Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chinese lessons part 2

Progressive ideas come and go in any society depending on the current political climate. While political leaders in the West are pushing traditional 'back to basics', testing and narrow accountability Asia is beginning to appreciate the need to develop creative ideas.

Progressive ideas are not new in China.In 1939 John Dewey toured China and his idea were well received even if interpreted to suit Chinese culture of the time. Today the most revered educator is Harvard's Howard Gardner appreciated for his liberating ideas about multiple intelligences. The Chinese however place a greater emphasis on instructional mastery of identified talents than Gardner might expect.

Liberated China has almost achieved its goal of mass education and is considering a pedagogical renaissance as a growing middle class expands its horizons.

China is beginning to realize that there is a price to pay for its current narrow rigid education; initiative and creativity now being seen as vital skills in global community. To continue their current economic success there is a need for them to escape from their straight jacketed system. Such a change will not be easy. Big changes cause concern in any society and many Chinese parents believe that their current exam system is fairer. There will aways be conflict between conservative traditional conformist old style schooling and more flexible and innovative innovations

But changes are sure to come. If China can combine its traditional emphasis on effort, diligence and basic skills with a greater emphasis on talent development and creativity who knows what they will achieve.

Increasingly worldwide countries are seeing the need to 'personalize' learning and to cultivate the creativity of all students . The 'creative 'capital' of all citizens will need to be realized for any country to thrive in the future.

Ironically while Asian countries seem to be developing an appreciation of of this need to encourage creativity Western politicians are constraining such developments by introducing narrow accountability measures that distort liberating educational aims.

Although change is no simple thing Confucian thought may inspire the Chinese: 'A person is not simply a container, a teacher should be the fire, light the match and should know what sort of wood they are lighting'.

Long term change will be a matter of getting the balance right between 'adventure seeking' versus 'scripted' learning. Chinese politicians have the opportunity to broaden their curriculum and to nurture and not infantilize their students. If they begin to see the need for their students to be braver and more confident, able to work things out for themselves, who knows what they might achieve. Particularly if the West is trying to return to more basic learning as a reaction to Asian success in international testing.

All too often currently Chinese students just go along the road laid out by their parents. Chinese students, known for their diligence, silence, obedience and academic success could be transformed into being more active and adventurous. The future will demand that all students know how to define their own futures and are able to contribute to there wider community and society.

A generation of such independent minded Chinese students with wider horizons is a prospect that may inspire some trepidation as well as optimism amongst Chinese leaders. By combining academic and creative prowess would become the imaginative hybrids that a global society (and China) needs.

In all this ferment her are lessons for the West to take notice of. Conservative politicians, who pander to their equally conservative middle class voters, may undermine their own countries survival.

No country has yet to develop a true 21st century talent based education system - the first to do so will the winner in what some are calling a second renaissance - a new 'post industrial' society.

It will be about the country that can combine the best of past and new ideas about how students learn.

China ( and Asia) and the West are coming from different positions.

Only the future will tell who will make the wisest decisions.


Anonymous said...

A lot to think about in your last two blogs. In NZ we need to focus on developing the creative talents of all our students. Is talent development and creativity the emphasis of our current education system? It wasn't when I was at school.

Anonymous said...

If we followed the ideas of John Dewey and Howard Gardner we couldn't go wrong - too bad we seem to have based our schools on Henry Ford!

Anonymous said...

Someone should pass your blog on to John Keys before he drags NZ education back to the Victorian Era with his outdated ideas about national testing.