The West’s Love-In With China Is No One-Way Street

Dec 11, 2015 by

Nick Morrison –

The West is going through one of its periodic phases where it is fascinated by all things Chinese, and nowhere more so than in education.

Numerous experts – as well as countless politicians – have been despatched to learn the secret of China’s success in global education comparisons. Western governments who see themselves at the cutting edge have been shipping over Chinese teachers in the hope that some of the magic will rub-off.

But this love-in is no one-way street. According to a new report, while the West has fallen in love with Chinese teaching methods, China’s parents are hankering after the Western approach.

Chinese teaching – which has helped to propel Shanghai to the top of international league tables – is characterized by the “Shanghai mastery approach”, embedding the curriculum through repetition to develop both knowledge and understanding.

The result is that by 15, students in Shanghai are up to three years ahead of their English peers in math, with a far smaller gap between the highest and lowest performing students.

But a study published this week by the British Council suggests that while these methods may be effective, many parents in China and the Far East want something more.

The report looked at the phenomenal overseas growth of British boarding schools. A number of the U.K.’s leading private schools have set up international campuses in recent years, offering a British-style education to the burgeoning ranks of the wealthy.

China and the Far East has been a particular growth market, with the result that Harrow School, Sir  Winston Churchill’s alma mater, now has outposts Hong Kong, Beijing and Bangkok. Dulwich College, another pioneer, has campuses in Shanghai, Beijing and Suzhou in China, as well as Seoul and Singapore.

According to the British Council, such is the demand that many more U.K. schools are likely to follow suit.

But parents who send their children to these schools are not just looking to buy-in to British traditions. Nor are they just interested in the English-language which will open up global opportunities in both higher education and employment, important though this is.

Surveys with school leaders, education agents and parents themselves found that many were also turning against the traditional teaching styles of their homeland and instead embracing the Western approach.

According to the report, while rote learning helps Shanghai perform well in international comparisons, it is falling out of favour with some.

“While this learning method can help students gain key math skills and boost countries on global assessment test rankings, it doesn’t necessarily translate into providing students with the necessary ‘soft’ and language skills necessary for employability,” the report concludes.

Instead, parents are increasingly turning to the more open and questioning Western approach, which is seen as both rigorous and as a way of developing inquiring minds.

While the West may envy the dominance of China and the Far East in international comparisons, it is hard not to feel that the pendulum may be swinging back, at least as far as education trends go.

As economies change and individuality and entrepreneurial spirit become more sought-after, the qualities developed by a Western education will be at a premium. And as the use of classroom technology opens up opportunities for more and more personalized learning, the Western approach, with its emphasis on individual learning, may become more effective.

Western educators may have a lot to learn from their Chinese counterparts, but it is a mistake to think this traffic is all one-way.

Source: The West’s Love-In With China Is No One-Way Street – Forbes

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