The Institute of Social Science at The University of Tokyo and Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute conducted joint research into “Children’s lifestyles and studying.”This included a large-scale longitudinal study of children and parents at the elementary and junior high school levels, the first of its kind in Japan. We would like to spotlight Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute’s report on children’s like and dislike of studying.

In 2014, Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute established the “Children’s lifestyles and studying” project in conjunction with the Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, to supplement existing research.

The project was a longitudinal study of around 20,000 children and their parents from 1st year elementary school through 3rd year high school (only the parents were interviewed at 1yr-3yr elementary level) with the aim of uncovering thinking and values regarding children’s lifestyles, studying, and personal relationships, while monitoring how attitudes changed. The survey has been conducted annually from 2015 onward. The findings are published in order to be useful in child education.

Here we would like to focus on children’s like and dislike of studying (their appetite for learning), and highlight analysis of the characteristics of children who move from dislike to like of studying. We think this can be instructive for raising children that like studying and learning by themselves.

60% of students report disliking studying in junior high school. We would like to focus on those who move from dislike to like of studying.

Although Japanese children have a high scholastic level on an international comparative basis, they are said to “not really liking studying” and have “low appetite for learning by themselves.”The child-parent panel illustrated that dislike of studying increases as a child moves through school, with a sharp rise in 1st year junior high such that 60% of 2nd year junior high school students report disliking studying.
However, tracking of the 1st year junior high school students that report disliking studying (in the 2015 and 2016 surveys) reveals that around 10% of students move from dislike to like of studying (average for the three years of junior high).

What are study habits/attitudes and interaction with parents like for students moving from dislike to like of studying?

What characteristics do junior high students who moved from dislike to like of studying have compared to those who continued disliking studying? First, there is a major gap in average time spent studying (*1), 131.7 minutes / day for the first group versus 89.3 minutes / day for the second group. There are also interesting characteristics when we look at study motivation/methods and interaction with parents.

*1 The average for total time spent on “school homework”, “non-school homework studying (excluding cram school)”, and “cram school.”2016 figures for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year junior high school students.

Study motivation

A higher proportion of students who moved from dislike to like of studying responded that they were motivated to study by “pleasure in learning new things”, “wanting to progress to their favored high school or university” and “not wanting to lose to their friends.”

Key takeaway: When a child enters junior high school, the number of subjects increases and the content becomes more difficult, and this may cause a rise in the number of children losing interest and coming to dislike studying. As a result, it is all the more important that students can find a variety of reasons for studying, such as having their own goals and targets, rather than being driven by the external motivation of not wanting to be scolded by teachers or parents.

Study methods

Correlation between study motivation and change in like/dislike of studying

Key takeaway: Metacognition (subjective introspection) is an important element for independent study, and is said to develop strongly during the later years of elementary school. In order to foster this, it would seem to be crucial that children use their own words as much as possible to express what they do not understand when they face a difficult problem in their daily lives. A gradual blossoming in the ability to view oneself subjectively is also helpful in brushing up logical thinking skills.

Interaction with parents

A higher proportion of the parents of children who move from dislike to like of studying not only help their child with studying, but also encourage them compared to the parents of those who continue to dislike studying.

Key takeaway: “Encouragement” here indicates the cases of “praise when they have done well”, “encouragement when they have not done well”, “supporting them in what they want to be.”At the junior high school level, it is more important to praise the process over the result and to use concrete expressions rather than abstract expressions. It seems likely that praising a child increases their self-esteem and makes them like studying.

Based on these results, we conclude that students who moved from dislike to like of studying not only increased their study time, but also performed “quality studying” with strong motivation and study methods. Moreover, they also have appropriate interaction with their parents that enables the fostering of independent learning skills.

Amid a shift in educational goals toward nurturing of natural talents and abilities, we think educational reforms are a crucial factor in developing independent learning skills and “the capacity to learn” (non-cognitive skills). Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute has begun to implement ways to study the theories of this development. We aim to continue merging quantitative data with detailed strategies for fostering children with independent learning skills.

Related websites


Kinfu Shou
Kinfu Shou
Kinfu Shou

Report supervision: Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute Elementary and Secondary Educational Research Office

The three key factors for self-learning in the theory of “self-regulated learning” in educational psychology that are required to enable a student to set their own goals, proceed to independent learning, and produce results are: “metacognition” (subjective introspection), “study motivation” (study desire and appetite), and “learning strategies” (study methods). The portion of the longitudinal study of children and parents regarding studying was designed based on this “independent learning” study model.