A new government white paper calls into question the assumption that Japan’s impressive rankings on tests of international competition mean its students are optimistic about their future. The disconnect serves as a rebuttal to countries that are obsessed with these controversial exams.

Despite Japan’s ranking on the latest Program for International Student Assessment, which measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, math and science every three years, only 61.6 percent of its students reported being hopeful about their prospects for a good life. This counterintuitive finding is puzzling only at first glance.

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