of experiences that is based on. Perhaps that's the image given when entering a bank or a fast food restaurant. But in the R&D departments around the country where all that tech is developed, my experiences have been quite different. Faced with tasks such as reducing the weight of a TV or making glass production more energy efficient, the teamwork (and the humor) shines through.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

So many complaints about the Japanese education system. And yet tiny Japan is the third largest economy in the world, with a long recort of technical innovation and cultural influence. We must be doing something right. And yes, group work was a big thing when I was in school during the 80s and 90s.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

long recort of technical innovation and cultural influence

Japan never had a strength in technical innovation as it has done very poorly at inventing new trends, technologies and products. You can also see it on how archaic and backward thinking the Japanese society tends to be. Its cultural influence has never been strong either besides maybe mangas despite the fact and I am sorry to say this, that they are mostly a sub-culture for people who are not really interested in more challenging reading content. 

Concerning the largest economy thing, it’s again a disputable argument. It’s true in absolute GDP but the GDP (PPP) per capita shows a much less positive picture.

Now concerning this kind of rankings, I call them flawed because they do not reflect a real picture and people often wrongly interpret them as being a description of how well an education system is and thereafter how well people will perform in society. I have been long enough in Japan and spent 15 years in a science department in a big public university to know that the same people who are named in this kind of ranking good at problem solving (collaboratively or not) are in fact very poor at reasoning by themselves, at raising questions, at having a critical point of view and at thinking outside of the box. They are terrible at all of that and I remember being literally depressed to see such lack of proper training on how they should think and use their brains to solve real world science problems.

The result of that on Japan’s productivity is quite clear since Japan has been the less productive country amoung the most industrialized ones for decades, indeed a long time prevailing situation. If japan education would really create people with strong collaboratively solving skills as this ranking is trying to show, Japan would not have such a low productivity.

http://time.com/4621185/worker-productivity-countries/

Moreover no one can say with a straight face that Japanese companies which often claim to be the pinnacle in the Japanese group (collaborative) mentality are leading the world in innovation. Quite the opposite.

https://www.fastcompany.com/3067756/announcing-the-2017-worlds-50-most-innovative-companies

0 ( +4 / -4 )

And yet tiny Japan is the third largest economy in the world

Tiny? Let's not get too silly. 11th largest by population. 60th by land area. 8th largest by size of Exclusive Economic Zone. 5th largest by length of coastline.

So the third largest economy for a relatively large nation. But only 20th by GDP per capita.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The guy on the radio this morning started talking about Japanese special traits (nipponjin no tokusei ) after this story

And I was like oh shut up

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The results don't lie, do they.

Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea at the top, and in fact Singapore and Japan noticeably better. I reckon there is a bit of latent racism at play in this thread, pooh-poohing their results, but clearly Japanese kids are very good collaborative problem solvers - far better than; Canadian kiddies (5th), Australian kiddies (10th), US (13th), British (15th).

I don't find this all that surprising.

All bow down and pay homage to the superior collaborative problem solving of the Japanese kiddies.

They are better than you.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I reckon there is a bit of latent racism at play in this thread, pooh-poohing their results, but clearly Japanese kids are very good collaborative problem solvers

There there, Poirot. It clearly isn’t racism or the latent version of it for that matter. Most of posters have agreed and indeed appreciated the kids’ abilities. It’s somewhere after that they lose the way and that, I fully agree with. I’ve even in my earlier post, wish these kids could replace some of my local workmates. All would appreciate the amount of hard work put in by these kids day after day. This had no racist angle to begin with, in general!!!!!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It seems it involved interactive questions. Some example questions can be found at the link below:

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test/

Some other interesting results:

girls performed better than boys in almost all countries (e.g. Canadian girls performed better than Japanese boys) Although oddly, boys value teamwork more than girls.

Students who play video games outside of school score slightly lower in collaborative problem solving than students who do not play video games 

Other links here:

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-volume-v-9789264285521-en.htm

If that is the type of question that this survey measures, then I can see both why the Japanese students did well, and also why there's a lot of shade thrown on this news story.

The sample questions didn't really involve 'problem solving,' in the traditional sense, but more 'find the answer' questions. There was little to no unique processing or creative interpretation of said factual data to create an actual solution to a 'problem.'

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The sample questions didn't really involve 'problem solving,' in the traditional sense, but more 'find the answer' questions.

I agree. It wasn't really what I was expecting.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is good people.... OK, so lets start putting these kid's talents to work. Problem number 1. What to do about the decline in Japan's population? Problem 2. How to make Japan more competitive in Business? Problem 3. How should Japan deal with N. Korea? Problem 4. How to stop Japan's budget deficits and pay down its massive debt? Problem 5. How to decrease the increasingly disaffected population? The list goes on... what else should we have these amazing Japanese kid groups try to tackle?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@daito-hak I actually work in technology. Japanese inventors and their companies have the highest rate of foreign patent applications and grants in the USA. That says something. I know China is quickly catching up.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Can Japan win in a JapanToday comment section? probably not often considering many of the people on here are stuck in this bleak economy, stagnant wages, increasing taxes, reduced benefits while the population & birthrate shrinks and the elderly population increase. Yet all these so-called problem solving skills of Japanese cant seem to fix these ingrained problems that continue to suck the life from Japan and its people. Seems in many countries the cultural mindset must be maintained no matter what the costs.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

All bow down and pay homage to the superior collaborative problem solving of the Japanese kiddies.

They are better than you.

and yet those same countries that have these so called superior collaborative problem solving skills have accounted for very few of the innovative ideas that have changed societies and the world over the last 200+yrs. vast majority of scientific, medical and engineering advancements have predominately come from UK , Europe, USA. without innovation your really just solving the same repetitive problems that computers do today. oh that reminds me first mechanical computer invented by an Englishman first digital computer by an American .

3 ( +4 / -1 )

East Asians so completely dominate world education rankings in all fields, it appears simply that they are just smarter.

There will always be the bitter butthurts who will "but-but-but creativity! and critical thinking!" - Yeah right, creativity in the UK gave us Brexit and critical thinking in America gave us Trump. If that is the epitome of their education systems, then I think we hilariously have a nice clear picture of where their quality lies

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@gokai_wo_maneku... so many complaints about the Japanese education system. And yet tiny Japan is the third largest economy in the world, with a long recort of technical innovation and cultural influence.

Technical innovation in designing hardware, yes, but I find software design rather cumbersome.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Technical innovation in designing hardware, yes, but I find software design rather cumbersome.

I have to agree. Japanese software rarely has good UX. The majority of software I work with does not look so nice, and often has confusing organization.

But Japanese hardware is usually very nice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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