A Video-Gaming School Stumbles on a Way to Get Dropouts Back in Class (2023)


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Japan’s first e-sports high school thought it would turn out pro gamers. Instead, it attracted an unexpected demographic.

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A Video-Gaming School Stumbles on a Way to Get Dropouts Back in Class (1)

By Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno

Reporting from Tokyo

(Video) [Latest]A Video-Gaming School Stumbles on a Way to Get Dropouts Back in Class

Wataru Yoshida had had enough. He wasn’t going back to school.

He disliked his teachers, chafed against the rules and was bored by his classes. So in the middle of 2020, as Japan’s schools reopened after pandemic closings, Wataru decided to stay home and play video games all day.

“He just declared, ‘I’m getting nothing from school,’” said his mother, Kae Yoshida.

Now, after more than a year out of the classroom, Wataru, 16, has returned to school, though not a normal one. He and around two dozen teenagers like him are part of the inaugural class of Japan’s first e-sports high school, a private institution in Tokyo that opened last year.

The academy, which mixes traditional class work with hours of intensive video game training, was founded with the intention of feeding the growing global demand for professional gamers. But educators believe they have stumbled onto something more valuable: a model for getting students like Wataru back in school.

“School refusal” — chronic absenteeism often linked to anxiety or bullying — has been a preoccupation in Japan since the early 1990s, when educators first noticed that more than one percent of elementary and middle school students had effectively dropped out. The number has since more than doubled.

Other countries like the United States have reported higher rates, but it is difficult to make direct comparisons because of varying definitions of absenteeism.


Japanese schools can feel like hostile environments for children who don’t fit in. Pressure to conform — from teachers and peers alike — is high. In extreme cases, schools have demanded that children dye their naturally brown hair black to match other pupils’, or dictated the color of their underwear.

Making matters worse, counselors, social workers and psychologists are rare in schools, said Keiko Nakamura, an associate professor of psychology at Tohoku Fukushi University. Teachers are expected to perform those roles in addition to their other duties.

As they struggle to address school refusal, educators have experimented with different models, including distance learning. In December, Tokyo announced that it would open a school in the metaverse. Promotional photos looked as if they were straight out of a Japanese role-playing game.

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Frustrated parents with means have turned to private schools, including so-called free schools that emphasize socialization and encourage children to create their own course of study. The E-Sports High School students, however, mostly found their own way to the school.

Inside theVideo Gaming Industry

  • Epic Games: The creator of Fortnite agreed to pay $520 millionover charges that it illegally collected children’s data and duped users into unwanted purchases.
  • Microsoft-Activision Deal: Federal regulators have sued to blockthe $69 billion acquisition of the video game maker, but Microsoft is gambling on its “nice guy” strategyto close the megadeal.
  • A Union Win: Organized labor claimed a big victories on Jan. 3, gaining a foothold among about 300 employees at a video game maker owned by Microsoft.
  • The Business of E-Sports: Despite competitive video gaming’s growth and appeal to the young consumers, traditional sports owners who have invested in the industry say the money has not followed.

For them, it seemed like a potential haven. But for their parents, it was a last resort. Once the school realized it was tapping into an unexpected demographic of absentee students, it invested considerable effort in soothing parental concerns.

At an information session in February 2022, a PowerPoint presentation explained that the school’s lesson plans met national educational standards, and administrators addressed concerns like video game addiction and career prospects for professional gamers.


Two months later, at the start of the Japanese school year in April, 22 boys, accompanied by dark-suited parents and grandparents, gathered for an entrance ceremony at the school’s gaming campus. It is a sleek pod — half spaceship, half motherboard, with glass floors and a ceiling circuited with green neon tubes — on the eighth floor of a building in the bustling Shibuya district.

The ceremony offered reassurance to both students and parents. A former minister of education sent a congratulatory telegram on the school’s opening. The principal — in the form of a glitchy virtual avatar — delivered a speech from a giant screen, then led students in a programming exercise.

That mix would continue throughout the school year. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, pros instructed students on competition strategies for popular games like Fortnite and Valorant. On one such day, students gathered around a whiteboard for a nearly scientific lecture about the relative merits of Street Fighter characters, then broke into groups to put the lesson into action.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students studied core subjects like math, biology and English. Unlike at normal Japanese schools, classes started later, at 10, and there were no uniforms.

