East Asian Students Are 2-3 Years Ahead Of Western Peers, Report Says
February 17, 2012
A new Grattan Institute report has found that Western countries – including Australia – are slipping behind East Asian systems in school performance, despite substantial increases in school funding.
“The world’s center of high performance in education is now East Asia and Australian educators can and must learn from its success,” Grattan Institute School Education Program Director Ben Jensen said today.
AsianScientist (Feb. 17, 2012) – Launching Grattan’s new report, Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia, Dr. Jensen said OECD PISA tests ranked four of the top five highest-performing school systems as Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Shanghai.
The tests also showed Western countries – including Australia – slipping behind East Asian systems in school performance, despite substantial increases in school funding across the OECD between 2000 and 2008.
“In Shanghai, the average 15-year old mathematics student is performing at a level two to three years above his or her counterpart in Australia, the U.S., and Europe,” Dr. Jensen said.
“That has profound consequences. As economic power is shifting from West to East, high performance in education is too.”
What contributes to East Asia’s strength
Success in these four systems is not always the result of spending more money, the report said. Korea, for example, spends less per student than the OECD average.
Nor is success culturally determined, a product of Confucianism, rote learning or Tiger Mothers, the report said. Only 11 years ago, Hong Kong ranked 17th in assessments of reading literacy (PIRLS) and Singapore was ranked 15th. Just five years later (in 2006) they ranked 2nd and 4th.
“The rise of these four systems is not culturally determined by Confucianism, rote learning, excessive focus on exams, or Tiger Mothers,” Dr. Jensen said.
Teachers play an important role as “partners in reform,” the report said. In Singapore, teachers are paid civil servants during their initial teacher education at the National Institute of Education.
In Korea they must pass entrance examinations, including classroom demonstrations, before becoming teachers. In Shanghai, all new teachers have district-based mentors and two in-school mentors.
Dr. Jensen was optimistic that Australian schools and education systems could learn from East Asia’s unrelenting focus on learning and teaching, and readiness to make tough trade-offs to achieve their goals.
“Many countries across the world have tried to instill these practices. Most have further to go. This report shows in detail how it can be done,” Dr. Jensen said.
The full report can be downloaded here: Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia (PDF, 1.48 MB).
Source: Grattan Institute.
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