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Japanese survey raises concern on geography education

The location of Iraq is a mystery to 44 percent of university students, and 3 percent cannot find the United States on a world map, according to a survey conducted by the Association of Japanese Geographers.

As a result of the findings, the association has called for an improvement in geography education. The survey of 3,800 students at 25 universities and 1,000 students at nine high schools was conducted between December and February. In the first survey of its kind, students were asked to identify 10 countries, including Iraq, North Korea and the United States from a list of 30 on a world map.

The hardest country for students to find was Ukraine, with 54.8 percent of university students and 33 percent of high school students able to identify it correctly.

Despite extensive media coverage of Iraq during the war and on the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces personnel, only 56.5 percent of university students and 54.1 percent of high school students could find it.

Just over 76 percent of university students and 59.4 percent of high school students were able to correctly identify Greece, site of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The highest rate of recognition was for the United States, but about 3 percent of university students and about 7 percent of high school students still failed to correctly identify it on a map.

Since revisions to government teaching guidelines in 1989, high school students have been required to choose at least two subjects, including world history, in the topic areas of geography and history. But only half of students choose the geography course, according to the association.

Prof. Yumiko Takizawa of Teikyo University, who chairs the association’s panel on geography education, said, “It’s important to ensure students have a good balance between learning geography and history.”