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.