Asian Educators Looking To Loudoun for an Edge

Another local story, mirrored on Another Loud Blog.

Heard Dr. Hatrick talking about this a few weeks ago, but have simply taken this long to get to it.

Several weeks ago, we posted about a U.S. News article titled “How they do it better” where the editors went around the world finding ways in which other countries do things better than the U.S. Unfortunately the city of Singapore’s only highlight in this particular article was their tendency to HEAVILY fine litterers.

However, Singapore is famous for a completely different reason.

Apparently, students from Singapore were here a couple of months ago observing students from Loudoun County’s Adademy of Math and Science to strengthen their “soft skills” and how teaching methods in the U.S. (and the Academy in particular, of course) are more interactive and force creative thought instead of simple rote memory.

What makes this significant is that Singapore students rate EXTREMELY HIGH (meaning number 1) in both Math and Science achievements internationally, while U.S. students have done not quite as well (like 9th and 15th respectively).

And according to the article, we have obviously tried the Asian rigorous teaching style here in the U.S.

The middling performance of U.S. students on international exams has led to controversy about math and science instruction. Some argue for a more traditional approach oriented toward drills and memorization; others say children learn best when they discover concepts for themselves. Arguments also have escalated over whether U.S. officials are reading too much into the test results and whether the political mandate for high-stakes testing under the No Child Left Behind law is stamping out the very creativity other countries covet.

But the success of Singapore and other Asian countries has inspired much interest in their teaching methods. Singapore’s math books have been tried in classrooms from Rockville to Chicago. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics published a curriculum guide last year that drew on the in-depth approach to math found in Asia.

Apparently standardized tests aren’t everything and after school achievements in the U.S., as Dr. Hatrick pointed out, are often attributed to more than just pure knowledge, but to students’ ability to analyze, explain, and solve problems, and perhaps more importantly to work as part of a team, challenge the status quo, find better methods, and defend their positions.

No doubt, though, that the U.S. should be beter than 9th on test scores. So given the aforementioned skills are indeed the foundation of American ingenuity and innovation, obviously there’s a fine balance between learning from textbooks and changing what goes in them.


A right to food, a right to a car, a right to a house

Why is universal public schooling listed as an accomplishment of the liberals? Why are America’s public schools so shoddy? No Child Left Behind is pretty new, so we can’t lay all the blame there. I go to graduate school in a biological field and met many graduate students who work in the empirical sciences. I constantly wonder why there are so few Americans in general studying biology rather than, say, studies about racial profiling. This is one reason why I think learning Chinese may not put me at an advantage but may be mandatory if I am to work with future graduate students.

I’m kind of inspired by Scottie here to look at other countries for examples of how they educate their kids. In Taiwan, everybody pays something to send their kids to school. Most people pay tuition. This is an interesting concept, tuition. Until recently, Great Britain didn’t charge it at all, even for University. When Reagan reformed the California school system, students rioted. Now faculty come from all over the world to do research in America. I’m not talking about Asia, although many top notch researchers come from here, but also European professors often come to America. Professors in America get paid, and often work in very beautiful state-of-the-art buildings. It is often a cushy living. Faculty have time to travel to “conferences” (i.e. ski trips) on the school’s dime, and some professors even have time to write anti-american polemical tracts, the royalties of which I’m sure go entirely to third world revolutionaries.

What’s my point, besides verbally harassing professors? Some professors get paid a lot of money because they are very productive and kick-ass research. In some cases, they may even deserve a six-figure income for the research they bring to the table. Why not unleash tuition on public schools? Why not give parents a choice as to whether they want to pay tuition for their kids now rather than pay property taxes for the rest of their lives? That way they can send their kids to whatever school they can afford. And even if a crack addict, or graduate student, can’t pay full price, they should pay something.

BTW, Taiwan is #2 in Math and Science, and Reading education (Hong Kong and Singapore are city states and don’t count as “countries” in my opinion. Japan is #1, and they charge tuition as well.

Posted at 11:24 pm by Johnny B