Ptolemy in Japan

Sean Kinsell has a story about schoolchildren who don’t know science basics — and they’re not American!

Over 40 percent of elementary school children in Japan think the sun revolves around the earth, a shocking survey conducted by officials at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has found.

Only 39 percent of Japanese students surveyed knew the moon revolves around the earth; 27 percent chose Mars and 24 percent went for the sun.

I found this very comforting.

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  1. I can see the beginnings of a great set of math lesson plans here: by manipulating arbitrarily defined frames of reference, we can teach children how to show mathematically that the universe really does revolve around them. 😉

  2. How do these people manage to excell in international testing and compete with international industry? Maybe it doesn’t hurt if the curriculum isn’t one size fits all.

  3. What most Americans do not realize is that other countries do not educate all their children, nor do they test all the students who are educated. Therefore, when we hear that the Japanese, or any other country, out-performs American students we are only getting part of the story. The true story is that the percentage of children who were tested in Japan outperformed American students – meaning 100% of those who are educated by the public schools. This happens here in America with SAT and ACT scores as well.

    Supposedly, Georgia is one of the worst states for education. So much so, that we considered moving out of state simply for that reason. In order to know which state would offer the best education, I started comparing test scores. It is true that most states have higher average SAT scores than Georgia. However, the difference is not staggering. What did surprise me, however, is that the state with the highest SAT scores were only testing 13 – 25% percent of their students. Here in Georgia around 60% of the students take the SAT. So, of course, if you only took the scores of the top 20% of those students, Georgia would surely be up there with “the best” of them.

    Likewise, if you test the top 50% of the Japanese and compare them to 100% of the Americans, the results are lopsided at best.

  4. Steve LaBonne says:

    arby, your comment certainly doesn’t apply to the subject of he story- elementary-school students in Japan. All elementary students in Japan are taught the same, national curriculum (no tracking) and all are tested.

  5. Well, the kids in the study are only like 9 years old, aren’t they? I was able to explain basic astronomy at that age, but that was because I was an astronomy nut. I wouldn’t expect most kids that age to really have a good comprehension of it.

  6. I never thought that Americans were as badly educated as the scores showed.

    However the outcome of this current little experiment in education is to see if if we can get our bottom 50% to perform as well as Japan’s top 50%.

    Do you think that if we moved the numbers even a little that in that direction that it wouldn’t be a huge competitive advantage? And suppose we succeeded. The rest of the world would follow. To the great benefit of the whole planet.

    Demming would be proud.


  1. Lukewarm Comfort

    If you do a certain amount of edublogging you can sympathize with this from Joanne Jacobs:Only 39 percent of Japanese…