Another unaccustomed sight for a school in Japan: tardiness.

On one day early in the school year, only two of the boys showed up for the start of first period, a lecture about information technology. There were four teachers.


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As pupils straggled in, the teachers offered a cheery hello or simply ignored them. By third period — biology — five students had arrived. Only two stayed through the day’s last class, English.

The teachers were happy they came at all.

“Kids who didn’t come to school in the first place are allergic to being forced,” said Akira Saito, the school’s principal, an affable bear of a man who had spent years teaching troubled students in Japanese public schools.

The academy’s philosophy was to draw them in with the games and then show them that “it’s really fun to come to school, it’s really useful for your future,” he said.

Torahito Tsutsumi, 17, had left school after bullying drove him into a deep depression. He spent all day in his room reading comics and playing video games. When his mother, Ai, confronted him about it, he told her that his life was “meaningless.”

“When other parents told me their kids weren’t going to school, I thought, ‘You’re spoiling them,’” she said.

It was a typical response. Traditional Japanese education puts a premium on cultivating grit — known as gaman. Educational methods often focus on teaching children the value of endurance, dispensing harsh punishments and avoiding anything that looked like coddling.


But as Ms. Tsutsumi watched her son sink into depression, she feared what might happen if she tried to force him back to class. She had begun to lose hope when Torahito saw a television ad for the e-sports school.

She wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea, but “the most important part was that he wanted to attend,” she said.

By the school year’s halfway point, Torahito had made progress. He arrived at school every day promptly at 10 and had become more optimistic, his mother said. But he hadn’t made as many friends as he’d hoped, and he didn’t think he was competitive with the other gamers. He wanted to work in the video game industry, but wasn’t sure how he could.

In truth, few of the students will become pro gamers. E-sports have never caught on in Japan, where people prefer single-player games. And careers are short anyway: Teenagers — with their fast-twitch reflexes — dominate. By their mid-20s, most players are no longer competitive.

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The academy’s teachers encourage students to seek other paths into the industry — programming or design, for example — and to make pro gaming a sideline, not a career.

Wataru, however, is focused on making it big. By midsemester, he still wasn’t getting to class much, but overall he was thriving, commuting over an hour, three days a week, for practice. He was less reserved, more eager to goof off with his new friends.


In November, after months of hard practice, Wataru and a team of classmates made it through the first round of a national competition for League of Legends, a fantasy-themed game of capture the flag that has become one of the world’s most popular e-sports formats.

The tournament was remote, but on the day of the second round, Wataru and his teammates showed up at the gaming campus early. The room was empty except for a few chaperones. One team member had overslept and would play from home.

They won their first game. Then a group of older players smashed them.

Defeated, the team’s members sat quietly for a time, the light from the monitors washing over their disappointed faces.

“I should probably go home,” Wataru said.

He turned back to his monitor instead. He was part of a team. And he was getting better at that, too.


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How do video games affect college students? ›

The risks of gaming on educational outcomes

Lower grades, games affecting learning. Extended years in college. Mental health problems including depression, anxious and stress. Lack of sleep.

How do I stop my child from dropping out of school? ›

Rather than waiting until it happens, many strategies exist that parents can use to help their children avoid dropping out.
  1. Communicate. ...
  2. Talk to them about career realities. ...
  3. Don't pressure them to do too much. ...
  4. Stay in touch with the school. ...
  5. Be supportive and involved. ...
  6. Encourage a break, rather than quitting.

Why do children in India drop out of school? ›

Poverty, accessibility and availability are the major reasons of school dropouts in India. For example, most of the Government schools in the coastal areas of Kerala are being used as reliefcampsduring monsoon season. Some people have been living in these camps (schools) for last three years.

How can we prevent school dropouts in India? ›

Connect with parents outside of school.

You can also give parents access to their children's online grades. That way, they can keep track of how well their child is doing throughout the year instead of waiting on a report card. Not every child has supportive parents, so this might not be possible.

