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Top > Resources > Data > Basic Research on Academic Performance International Survey of Six Cities

Basic Research on Academic Performance
International Survey of Six Cities

Preliminary Report
Benesse® Educational Research and Development Center

1. Favorite Subjects

In Beijing more than 80% of students “likeEsubjects such as “National LanguageEand “MathEwhile in other cities between 50 and 70% of students “likeEthose subjects. In all cities the percentage of students who responded that they “likeE“Physical EducationEis high, indicating a general preference for practical subjects among students.

* Subjects taken at elementary school level vary between country and city. For the purpose of this study subjects listed in the question were established in line with the actual situation in each city. Consequently while some subjects are studied in all cities, others are only studied in certain cities. In certain cases subjects taken and the content of each subject vary among schools even in the same city.

Chart 1-1 Timetable at an elementary school in Tokyo (Grade 5)


*1: Subjects in time slots indicating more than one subject are taught on alternate weeks.
*2: Certain subjects and times have been abbreviated.

Graph 1-1 Favorite subject (Tokyo)
Graph 1-1 Favorite subject (Tokyo)

The most popular subject that was liked (“like a lotE+ “likeE by more than 80% of students is “Physical Education.EThe next most popular subject is “Home EconomicsE(78.0%), followed by “ArtE(77.3%), and “MusicE(70.8%), indicating a preference for practical subjects. Among other subjects “ScienceEand “MathEare popular, each being liked by more than 60% of students. In contrast, the percentages of students who “likeEhumanities subjects are fairly low and only 51.9% of students claim to like “Social Studies.E

Chart 1-2 Timetable at an elementary school in Seoul (Grade 5)


*1: “National LanguageEincludes “reading,E“speaking, listening and writing.Ebr> *2: “PracticalEis the equivalent of Japan’s “Technology and Home Economics.Ebr> *3: “Discretionary ActivityEis undertaken at the school’s own discretion. Many schools use this time to teach information education, Chinese classics (Chinese characters), foreign languages, environmental education, reading etc.
*4: Class meetings etc are held during “Special ActivityE
*5: Classes are held on alternate Saturdays.

Graph 1-2 Favorite subject (Seoul)
Graph 1-2 Favorite subject (Seoul)

Just under 90% of elementary school students responded that they “likeE(“like a lotE+ “likeE “Physical EducationEindicating a remarkable popularity for the subject. The next most popular subjects are “Discretionary ActivityE(79.1%), “ArtE(73.2%), and “MusicE(67.0%), indicating a preference for practical subjects, which is the tendency shared with Tokyo. The least popular subject is “Social StudiesE(41.7%), while “EnglishE(56.9%), a subject introduced in the 1990s, is unpopular in comparison to other subjects.

Chart 1-3 Timetable at an elementary school in Beijing (Grade 5)


*1: “VirtueEis the equivalent of “EthicsEin Japan.
*2: “School-based CurriculumEis a course unique to each school.
*3: “CalligraphyErefers to copying out letters with a pencil (or a pen). While the board of education permits the use of either pencils or writing, this particular school has chosen to use pencils.
*4: At this school, “Work TechnologyEis taught as a part of “Integrated Practical ActivityE(similar to “Integrated StudiesEin Japan).
*5: “HealthEis a subject designed to teach students to understand the changes occurring in their bodies in accordance with their age.

Graph 1-3 Favorite subjects (Beijing)

In Beijing the percentage of students who responded “likeE(“like a lotE+ “likeE overall is notably high. The majority of responses for almost all subjects was “like a lot.EWhile the most popular subject is “Physical EducationE(92.7%), more than 80% of students responded that they “likeEsubjects such as “National LanguageE(87.6%), “Virtue and Social StudiesE(82.7%), “MathE(88.6%), and “ScienceE(81.2%).

Chart 1-4 Timetable at an Elementary School in Helsinki (Grade 4) (*1)


*1: In Finland grade four is the equivalent of grade five in Japan (10-11 years old).
*2: “Environmental & Natural StudiesEis a general subject incorporating environment, geography, biology, physics and chemistry.
*3: “DramaEis an educational activity at most schools and parents are invited to watch performances once to a few times a year.
*4: “History,Eincluded in social studies, is a subject from grade five onwards.

