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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Prof Stephen Gorard

Smith, E. & Gorard, S. (2012). 'Teachers are kind to those who have good marks' a study of Japanese young peoples' views of fairness and equity in schools. Compare 42(1): 27-46.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper presents the results from a study of Japanese young people’s views of being treated fairly in school and considers the extent to which their experiences differ from their peers in schools in England. The study involved 1191 students from nine Japanese junior high schools in their final year of study. Their experiences are compared with those of 2836 English students of the same age. Our findings suggest that while many Japanese students report positive experiences of school, many were also able to identify instances where their perceived treatment was unfair or inconsistent. These instances include teachers having students who are treated as ‘favourites’, and the apparent unequal allocation of punishments and rewards. In this respect, the reported experiences of the Japanese students were similar to those of their English peers and therefore provided no evidence to support recent ‘crisis accounts’ of the ‘examination hell’ and excessive academic pressures that are purportedly experienced by young people in Japanese schools. Nevertheless, our evidence does suggest that teacher initial and continuing development would benefit from the inclusion of rather more on the principles of equity.