More than half of Japanese between the ages of 18 and 29 are not interested in science, and the percentage is growing despite an increased exposure to information technology products, according to a government poll.
The survey results, released Saturday, show that 43 percent of those polled do not think schools are helping students foster a sensibility toward science. The results alarmed the education ministry and prompted experts to warn of a possible decline in Japan’s technological prowess.
The poll, conducted by the Cabinet Office between Jan. 29 and Feb. 8, covered 3,000 people aged from 18 to over 70, of whom 2,084 responded.
The poll showed 52 percent of the respondents aged between 18 and 29 said they are not interested in science and technology. It represents an increase from 49.4 percent from a similar poll in October 1998.
Those in that age bracket who expressed interest in those fields dropped to 40.6 percent from 48.3 percent.
Of the total respondents, those interested in science and technology declined to 52.7 percent from 58.1 percent, while the rate of those who were not interested or not very interested in the fields rose to 43 percent from 40.2 percent.
“It was a shocking result,” said an education ministry official briefing reporters on the results.
While young people have strong skills using a variety of high-tech gadgets, including Internet-enabled cell phones and video-game consoles, “it doesn’t seem they want to know where these came from or who made those (products),” the official said.
The official said there does not seem to be a quick remedy to help foster public interest in science.
Takeo Samaki, a professor at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts and an expert on science education, took the poll’s result seriously.
“It shows the foundation of Japan underpinned by science and technology is collapsing,” Samaki said.
He pointed out that elementary and junior high schools offer few science courses that help kids connect their classroom lessons to daily life.