December 9, 2023

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TOKYO — Both elementary and junior high school students who spent more time using smartphones to browse social media and watch videos had lower percentages of correct answers in Japan’s national achievement examination, the education ministry said on July 28.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on July 28 released the results of its 2022 school year national achievement examination, which is administered to sixth-year elementary school and third-year junior high school students at national and public schools, in addition to private institutions that wish to take it.

For the first time, the ministry analyzed the correlation between daily smartphone usage and the average percentage of correct answers.

The questionnaire asked how much time students spent using social media, watching videos and engaging in other activities on their cell phones or smartphones on weekdays. The length of time was divided into six categories, from “less than 30 minutes” to “more than four hours.” Excluding those who did not have a smartphone, 50.6% of sixth graders and 75.6% of third-year students at junior high schools answered that they spent more than one hour a day on such activities.

An analysis of the correlation between the average percentage of correct answers and the amount of time spent using smartphones showed that in all six subjects taught at elementary and junior high schools, the more time students spent on smartphones, the lower the percentage of correct answers they got. This was most noticeable in junior high school math, where the average percentage of correct answers for those who spent “more than 4 hours” on their phones was the lowest, at 41.4%, while the average percentage of correct answers for those who selected “less than 30 minutes” was the highest, at 60.8%.

Also, the longer they played video games (including games on smartphones and other devices) on weekdays, the lower the percentage of correct answers. Among junior high school students, 71% said they played games for “more than one hour,” a decrease of 8.8 points from the previous year. The decline apparently stemmed from the fact that students were spending less time at home following the resumption of school club activities that had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Regarding the personal computers and tablet terminals that the government had deployed to many elementary and junior high schools across Japan by the end of the 2020 academic year to achieve its “one device per student” target, when asked how often they were used in class, a significant increase was seen with 83.3% of elementary school students (up 42.9 points from the previous year) and 80.7% of junior high school students (up 46.3 points) using them “at least once a week.”

Approximately 69% of both elementary and junior high schools responded that they have a technical support system for teachers on computer usage, such as having professional staff with sufficient knowledge on hand at the school — an improvement of about 16 points from the previous year.

(Japanese original by Makoto Fukazu, Tokyo City News Department)


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