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Views on Society on Global Understanding 3

Source: Chapter 2:Global Mindset from Monograph vol.53, " Relationship with Society -the Social Awareness of High School Students" edited by Educational Research Center, Benesse Corporation, May 1, 1998
(Supervising Editor: Dr. Masashi Fukaya, Professor, Tokyo Seitoku Junior College)

This chapter will examine the degree of international understanding among high school students. We asked them to list the top three nations where they wanted to travel, study, and have friends. There were many answers but we established nine categories for an analysis: the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, China, India, France, Germany, Australia and other countries.Table 5 shows the percentage of the most popular nation, and the grand total percentages of the three most popular nations.

Countries where high school students wish to travel / study / make friends
  Countries to travel Countries to study Countries to make friends
Most popular Three most popular Most popular Three most popular Most popular Three most popular
The United States 23.2 48.3 38.0 73.6 45.3 72.1
The United Kingdom 12.7 39.6 19.8 61.6 11.5 43.9
South Korea 0.5 1.8 0.1 0.9 1.6 6.3
China 2.5 12.3 1.4 7.3 5.7 21.9
India 1.2 5.0 0.2 1.0 1.5 7.3
France 9.8 36.7 5.2 32.5 6.1 32.8
Germany 2.1 8.5 2.8 15.1 2.3 11.0
Australia 15.8 39.5 19.7 49.4 10.5 33.9
Others 32.1 108.2 12.8 58.5 15.5 70.6

From Table 5 we can see that the countries where they want to travel and study are different from those where they want to have friends. 32.1% of the students answered that they wanted to travel to countries not listed in the Table, and the total percentage of those who ranked such countries first to third was as high as 108.2%. The students also mentioned many Western countries such as Italy, Belgium, and Canada, but there were also countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, such as Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, and Brazil. Only 23.2% said that they wanted to travel to the United States, one of the most popular nations, and the grand total of the percentage of those who ranked the U.S. first to third was 48.3%. The students wanted to travel in many countries, which indicates that the students have a variety of interests in foreign counties.

On the other hand, only 10 to 20% said they wanted to go study or have friends most in the nations not listed in the Table. The total percentages of those who want to study abroad and have friends in such countries are 58.5% and 70.6%, respectively. More than 80% of the students listed one of the eight nations, particularly Western countries. 38.0% said that they wanted to study the most in the United States, and as much as 45.3% answered that they wanted to have friends in the country. They selected those countries which they have the most information and knowledge because unless one has a certain image of a country, it is rather difficult to think about what they can do or how they can make friends. Considering these selection criteria, we can say that the students have some sense of international understanding.

In contrast, the students selected many Western countries and extremely few Asian countries. When another survey was conducted eight years ago, it was also pointed out that high school students have little interest in Asia. In that survey, however, they were asked to select from multiple choice answers. This time they were able to give any answer they liked. This clearly indicates that the students really have little interest in Asia. In particular, just before the survey that was conducted from October to November 1997, the World Cup Asian preliminary athletic games were held. Although the results of the games with South Korea were often in the news, the students showed the least interest in South Korea for most of the items in the survey. This type of information is transitional and may not influence international understanding. Although, we should interpret this as an indication that we have limited access to information and very little knowledge of our neighboring country.

We can also see the reason why students are familiar with Western nations and less familiar with Asian nations by looking at their images of each country. Since they were asked what images they had of the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, China, India, and Japan, they did not necessarily provide actual information or knowledge they had of each country. Still there was a clear difference in the images they had of Western nations and those of Asia. Let us look at some of the typical answers about each country:

The United States: freedom, individualism, asserting a definite opinion, gun society, NBA, the Statue of Liberty
The United Kingdom: tradition, the royal family, class society, declining nation, British rock music, Princess Diana
South Korea: dislikes for Japan, Korean dress, Korean barbecue, closed society, low prices, gets excited easily
China: return of Hong Kong, socialism, vast land, large population, bicycles, bad smell, acrobatic skills
India: caste system, close link between life and religion, curry, saris, people with outstretched hands, polluted rivers
Japan: workaholics, political corruption, materialistic affluence, decline in safety, wabi and sabi (a taste for simplicity and tranquillity), samurai

As far as Western countries and Japan are concerned, the students have specific images or make value judgments by giving answers relating to proper nouns, political and economic situations, and mass culture (Of particular interest were the many answers that concerned public order). On the other hand, many answers about Asia were rather vague or gave negative stereotypes of national characteristics or lifestyle. The students no longer have an ambiguous yearning for Western culture as in the past. As a result of the disparity in appropriate information and knowledge, they have a higher orientation toward Western countries than Asian countries. Although the students study the political systems and industries of Asian countries and their international relations at school, the images they have of those countries are different from such kind of knowledge. When we talk about international understanding, it may be necessary to reconsider what is actually meant by "international understanding."

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