Asian Schools In Need of A Change?

no picture Jasmine Chuah
Se registró el día 29 de abril de 2013
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Having been in the local school system in Asia and currently studying in an online Western education system, I can truly say that schools located in Asia have the propensity of killing creativity, producing followers rather than leaders, and curbing our horizons.

Schools in Asia tend to focus so much on rote memorization that it diminishes the creativity of the students. And this growing problem lies in the curriculum itself. The curriculum mostly includes the significance of memorizing facts and figures and knowledge of the specifics (such as the whens and whats). Very rarely you would find questions that explore the hows and more essentially, the whys. As a result, discussions that are filled with curiosity and desire to go beyond the facts are extremely rare sights. Furthermore, a student’s performance is more than often measured by the number of As one gains out of exams. What’s more frustrating is that these exams are designed in manner where students are required to toss out everything that they have memorized throughout the year. So, for example, if you have a good memory, you are bound to succeed in these exams. If you don’t, grades other than As dictate your school performances.

If you were to walk into a classroom here in Malaysia, you will find that the atmosphere is rather prosaic. From the first day of school, kids were not allowed to speak up and often told to be silent. Raising a question is more than often equivalent to being labeled as disobedient or rebellious, thus giving off a vibe of, “you speak only when you’re asked to.” The idea of a child exerting his or her own individuality is constantly frowned upon. Why should this be the case? Why can’t students be placed in an environment where they are encouraged to voice out their opinions and thoughts? And the answer to this question is we place too much emphasis on filial piety. Undoubtedly, wisdom and knowledge come with age. Nonetheless, though young individuals have no prior experiences to contribute, they have fresh perspective regarding different matter to offer. In this time and age we live, generating fresh perspective is vital to in order to be globally competent. I believe that the schools or rather teachers should motivate students to formulate their thoughts, craft out unique points of view of their very own.

One may also find that Asians generally have issues with leadership and dynamism. The curriculum is designed in such a rigid and restrictive manner that kids who come out of it are often followers. It is known that an effective leader has to be in possession of a perspective and more importantly, communication skills to execute it. However, the schools in Asia generally do not equip students with such skills to be leaders of tomorrow. As mentioned earlier, kids aren’t taught to have an articulation of thoughts, therefore, they do not have a perspective of their own. If they do not learn forming their own viewpoints, how can they ever embrace the opinions of others as a leader, critical analyzing views of others, and or have an exchange of ideas and intelligence?

Last but not least, schools in Asia have a tendency to curb intellectual horizons. I remember having a recent conversation with a friend about possible career pathways. I asked her what she plans to do after high school and she answered that she is currently in the science stream. To my understanding, if one picks the science stream, he or she would probably love science. But I thought wrong when I spoke to this friend of mine as she said that the reason why she picked the science is because the arts stream is cut out for people who aren’t academically apt. The idea perceived is that if you are brilliant in your academics, you should choose to pursue science whether you like it or not. And if your grades aren’t that fantastic, the arts stream is your option. First of all, what’s wrong with pursuing the arts? Pursuing majors such as studio and performance arts does not imply that one isn’t intelligent.. It only means that one’s strength lies with creative formation rather than calculations or mix-and-stir of chemicals. On that note, the sciences are not designed specifically for students with a string of A’s. Like the arts stream, the sciences are meant for anyone who has a passion for it. Grades should not be the deciding factor of career paths; passion should be. As a matter of fact, one’s passion in life should be one of the key deciding factors in steering your career and doing one’s best.

What’s more troubling about the school system over here is that it only offers two passageways – the arts and science stream. Why do we have to create a system that limits a child’s career options when there is so much more out there for one to explore and discover. I opine that applying such a limitation also means that we are confining the abilities and talents of a child when we clearly know that he or she is probably meant for other careers that allow them to flaunt their capabilities.

The question that probably comes to mind would be, “So what’s the solution?” Personally, schools in Asia can begin recognizing that memorization shouldn’t be the primary means of education. Critical analysis and thinking should be tremendously emphasized and be considered for curriculum integration. And this process would need to include reducing the expanse of rote memorization and promoting critical analysis and skills. Rote memorization is essential but at the same time, we need to start embracing the individuality. We need to come to realize that every child is different. Each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, we cannot measure their intelligence or performance utilizing memorization based tests.

Additionally, schools in Asia should consider looking beyond the ‘law, medicine, and business professions’, branching out to other career options. By incorporating a more diverse catalog of subjects, they can achieve just that. For example, a school should work towards integrating subjects like anthropology, sociology, oceanography etc. By offering these subjects, students are given the chance to discover other possible interests and explore their appetite for learning. The goal here is to not only educate but also stimulate the interest of a child and feed on the fun of erudition.

As a proud Asian youth, I hope the schools throughout Asia will realize that the education systems, though emphasizing discipline which is vital, can strive for betterment and improvement. Because we live in a globalized era, there is a need for a globalized and diverse curriculum. And the only way to achieve this is to change our systems that have been holding us back on our achievement of creativity, production of leadership, and the expansion of our horizons.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

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