Japan Data

Pandemic Takes Toll as Japan’s Students Lose Enthusiasm for Learning

Education Health

The results of a continuous survey of elementary, junior high, and high school students revealed a rise over the past two years in the number of respondents who do not feel any motivation to study, with the ratio exceeding 50% in 2021. The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic is regarded as the cause.

The Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo and Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute recently released the results of their 2021 joint parent-child survey on children’s lifestyles and learning in which students from fourth grade of elementary school through third grade of high school were asked if they shared the feeling of not being motivated to study. Compared to the 2019 survey, the percentage who answered “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” rose by 9.2 points to peak at 54.3%.

The level of agreement increased with the age of the student, so while around 40% of elementary school children felt that way, this increased to 60% with junior high and high school students. By grade, the largest jumps were seen with junior high first-year students at 55.9%, a 14.8-point rise compared to 41.1% of elementary school sixth-graders, and those in the first year of high school with 65.2%, a 6.0-point rise compared to 59.2% of those in their final year at junior high. This significant fall in motivation for learning so soon after starting at new schools is assumed to be due to the effect of the pandemic.

The survey has been conducted continuously nationwide since 2015, targeting 21,000 children from the first grade of elementary school through the final year of high school, along with their parents. The one for 2021 was held between July and September and, in order to better understand changes in learning during the pandemic, an analysis was run to compare the responses for 2019 and 2021 for students from the fourth grade of elementary school through the third year of high school (each approximately 10,000 students’ responses).

Looking at what changes had occurred in the same children over the three-year period from 2019 through 2021, 11.2% felt there had been an increase in their motivation to study, while 25.8% had lost motivation, and 63.0% were aware of no change. Of those who felt no change, 31.8% still had high motivation, while 31.2% remained relatively unmotivated.

What were the factors behind these changes in motivation? According to Benesse, the results showed that children who felt that they “had learned how to study,” “the lessons had become more fun,” and “were thinking more carefully about their career path” over the past three years were more likely to see an improvement in their motivation to learn.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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