Can video games affect your education? ›

Improves learning capabilities – Video games can improve players' learning capabilities more generally, not just through skills gained while gaming. This is backed by research which shows that gamers have an advantage at learning4 compared to non-gamers.

What is the negative effects of online games to students? ›

This is considered as a biological problem.14 In psychological dimension, it seems that computer games have a negative relationship with mental health of adolescents and have a direct effect on their violent behavior, anxiety, depression and isolation of those adolescents who play these games.

Can my son leave school at 16? ›

School leaving age

Children can leave school on the last Friday in June of the school year in which they reach 16 years of age. They must however do one of the following until they are 18: stay in full-time education, e.g. at a college. start an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Can I take my son out of school? ›

If you want your child to miss school for a special reason you must ask the school for permission well in advance and give full details. The school will give careful consideration to your application, and they may take your child's attendance record into account.

Why does my child cry at school drop off? ›

It's normal for your young child to cry at daycare or school, particularly when you drop them off. Children go through predictable phases of separation anxiety. For example, babies often experience separation anxiety around 7 months. This usually improves before their first birthday.

What are 3 reasons students drop out? ›

Explore the ten reasons most students drop out of college:
  • Family obligations.
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Moving to a different part of the state or country.
  • Unprepared for the academic requirements.
  • Need a break from the rigors of education.
  • Lack of dedication and time for classes and coursework.

Why do girls leave school? ›

When parents are asked in surveys why their daughters dropped out of school, issues related to the cost of schooling (out-of-pocket and opportunity costs), early marriages and pregnancies, a lack of learning while in school, and a lack of interest in remaining in school often come up.

Why do kids stop going to school? ›

Children might refuse to go to school because of worries about leaving home, learning difficulties, social problems or other reasons. The best way to get children back to school is by working as a team with the school. If school refusal is related to anxiety or depression, children might need mental health support.

What are three reasons students drop out or stop learning? ›

The "four broad classes of dropouts" comes directly from the work of Robert Balfanz.
  • Life Events. Students who dropout because of something that happens outside of school—they become pregnant, get arrested or have to work to support members of their family.
  • Fade Outs. ...
  • Push Outs. ...
  • Failing to Succeed.

What are the 5 reasons students dropout of high school? ›

According to the National Dropout Prevention Center, there are many reasons why students drop out of high school.
  • Did not Like School.
  • Could not Keep Up with Schoolwork.
  • Missed too Many School Days.
  • Did not See the Value in an Education.
  • Got Poor Grades.
  • Could not Get Along with Teachers or Peers.
Feb 17, 2022

What are the problems of school dropout? ›

Dropouts cost the nation money in other ways as well. Research demonstrates that dropouts are also more likely to have health problems, engage in criminal activities, and become dependent on welfare and other government programs than high school graduates (Rumberger, 1987). These problems generate large social costs.

Can video games be a distraction from school? ›

Researchers at Rutgers University say children in middle school who play video games or use social media and the internet for more than an hour on school days have significantly lower grades and test scores than their peers.

How do video games affect children's grades? ›

For example, young people who play video games regularly typically spend a third less time on homework than their counterparts who aren't gamers. Still, research comparing academic performance in students who own video game consoles and those who don't have found very little difference in their school performance.

Why do video games affect students grades? ›

Both parents and teachers may notice decreased performance at school coupled with lower grades and failing classes. Because of hours spent playing video games, video game addicts exhibit fatigue and regularly sleep during school. They may not complete assignments or may not turn assignments in on time.

What are 3 dangers of online gaming? ›

The biggest risks of online gaming include:
  • Malware and viruses. If you try to find cheaper or free versions of your favorite games, then you risk inadvertently downloading viruses and malware instead. ...
  • Identity theft. ...
  • Account takeover. ...
  • Swatting and doxing. ...
  • Spyware. ...
  • Data breaches. ...
  • Cross-site scripting. ...
  • DDoS attacks.

Do video games affect mental health? ›

Gaming Causes Poor Emotional Regulation

One of the biggest negative effects of video games can lead you to struggle with regulating your emotions properly. Studies show that people diagnosed with Internet gaming disorder are more likely to be aggressive, depressed, and anxious.

