Andy Hargreaves - 4 Lessons for the West from the East (Blog C.M. Rubin)
June 17, 2014, Huffpost Education
1. Effort and Endeavor.
In the West, lack of student success is often regarded as being due to lack of ability in the student, or of poor support from the school or society. In the East, lack of success is more often perceived as being the result of lack of effort, discipline and persistenc...e on the part of the student and his or her parents. Students and their families carry more responsibility for student success in the East. There, inability does not debar students from success or mastery of calculus or a musical instrument - it is time, endeavor, and practice that are critical factors. Although this "Tiger Mother" orientation has been exaggerated by the "no excuses" movement in the West, more attention to the virtues of personal responsibility, hard work, dedication and sacrifice would be no bad thing.
2. Creativity and Critical Thinking.
Asian countries like Singapore have scored well on the recent PISA survey of problem solving. Problem solving, as represented in PISA, though, really amounts to questions of logic that can be broken down into smaller components of linear-sequential thinking that can be aggregated into a final solution. Creativity calls for leaps of imagination or dramatic shifts of perspective. Critical thinking involves challenging authority and questioning accepted modes of thinking. In Asia, how far will it be possible for challenges of established wisdom in business, science or engineering to be insulated from criticisms of political and bureaucratic authority?
3. Student Engagement.
Student achievement depends on students being engaged with their learning. There are basically five kinds of engagement - whether the learning is presented in such a way that makes it intrinsically interesting (fun, enjoyable, intriguing etc), whether it is seen as important (high status, canonical, worth knowing), whether it is useful (in work, life or higher education), whether it is worth the cost or the effort compared to other ways of spending one's time (dedication, perseverance, deferred gratification, etc), and whether it drives a quest for mastery, like playing the piano or running a marathon. Asian educational systems and cultures place high importance on the last two kinds of engagement more than the first three. In Japan, however, where a low birth rate has meant easy access to university, and with a curriculum that has emphasized the last two kinds of engagement over the other, students are now questioning whether the effort is worth the cost, especially if the curriculum offers no intrinsic enjoyment or pleasure. The West has sometimes offered more fun or enjoyment, and stressed that things are worth knowing for their own sake, but with many different course options available and the availability of many repeat chances, especially in America, the effort/return equation is not always as pressing as it perhaps should be compared to Asian societies.
4. Respect for Education.
One of Confucius's legendary quotes was this: "If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people." Confucian and Buddhist traditions revere teachers and teaching. Despite the aberration of the Chinese cultural revolution which reviled teachers and intellectuals instead of revering them, and despite the decline of respect for teachers and education in nations like Japan due to the globalization of Western popular culture, teachers still command great respect in the families and societies of many Asian cultures. In high performing Singapore and Finland (which some people regard as having been heavily influenced historically by Russian values and traditions), teachers are seen as the builders of their nations, just as Confucius claimed, and they are selected and rewarded accordingly. What the West needs to learn from this influence is that teachers are important not just because they like children, or help all students reach their potential, but also because the future society depends on them.