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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Benesse Educational Research and Development Center


The Benesse Educational Research and Development Center, part of the Benesse Corporation, based in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward, recently conducted a survey called "International Survey of Six Cities" on the academic performance, study-related attitudes, and other miscellaneous aspects of the lives of young school pupils in six cities worldwide: Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Helsinki, London, and Washington DC.

Naturally, some interesting facts emerged. Overall, the pupils with the most gung ho attitude towards their studies were in Seoul, where the average pupil spends two and a half hours on weekday evenings on homework and extra study - compared to two and a quarter hours in Beijing, an hour and three-quarters in Tokyo, and just over an hour in Helsinki, London and Washington DC.

What might appear to be the most baffling statistic for pupils from a country that pulled itself up by the bootlaces to become one of the world's leading economies is Japanese pupils' response to the statement "In this country, those who try hard are rewarded." A mere 30% of Japanese pupils agreed, compared with 48% in Beijing, 65% in London, 68% in Washington DC, and 70% in Seoul.

Also interesting was pupils' evaluation of the ultimate usefulness of study. Across the board, Japanese pupils rated getting an education least important when it came to "working for a big, well-known company," (30% of Tokyo pupils thought it was important, compared with around 50% in the other five cities), "becoming rich" (a mere 13.6% in Tokyo compared with 50% in London and Washington DC), "to become a respectable person" (35% in Tokyo compared with 71% in London and Washington DC).

Similarly, only 16% of Japanese pupils (and just 8% of Beijing pupils) thought that "I can be happy if I am rich," compared with 25% in Helsinki, 35% in Seoul, and 45% in London and Washington DC.

Most revealing was the percentage of Tokyo pupils who thought education was necessary "to live a happy and fulfilled life": only 40%, compared with over 50% in Seoul and Beijing, and almost 75% in London and Washington DC. Also, only 25% of Tokyo pupils believed they would be happy "if I graduate from a good university (40% in Beijing, 60% in Seoul, 80% in London, 85% in Washington DC.) It was also revealed that a whopping 87% of Japanese pupils say they "talk with my family a lot," compared with about 75% of pupils in the other cities.

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