A record 54.3% of students at elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan said they lacked motivation to study last year, a private survey showed Wednesday, apparently reflecting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in stifling social interaction.

The figure compared with 45.1% in 2019, the year before the pandemic began in Japan, and 50.7% in 2020 after COVID-19 broke out. Such data was first collected in 2015.

The study was conducted by the Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute and the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo. It collected answers by mail and other means from around 10,000 students ranging from fourth graders to high schoolers between July and September in 2021.

Kaoru Sato, a professor of the sociology of education and social research at the university, attributed the drop in motivation to reduced interaction among students at schools.

"COVID-19 has limited their interaction and the leisure activities they do together, while (restrictions such as) eating silently during lunch have taken the fun out of school life," Sato said.

Record figures were seen for all grade levels, with 43.1% of fourth- to sixth-graders expressing a lack of motivation to study and 58.6% of junior high school students having the same view. Among senior high schoolers, 61.3% said they are not eager to learn.

The impact of COVID-19 was also evident in activities such as group study, with the percentage of students participating dropping in 2020 before picking up in 2021.

The proportion of those taking classes using computers or computer tablets rose to 80.1% in 2021, sharply up from 54.5% in 2019.