Does online gaming bring more harm than good? ›

“Contrary to what we might think about games being good or bad for us, we found pretty conclusive evidence that how much you play doesn't really have any bearing whatsoever on changes in well-being,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, who worked on the study.

Can 14 year olds go to college? ›

Colleges sometimes admit children aged 14 or 15 who are being electively home educated, to take courses on an infill basis by arrangement with the local authority or with the parents/carers.

What age can you leave a child home alone? ›

While every child is different, we wouldn't recommend leaving a child under 12 years old home alone, particularly for longer periods of time. Children in primary school aged 6-12 are usually too young to walk home from school alone, babysit or cook for themselves without adult supervision.

What to do if your 16 year old refuses to go to school? ›

If your teenager is repeatedly refusing to go to school, communicate with teachers or school counselors so they know why your child is struggling to get to class and can provide extra support. For example, school staff may wish to discuss setting up a 504 plan.

Do schools shut if the Queen dies? ›

When the Queen passes the country will have a time of National Mourning of 10 days. Schools will not be compelled to close during this time but it's possible some will choose to. At the end of the National Mourning the Queen's funeral will be held on a Bank Holiday when schools will close.

What can I do if my 13 year old refuses to go to school? ›

If your child refuses to go to school, or you're supporting another parent or child in this situation, here's how you can respond:
  1. Ask for help. ...
  2. Consider possible triggers. ...
  3. Take a kind but firm approach. ...
  4. Give clear and consistent messages. ...
  5. Set clear routines on days off school. ...
  6. Engage the system.
Jul 17, 2018

Does school make kids depressed? ›

School is usually not the main cause of depression. However, it can be a factor in causing or increasing teen depression due to the various stressors that occur in school, including bullying, academic pressure, and challenging peer relationships.

Why is my 7 year old crying all the time? ›

At any age, crying is a normal response to being overwhelmed by strong feelings, like anger, fear, stress, or even happiness. Some children, however, cry more than others. Those same children may get angry more often, feel frustrated faster, and get overly excited compared to their peers too.

Why do gifted students drop out? ›

The results from Study 1 indicated that (a) many gifted students left school because they were failing school, didn't like school, got a job, or were pregnant, although there are many other related reasons, (b) most parents whose gifted child dropped out of school were not actively involved in their child's decision to ...

What are the two biggest causes of students dropping out? ›

Academic difficulties and the family's economic needs are two of the most common reasons kids drop out of school. In some cases, it might also be due to the company of bad friends. However, not having a basic education might not have a good impact on a child's future since it limits their employment opportunities.

What are the four causes for students to drop out? ›

Check out some of the top reasons why students drop out of college, and how we help them finish.
  • Financial concerns. Here's a troubling statistic: 89% of students from the first generation in low-earning families tend to drop out of college. ...
  • Don't have time. ...
  • College social life. ...
  • Lack of support. ...
  • Academic disqualification.
Apr 20, 2022

How many girls miss school because of their periods? ›

One in five American girls miss all or part of the school day due to their periods. Why? Affordability. One in five American girls with periods struggled to purchase period products due to lack of income.

Why do most girls drop out? ›

Girls who drop out are often faced with a school and social environment that impels them toward noncompletion. Poverty, and all the disadvantages that poverty entails, is the primary indicator of school non-completion.

Do girls do better in school without boys? ›

In a learning environment that is free from gender discrimination, girls achieve greater academic success and are more confident.

Can parents go to jail for child missing school? ›

It is the responsibility of each parent to ensure regular school attendance and failure to do so will result in each parent being charged with the offence. If convicted, both parents will be punished by the courts, resulting in a fine of up to £2,500 for each parent and / or up to three months custodial sentence.

Why do kids with ADHD hate school? ›

School can present challenges for many children with ADHD. Because ADHD symptoms include difficulty with attention regulation, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can affect planning, organizing, and managing behavior, many children with ADHD struggle with change.

Is it OK to not go to school for a day? ›

Even for students with struggles with anxiety or depression, avoidance might not be beneficial in the long run. In general, however, if your student maintains a good attendance record, an occasional mental health day, as long as it doesn't become habitual, is OK.

