The latest global trends in education and testing etc. will be delivered from CRET.

Problem-Solving Ability, Financial Literacy, and the Results and Application of TALIS

Kenichi Arai, Chairperson of CRET


The results of the PISA 2012 problem-solving ability tests have been announced in April 2014. There were questions for which the solutions were not immediately obvious, such as those about understanding the rules that regulate the movement of cleaning robots and how to use an air conditioner without consulting its operation manual. The score for Japan was 552 and the OECD average was 500, while the highest score, recorded by Singapore, was 562, and the second highest was 561 by Korea, with Japan in third place. Japanese students achieved a relatively good score for those questions that they were not actually familiar with. However, my concern is about the results of their questionnaire survey. By indexing their answers regarding perseverance and flexibility in problem solving, it was found that Japan was ranked lowest among the 44 participating countries and regions. This could be because Japanese students set high self-evaluation standards, and we may not be able to make a simple interpretation of the result; still, it is quite low. If the level of their perseverance and flexibility in seeking solutions to problems is really low, can we expect them to gain a high level of skill in problem solving? I would like to verify the situation in relation to actual observations.


At PISA 2012, a survey of financial literacy was also conducted, although Japan did not participate. There were questions asking about the content of invoices and pay slips, as well as those related to shopping at supermarkets and so on, which were answered by children from 18 countries and regions. One out of 10 participants reached the proficiency level, and their results were highly related to their level of mathematical literacy and reading comprehension. There are 70% or more children who possess bank accounts in some countries, while in other countries this figure is less than 30%. In many of the countries in which 70% or more of the children have bank accounts, those with bank accounts tend to earn higher scores. Moreover, financial literacy seemed to be related to perseverance in problem solving. Now, what is the situation for Japanese children? Are they ready to conduct appropriate economic activities in society?


What about the situation for Japanese teachers? Seeing the results of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) announced in June 2014, in which 34 countries and regions participated, it seems that they are not confident about helping students gain confidence, motivate themselves, and find meaning of learning, although they make efforts to learn and improve their teaching skills with their colleagues at in-school seminars and on other occasions. This relates to the results of the PISA survey about children mentioned earlier; however, as it is a questionnaire survey, the results can be influenced by their own self-evaluation standards. Again, I would like to examine this in relation to actual teaching and children’s situations.


As such, we can gain many suggestions from the international comparison survey, but often we are not allowed to make simple interpretations from the comparison because each country has a different background. Therefore, if we can conduct our own survey and interpret the results by referring to actual observations, we may be able to get a realistic sense of our situation. Not all but many items surveyed by PISA and TALIS are made public, so by utilizing them, we may be able to conduct such an international comparison survey that we can apply to our own situation instead of just learning the results. I think it is really a waste if all we do is take note of the surveyed items that have been developed through the international collaboration by experts.

(July 28, 2014)

Kenichi Arai

Chairperson, Center for Research on Educational Testing / Chairperson, Board of Directors, Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute

columns and Reports

Reasearch label

What PISA 2012 suggests

Kenichi Arai

Reasearch label

What the PIAAC suggests

Kenichi Arai

Reasearch label

Measuring the Degree of Shyness

Atsushi Aikawa

<< | 1 | 2 | >>

Areas of Reasearch in CRET

This laboratory conducts research on test evaluation and analysis. We also perform joint research and exchange programs with overseas testing research institutes.

>> Click here
for the laboratory

This laboratory conducts research and development into testing approaches that measure communication skills, teamwork skills, and social skills, etc.

Dr. Atsushi Aikawa

Faculty of Human Sciences,
University of Tsukuba
Ph.D. in Psychology

>> Click here
for the laboratory

This laboratory conducts research on the foundation of computer-based testing, and basic research on media and recognition, as well as applied and practical research
that utilize such knowledge.

Dr. Kanji Akahori

Professor Emeritus of
Tokyo Institute of

>> Click here
for the laboratory