Education Style: Asian VS Western


Cultural differences affect local teaching and learning styles. This is very true with Asian and western cultures, where educational practices and strategies seem to be in contrast with each other. Although both cultures view education as an important vehicle towards success, each has its own views on how educational goals could be achieved.

Here are some of the contrasting views of both worlds about teaching and learning. To Asians, teachers are revered at all times. Children would readily follow their teachers’ orders and would seldom disagree with what teachers say. In some schools in remote areas, smart students would never dare to correct their teacher’s errors in spelling, grammar, or pronunciation. Hence, children in rural areas that are seldom visited and monitored by higher educational authorities have to be contented with poor quality education. In contrast, children in Western countries are outspoken and they are not afraid to express their thoughts and opinions. In western schools, teachers are given due respect but they are not revered. Students are more open with their criticisms and a teacher who comes to school unprepared will not be able to hold his students’ attention and respect.

In Asian schools, children are made to memorize their lessons, especially definitions, rules, procedures, facts, concepts, and short reading selections such as poems and very short passages. In some schools, students who failed to memorize their notes are made to stand in class until they can recite whatever was assigned to be memorized. In western schools, memorization is not given much importance. Students are trained to develop deeper understanding of their lessons and apply what they learn to real life situations.

All these approach to learning affects the kind of test items given during examinations. Most Asian students have to memorize everything because their examination includes fill in the blanks items, definition of terms, and enumeration. Teachers find these test items easy to prepare and to check. If they give test items with multiple choice questions, the choices are not chosen well, leading to too obvious answers or to confusing answers.

In western countries, examinations include multiple choice items that require analytical and logical thinking skills for students to be able to get the right answer.  To test the students’ comprehension and writing skills, an essay type of test is included.

Asian students and parents give too much importance on scores and school ranking, and test results. Students are made to spend their waking time studying. Most students have tutors waiting for them at home to review their lessons for the day and to study in advance for the coming lessons at school. Some parents would fight over honors and class rankings. Competition is very stiff especially to students who are in the honors list. On the other hand, western schools strive to make learning a fun experience for students. Many schools do not use numerical ratings so as to remove the pressure on students to get the highest mark. Instead, narrative reports are made, which describe how the child performs in school. Both positive and negative aspects are reported with all students encouraged to do better.

To many Asian parents, having their children admitted into the best universities means a lot. Moreover, they always expect their children to qualify in degree courses such as engineering, architecture, pre-medical or dental courses, and management.  Most parents are unhappy if there child cannot qualify for those programs and take vocational courses.

In contrast, western schools encourage students to learn a trade or craft course in high school so that they can land a job right after graduation. Parents do not force their students to take a certain course; they have freedom to decide what career path to follow.

These differences in the way education is viewed are caused by a difference in culture and outlook in life.

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