What are solutions for dropout students? ›

School counselors should address issues in the groups that meet the needs of the students. Possible group goals could include learning to set goals, developing effective study skills, improving attendance, and coping with family issues/concerns.

What are the solutions to school dropout? ›

Rather than waiting until it happens, many strategies exist that parents can use to help their children avoid dropping out.
  • Communicate. ...
  • Talk to them about career realities. ...
  • Don't pressure them to do too much. ...
  • Stay in touch with the school. ...
  • Be supportive and involved. ...
  • Encourage a break, rather than quitting.

Why do boys drop out of school? ›

Key findings revealed that; broken families, poverty in households and poor supervision by parents, level of education of parents, loss of parent and households having low value for education negatively affected retention of boys in school.

Why should students not dropout of school? ›

Staying in school allows you to hone and perfect basic skills. Being able to complete your education not only shows your comprehension of communication, math and problem-solving skills, but also shows potential employers that you are capable of sticking with a job until it is done.

What problems do high school dropouts face? ›

Most of the young dropouts experience a wide range of job market, earnings, social and income problems that impair their ability to transition to productive career and stable family life.

What are the negative effects of video games? ›

Gaming has also been associated with sleep deprivation, insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders, depression, aggression, and anxiety, though more studies are needed to establish the validity and the strength of these connections.

What are the disadvantages of video games in education? ›

Cons of Video Games in Schools

Many people play video games for hours at a time, leading to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when they stop playing. This can impact their grades and ability to pay attention in class, leading to more stress for both the student and the teacher.

How does playing online games affect the academic performance of the students? ›

Based on the findings of this study, it can be concluded that playing online games has no substantial association with the respondents' academic success, as evidenced by their Probability-value.

How does violent video games affect education? ›

"We found that students who reported playing more violent video games in junior and high school engaged in more aggressive behavior," said lead author Anderson, of Iowa State University. "We also found that amount of time spent playing video games in the past was associated with lower academic grades in college."

Do video games do more harm or good? ›

Video gaming may also have bad effects on some children's health, including eye strain, headaches, and video-induced seizures. It is also found to cause obesity in teens.

What video games do to your brain? ›

Functional MRI brain imaging analyses found that children who played video games for three or more hours per day showed higher brain activity in regions of the brain associated with attention and memory than did those who never played.

Do video games affect children's learning? ›

A study of nearly 2,000 children found that those who reported playing video games for three hours per day or more performed better on cognitive skills tests involving impulse control and working memory compared to children who had never played video games.

What are the negative effects of video games on children? ›

Spending excessive time playing these games can lead to:
  • Less time socializing with friends and family.
  • Poor social skills.
  • Time away from family time, school work, and other hobbies.
  • Lower grades.
  • Less reading.
  • Less exercise and becoming overweight.
  • Decreased sleep and poor quality sleep.
  • Aggressive thoughts and behaviors.

What are the pros and cons of video games? ›

Video games can be used to help improve test scores, teach life and job skills, improve brain function, and encourage physical exercise. Because video game addiction can negatively impact social and physical health, parents should be aware of the symptoms.

Does video gaming have more positive or negative effects on students? ›

It's true that some studies have shown certain video games can improve hand–eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and the mind's ability to process information. But too much video game playing may cause problems. It's hard to get enough active play and exercise if you're always inside playing video games.

What are the negative effects of online gaming addiction? ›

If you are experiencing these negative physical and mental effects, you might be suffering from gaming addiction.
Some of the most common negative effects of video games include:
  • Poor sleep hygiene.
  • Physical health atrophy.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Dehydration.
  • Obesity and heart problems.
  • Aggression.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Depression.

How do video games affect children's mental health? ›

While competitive and violent video games have been shown to encourage aggressive behaviour in children and adolescents, cooperative games have been linked to positive effects. Longterm gaming has also been linked to a rise in addictive behaviour and a decline in psychological health.

Do video games cause violent behavior in children? ›

Effects of Violent Video Games: What the Study Showed

Researchers found that, over time, playing violent video games caused kids to think more aggressively and behave more aggressively. "Kids are changing the way they think" after long-term exposure to violent video games, says Dr. Gentile.


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