The average English communicative ability of Japanese high school students is below that of their Chinese and South Korean counterparts, according to the results of an international study released Monday in Tokyo.

University researchers from the three countries and Okayama-based Benesse Corp., a publisher of educational books, conducted the study between September and November.

About 4,300 Japanese students from 15 high schools nationwide scored an average of 407.8 points in the 800-point Global Test of English Communication, an English proficiency exam developed by Benesse and U.S.-based Berlitz International Inc., the Japanese firm's subsidiary that operates language schools internationally.

Roughly 4,200 Chinese students from four high schools in Beijing meanwhile scored an average 432.6 points, and about 5,100 South Korean students from seven high schools in Seoul and a city near Pusan scored 414.1 points.

The Japanese students' average scores for the listening and reading sections of the GTEC were the lowest among the three nations. The South Koreans scored the highest averages.

The Japanese students performed better in the writing section of the GTEC.

A separate survey conducted during the joint study found that South Korean students, regardless of their score in the GTEC exam, were more confident about their English ability than their Japanese counterparts.

Kensaku Yoshida, a professor at Sophia University who conducted the study, said South Koreans are more used to using English for writing and phone calls.

Japanese high schools "should provide students with more opportunities to experience activities using English language through classes and help them build their self-esteem," he said.