Cross-cultural learning and teaching play vital roles in global educational development, so when East meets West, the best way is to learn from each other and promote diversity
The three-episode BBC documentary Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School, which delved on the cultural conflicts between British students and Chinese teachers, has concluded. Foreign audiences, which at first scoffed at the teachers from Chinese middle schools and even thought Chinese-style education is doomed to failure, were surprised to see that a month later the group of British students under the Chinese teachers' tutelage outscored their peers in mathematics, science and Chinese by more than 10 points.
Instead of a "reality show", the BBC documentary should be seen as a unique attempt to build a bridge between Eastern-and Western-style education and an opportunity to start a broader discussion on our education system. In particular, it should prompt us to ask ourselves what good education is all about, and what standards should be followed to determine the quality of education.
Since scores only tell how well students have mastered a certain set of knowledge, they cannot be used to judge whether one education system is better than another, or to assess the overall education level of a country or region.
Among all the standards used to evaluate the education system of a country or region, the most important is the one to determine whether students and teachers both get the maximum benefit and satisfaction out of it. To develop a better outlook on an education system, the focus should be on students' spiritual growth and their development as individuals, not on exams and scores.
Another important thing to note is whether the education system is capable of cultivating talents that society needs. What a country or region requires is a pool of diverse talents, who excel in every profession and trade, from the cerebral to the manual level.
Since every education system is rooted in a distinctive soil, it will suffer hiccups - or could even fail - if introduced in a foreign land.
Western countries, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, are already devising ways of using the merits in the Chinese education system to advantage. And if that is the case, shouldn't China "look West-ward" to use the advantages of Western education, especially its emphasis on individuality, creativity and independent thought, for the benefit of its students?
Despite UK students scoring less marks than Chinese students in the organized exams, principals of British schools and colleges believe "the UK undoubtedly has an edge over China" in terms of creativity among students above 16 years. Such remarks may not be totally correct, yet there is need to ponder over them, because we most likely will lose the advantage in scores if we become complacent while the rest of the world makes efforts to improve the education system and level.
In these times of globalization, the West as well as the East can work out the best education system that suits them most only by learning from each other and if they use education for the betterment of all human beings.
The author is vice-president of the Chinese Society of Education and initiator of New Education Experiment. The article was first published in Beijing News.
Source - usa.chinadaily