Friday, September 18, 2009

JJNN: Test

Today I want to talk about the results of 2008 test of academic achievement that was given to all 6th year and 9th year (the last year in elementary school and the last year in jr. high school) students in Japan. I say all students, but there was one city that refused to give their students the test. The number of students in that city, called Inuyama in southern Japan, is insignificant when compared to the rest of the country, so we can ignore that I guess.

So, any way, picture this. You are part of the government of Japan. More precisely you are a part of MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), the people that started the academic achievement tests in 2007. You gave the test last year and you did the year before. The problem is that you have all this raw data and have no idea what to do with it. What would you do with it? I have no idea what I would do with it myself. It is nearly impossible to find patterns with just one or two data points per child. A lot more information is needed to actually get anything useful out of the data. You have to compare the children that do well (or inversely not so well) in a subject to something else to see why they do well or poorly in that subject. MEXT chose the thing that makes the world go around, money. This comparison was only done for the 6th year students. This report can be seen in Japanese in the Kyoto Shimbun.

What do you think MEXT found when they compared the academic achievement scores to the next income of that child's household? I think you can all probably guess but, simply, they found that the more money that flows into a household the higher the test score. How did they reach that conclusion? Well, first, they sent a survey off to 8093 students families from 100 randomly chosen schools from 5 major cities. 5847 parents actually sent back the survey. The survey had questions about how much money the family makes, how much money goes into their child's after school education, and other things about their family.

The results seem straight forward. For example, the average of the achievement test in math was 55.8%. Students in families with an income of 2,000,000 yen (around 20,000 USD) a year produced an average score of 42.6% while students in families with an income between 12,000,000 and 15,000,000 ( about 120,000 to 150,000 USD) a year produced and average score of 65.9%. That is a difference of 23.3%.

Another example of the same thing can be seen in how much money is put into the children's after school education. The average family that put more than 50,000 yen (around 500 USD) into their children's after school education per month got a score of 71.2 while the students that didn't get after school education had an average score of 44.4% for a difference of 26.8%.

Those two differences are huge, but does this mean that poor people never get good grades in school? Of course not. There is one silver lining on this cloud of a report. It seems that even at the same economic level the families who read to their children when they were very young or had a lot of books in their home always produced better scores on the academic achievement tests. So, I guess this means that even the poorest of the poor can produce good students if they set them off on the correct path by reading to them when they are very young.

I want to end this post by saying that tests like this are a good way to ruin the education system. In the beginning they may seem like a good idea. They may seem like they may help the education system by finding flaws in the system and finding out where the kids are being left behind, but I wonder if that is what is really happening. If all they can think to do with all of the raw data they go was to compare it with how much money the children's families make I wonder if they should really give this test every year.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 学力(がくりょく). It is pronounced gakuryoku and means knowledge. I wish I had some gakuryoku now haha.

See you next time at JJNN

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. It seems like they are trying to go all "No Child Left Behind" in Japan. Hopefully they learn from America and don't go there. Also, interesting to see that the correlation between income & test scores & being read to are the same in japan and america