Graph 1-4 Favorite subject (Helsinki)
Graph 1-4  Favorite subject (Helsinki)

*: “Technology & ArtEincludes art, music, crafts (home economics and technology), and physical education. The curriculum in Finland is highly flexible and the survey referred to “Technology & ArtEdue to there being many cases in which multiple practical subjects are integrated and taught together.
“Technology & ArtEreceived the most “likeE(“like a lotE+ “likeE responses (89.3%). The breakdown in preference for each practical subject is unclear as the survey lumped practical subjects together; however it is clear that practical subjects are popular in Helsinki. The next most popular subjects are “Foreign Languages,Esuch as English and German (67.9%) and “MathE(67.1%). Just under 60% of students responded that they “likeE“National Language and LiteratureE(59.5%).

Chart 1-5 Timetable at an elementary school in London (Grade 6) (*1)


*1: In the UK grade six is the equivalent of grade five in Japan (10-11 years old).
*2: “National languageEincludes literacy, writing, and reading.
*3: This time slot is divided into two. “Art & DesignEis taught in the first half of the class and “Design & TechnologyEis taught in the second half of the class.
*4: “PSHEEis short for Personal, Social and Health Education and includes drug education, citizenship education, and sex education. However the amount of time, content and way in which such classes are taught are left up to the discretion of individual schools.
*5: One hour is considered a long period of time. Some periods are divided into two, and two subjects are taught. “History/GeographyEand “ICT/PSHEEare taught on alternate weeks.

Graph 1-5 Favorite subject (London)
Graph 1-5  Favorite subject (London)

*: Percentages for “Religious StudiesEand “Modern Foreign LanguageEare calculated based on subgroups excluding the response “not takenE(864 students and 538 students from the sample respectively). The government had once announced that “Modern Foreign LanguageEwould begin to be taught at all elementary schools by 2010 but this policy has been abandoned. Some schools had already started teaching “Modern Foreign LanguageEwhen the policy had been announced and chose to keep the classes. As a result many students responded “not takenEto this survey.

More than 90% of students responded “likeE(“like a lotE+ “likeE for “ICT (information communication technology)E(95.3%), “Physical EducationE(91.0%), and “Art & DesignE(90.9%), indicating such subjects are preferred by almost all elementary school students. Three out of four students responded that they “likeE“National LanguageE(73.2%), “MathE(74.7%), and “ScienceE(75.8%). In comparison, the percentage of “likeEresponses for social science subjects such as “HistoryE(63.8%) and “GeographyE(49.9%) was slightly low.

Washington, D.C.
Chart 1-6 Timetable at an Elementary School in Washington, D.C. (Grade 5)


*1: “Language ArtsEis the equivalent of “National LanguageEin Japan and comprehensively involves the teaching of “listening, speaking, reading and writingEskills.
*2: “Physical Education & Music etcEclasses are referred to as “EncoreEand depending on the day, art, physical education, computers, music and library room (mainly reading and research) are taught during this time slot.
*3: “Core ExtensionEinvolves the teaching of a subject configured as an emphasis for a particular period of time (usually a week) for each grade.
*4: Different from other cities, in principle time is allocated each day in this way from Monday to Friday. Unique to this system is that the length of one period varies depending on the subject being taught.

Graph 1-6 Favorite subject (Washington, D.C.)
Graph 1-6  Favorite subject (Washington, D.C.)

*1: Percentages for “Music,E“Art,E“Physical Education,E“Foreign Languages,E“Computers / IT,Eand “Family Life / Health EducationEare calculated based on the subgroups excluding the response “not takenE(945 students, 949 students, 930 students, 304 students, 884 students, 444 students from the sample respectively).
*2: The way in which subjects are taught varies among schools in Washington, D.C. For example, certain schools include “Computers / ITEin each subject while other have made “Computers / ITEinto a separate subject in itself. Further, the inclusion of “Foreign LanguagesE(predominantly French and Spanish) and “Family Life / Health EducationEvaries among schools.

The percentage of students who responded “likeE(“like a lotE+ “likeE for scientific subjects such as “ScienceE(75.7%) and “MathE(74.0%) is relatively high, while the percentages for “National LanguageE(62.2%) and “Foreign LanguagesE(49.7%) are fairly low. Also in Washington, D.C., “Physical EducationEis the most popular subject among elementary school students (88.8%)


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