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Improve children’s lives at home to boost their academic ability

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is important to provide an environment that encourages children to get into a regular routine in their daily lives and makes it easier to concentrate on their studies.

What impact do parents’ income and educational background have on a child’s academic ability? The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has released the results of a survey on this issue.

Researchers analyzed the results of the 2017 school year nationwide achievement test for sixth-grade elementary school students and third-year junior high school students, and a questionnaire conducted on 120,000 parents and guardians in conjunction with the test.

According to the survey, the higher the parental income, the higher the average correct answer rate was for questions on Japanese language and mathematics. A similar trend was evident in the previous survey conducted in 2013. This is a sign that a family’s economic situation could affect a child’s academic ability.

For a question gauging the applied mathematics skills of the sixth-graders, the average correct answer rate for children whose household income was ¥15 million or higher was 59 percent. The figure was just 36 percent for children from families that earned less than ¥2 million.

The correct answer rate also tended on the whole to be higher for children whose parents were highly educated.

If a family budget has money to spare, it is easier to afford expenses such as cram school. Parents in these families probably also have high expectations that their children, even from a very young age, will enter higher-level schools.

However, it is worth noting that children who had a stable routine in their daily lives, even if their parents did not earn a lot of money or have a higher education, achieved good scores overall.

Flexible approach essential

These were the children from households that, in the questionnaire, said they did things such as “having our children wake up at a set time,” “making our children eat breakfast every morning” and “encouraging our children to study in a planned way.”

Another clear trend was that the more frequently children read the printed word had, the higher academic abilities they achieved. A high proportion of parents of children who recorded good scores gave answers in the questionnaire such as that they “read picture books to our children when they were small” and “encourage our children to read books and newspapers.”

If children discuss the content of newspaper articles and other written matter with their parents, their interest in social issues will increase further.

Schools also have a major role to play. The latest survey also analyzed the special features of elementary and junior high schools where children achieved high academic scores overall, regardless of the economic situation at home. Common threads running through these schools were that teachers provided detailed support for studying at home, and generously offered individual instruction after school hours.

It is important that teachers steadily make efforts such as writing words of advice in homework notebooks before returning them to students each day. Making efforts to provide life guidance to students and to build relationships of trust with parents and local communities is also essential.

At a time when it has frequently been pointed out that teachers are too busy, a flexible approach will be needed, with such steps as stationing teaching staff at schools where they are most needed. It is hoped that local governments and nonprofit organizations also will boost their support activities for after-school learning programs.

Keeping a close eye on a student’s home environment and providing thorough instruction to lift the overall level of academic ability — this is the primary responsibility of the public education system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2018)Speech



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