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There were 111,491 high school dropouts in fiscal 1997, constituting a record 2.6 percent of total beginning-of-year enrollment, according to an Education Ministry survey released Friday.

The percentage capped last year’s previous all-time high of 2.5 percent. The survey began in 1982. The new high was marked despite a decline in student enrollment of approximately 173,400.

The dropout rate was highest among first-year high school students, among whom roughly one in 24, or 4.2 percent, left school. The dropout rate for second- and third-year students was 2.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

The survey results do not necessarily point to a crisis in the school system, says Tomiji Sugawa of the ministry’s Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau. “There are cases when students leave school to actively pursue changes in their career goals,” he said.

However, while 40.8 percent of the total reportedly left school to work or to attend another school, 33.4 percent left because of difficulties adjusting to other students or to the curriculum.

Of the students who had difficulties adjusting, 43.9 percent were reported to have left because they “lacked enthusiasm in high school life,” according to the survey. Another 18.4 percent left because they “found classes uninteresting,” 14.8 percent “could not interact well with other people” and 10.5 percent were “unsuited to the school atmosphere.”

“There is,” Sugawa admitted, “a decline in the number of students who come to school with the explicit intention to learn.”

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