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Japanese adults rank No. 1 in literacy, but poor in IT skills
Publication Date : 11-10-2013
A recent survey by an international body has demonstrated Japan’s high educational standards.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development recently unveiled the result of its Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competence (PIAAC), a survey of adult skills and competencies, covering people aged 16 to 65.
Japan ranked No. 1 in terms of mean scores in both literacy and numeracy.
The large-scale survey was conducted in 2011 and 2012 on about 157,000 adults in 24 countries, mainly industrialised nations such as European countries, the United States and South Korea. The survey assesses levels of skills required in daily life and work environments.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test conducted every three years by the OECD, evaluates the competencies of 15-year-old secondary school students in three basic areas: reading, mathematics and science. There was a time when Japanese children’s scores on this test showed a significant drop, sending a shock wave through those involved in education.
The solid performance in the latest survey of adult skills can be taken as good news, at least for now.
According to the survey, the proportion of Japanese in the lower range of the proficiency levels was smaller than other countries. In literacy, in particular, Japanese who completed only middle school scored higher than high school graduates in the United States or Germany, performing well irrespective of their academic record.
The compulsory education system in Japan, which emphasises the acquisition of skills in basic areas such as reading, writing and calculating, has probably led to the improved standard for adult skills.
Still, in terms of the percentage of survey takers in the highest-performance group of the six levels in literacy and numeracy, Finland scored the highest, while Japan ranked 4th in literacy and 6th in numeracy.
Room for improvement
For Japan to strengthen its international competitiveness in diverse fields such as economics, science and technology, it must cultivate highly talented human resources. Ways and means for enhancing the development of gifted minds are needed at schools and workplaces.
On the other hand, Japanese adults scored poorly in problem-solving abilities in technological environments involving information processing. Only 35 per cent of Japanese adults scored high in proficiency in this domain, taking 10th place among the participating countries.
This low score is partly due to the fact that the percentage of Japanese who are unfamiliar with personal computers and thus chose not to answer such questions was higher than the rate for other countries.
It is somewhat surprising that there was a conspicuous number of people aged 16 to 24 who chose not to answer the IT-related questions. Does this indicate that young people are familiar with cell phones or smartphones but have little experience with PCs?
In the daily business environment, it has become normal to see people using computers and the Internet for research and processing information. There are many businesses trying to enhance their workers’ competency in information technology through training programs.
It is important, both at school and home, to allow children to acquire the habit of properly using computer devices, while ensuring they do not become addicted to the Internet.