Debate: Should we adopt an east Asian approach to education?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

England's brightest maths pupils are two years behind those in the Far East by the time they take their GCSEs, according to an international study published today.

The study emerges just weeks after Michael Gove proposed a more demanding maths curriculum that drew on those used by east Asian countries.

Institute of Education researchers revealed, however, that teaching may not be the cause of higher achievement in these countries - pointing to the value placed on education by culture and society.

Researchers also warn that a focus on attainment can have "negative side-effects", such as increased psychological pressure on students. Nevertheless, the study concluded that a cultural shift may be necessary "to ensure England's future prosperity". So should we follow Asia's lead?

Case for: It works

The evidence is in - the British education model is not working. Too many children leave school without basic skills, unprepared for the job market at a time when the economy desperately needs good workers. If the Far East have found a method that works, what are we waiting for?We hope to educate a generation of children to implement good decisions based on evidence, why not lead by example?

Case against: A social life

It's impossible to ignore the flipside to these reports of extraordinary educational achievement. Students in China working 5:30 am to 9:30 pm. Classrooms full of droid-like teenagers, able to churn out equations at impossible speed but unused to lateral thinking and - to Western eyes - dull to teach. Think about it from the point of view of a parent. Would you rather your child aced her GCSE Maths, or wasted just enough time having fun to learn for herself the value of application in later life?