Higher Incomes Equal Higher Test Results: Study

Kyodo News, Aug. 6, 2009

Elementary school students from high-income families scored notably higher than those from low-income families in last year’s nationwide achievement exam, a government analysis of the results showed Tuesday.

Sixth-graders at public elementary schools whose parents earn ¥12 million or more scored 8 to 10 percentage points more than the national average in Japanese language and mathematics, while pupils from families with income of less than ¥2 million scored more than 10 percentage points less than the average.

A panel of experts under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology made the finding after conducting a survey on the parents of some of the elementary school pupils who took the standardized achievement exam, introduced by the ministry in 2007, revealing links between household income and the exam results for the first time.

The survey found the largest gap, as much as 23.3 percentage points, in the ability to apply basic mathematical knowledge.

The percentage of questions answered correctly by students with a family income of less than ¥2 million stood at 42.6 percent, while those with a family income of between ¥12 million and ¥15 million got 65.9 percent of the questions right. The national average was 55.8 percent.

Sixth-graders whose parents spend more than ¥50,000 a month on education other than school had 71.2 percent of the math questions right, compared with 44.4 percent among those whose parents spend none.

The panel concluded that the difference was a result of the income gap, saying the more parents earn, the more they spend on child education, particularly cram schools.

Hiroaki Mimizuka, a professor specializing in educational sociology at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo and a member of the panel, said the results point to the possibility that providing monetary assistance for education could improve students’ abilities.

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