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2013年12月 5日 (木)

国際学力調査 「脱ゆとり」が生んだV字回復

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 5, 2013
Departure from cram-free education key behind higher academic ability
国際学力調査 「脱ゆとり」が生んだV字回復(12月4日付・読売社説)

The education ministry’s departure from its previous cram-free education policy has apparently resulted in a sharp recovery in the academic ability of Japanese children. The results of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s latest academic achievement test can be regarded as an indication that the ministry’s effort to change its education program has accomplished what it set out to do.

On Tuesday, the OECD unveiled the results of its Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) worldwide survey for 2012. The PISA survey covers 15-year-old students, an age group at the end of compulsory education.

Japan was ranked fourth among 65 nations and territories in reading performance and scientific applied skills, and seventh in mathematical applied skills.

Since it debuted in 2000, the PISA survey has been carried out every three years. Japan achieved favorable results in the inaugural PISA assessment. However, the nation’s ranking in reading performance plunged to 14th in 2003 and 15th in 2006. Japan’s ranking improved slightly in the 2009 survey. The outcome of the latest PISA assessment points to an improvement in both the average scores and rankings of Japanese students in all three categories.

A probable factor behind the improved performance of Japanese students is an attempt by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to shift the focus of its policy from pressure-free education in 2008. In revising its official teaching guidelines that year, the ministry increased the volume of study content and the number of class hours.

The ministry’s new policy attached greater importance to providing lessons aimed at improving the ability of primary and middle school students to think and express themselves through such activities as debates and report writing. Since 2007, the ministry has also conducted nationwide academic achievement tests in the hope of encouraging teachers and school administrators to examine and improve their teaching methods.

It is important that steady progress be made in these efforts to help students fully assimilate what they have learned and further improve their academic skills.

What was noteworthy about the latest PISA results was an increase in the percentage of high achievers in mathematics, reading and science among Japanese students, combined with a decline in the percentage of low-achieving children in these subjects.

Key factor behind success

The education ministry believes the nationwide use of a method aimed at teaching students according to their level of proficiency was a key factor behind raising the overall level of Japanese students’ academic ability.

However, in a survey covering the attitude of students, taken alongside the PISA assessment, it appeared that Japanese students have less interest in mathematics than their counterparts overseas.

This was evident from a questionnaire about whether respondents were interested in what they learned in mathematics. The percentage of Japanese students who answered positively was the fourth-lowest.

Japanese students also fared poorly in the percentage of children who found it worthwhile to learn mathematics as a means of expanding the scope of possibilities in their future jobs. Those who agreed it would help them ranked second from the bottom in the survey.

This attitude was also noticeable in the results of a Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study conducted in 2011.

These results are worrisome as the country seeks to prosper on the strength of its ability to create new technology.

We hope educators will use their imagination to teach mathematics and science in a manner that will help students recognize that learning these subjects is an enjoyable experience while also letting them know that knowledge gained from studying these areas is extremely useful when they start out in the world. By doing so, educators should stimulate their intellectual curiosity. All these measures will help produce future workers who will achieve great things in the field of science and technology.

It is also important to improve the skills of educators by enhancing the quality of teacher training courses at colleges and universities and training programs for people already teaching students on a daily basis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 4, 2013)
(2013年12月4日01時50分  読売新聞)


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