Few kind words to lift the misery

JAPAN. When Japan embarked on a course of ultra-demanding schooling in the late 50s, it didn't bargain on the misery it would cause.

A third of the school children surveyed recently by a research institute in Morioka, northern Japan, said they "should never have been born".

And another poll conducted last year with fifth-formers in six countries - Japan, South Korea, China, the United States, New Zealand and Brazil - showed that Japanese children are the least likely to find school fun.

The poll of fifth-formers was carried out by educational information company Benesse Corp, based in the city of Okayama.

They interviewed 4,468 fifth graders in six countries and found that only one in three Japanese students were satisfied with their form tutor, compared with 50 to 80 per cent of children in the othercountries.

Asked about communication with teachers, about 30 per cent of the American children answered that they often received encouraging "compliments". Only six per cent of the Japanese children gave a similar answer, the lowest among the six countries.

Classes of up to 60 pupils are in some respects to blame, together with the nature of lessons, which are often taught by learning by rote. The need to cram for exams and to "fit-in" via bonding extra-curricular activities has caused the students' their greatest lament - lack of free time.

A union-affiliated body, the JTUC Research Institute for Advancement of Living Standards, has published a report, based on a survey on how children between the ages of 10 and 15 spend their time. It described Japanese children's lives as "no bed of roses".

The institute found that, on an average week day, third-year junior high school students spend about 7.5 hours at school and 5.8 hours on extra-curricular activities and private lessons. Children said they tended to compensate for the lost free time by sleeping less; on average the children surveyed took only about 7.5 hours of sleep on week days and 8.8 hours on weekends.

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