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Chinese’s schools have become global role models,

with consistently high results in international tests

– taking first position in a recent table.

It is natural that the English education system looks at the Chinese and other

successful world education system, yet some of these countries parents and

educators see their own system as corrupt, dehumanizing, pressurized and

unfair and are envious of the British teaching method placing emphasis on

discovery rather than –feeding children with the answers. Often in some of

these countries education systems place a heavy emphasis on rote

memorization, which is great for students’ test-taking ability but not for their

problem-solving and leadership abilities or their interpersonal skills – a

requirement for the 21st century. These international test simply ignore these



But in neighboring countries like Singapore want to move beyond this and

want to develop learning that cultivates creativity and questioning so that it is

less about content knowledge and memorization but more about how to

process information so as to meet the demands of today’s students for the

demands of the economy. So a gradual shift is occurring in Singapore’s

schooling system which has been criticized for being too grades-driven with

a high-stress – legacy to one which makes learning fun but still meeting the

objectives of learning. Whilst teachers are aware that fun activities still need

to deliver the results, they still structure it such that it is aligned to the learning

objectives and the things they are supposed to know for exams.


Similarly, reports suggest that Korean schools can be extremely stressful for

children. Surveys tend to suggest that children don’t like going to school –

they are often stressed and not happy or they’re bored. Questions are being

asked as to whether the Korean system is producing the sorts of people the

economy and society needs. Like the Chinese system, the system does

encourage hard work and diligence but the concerns are that it is unduly

stressful, does not promote creativity and the ability to be critical. So what

examples can these education systems take?


In Finland, the teaching environment is relaxed and they provide educationally

-supportive environments where children are granted authority and accountability

in and for learning. There is believe that learning and interacting in relaxed

educational environments will teach children for life, not for school. There are

elements of the Finnish model which could be implemented in Asian

educational systems, such as the emphasis on high quality teachers. Most of

Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku— earn a

required master’s degree in education. Many schools are small enough so

that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with

colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges when

students are behind – trying to catch the weak students. It’s deep in their

thinking and children develop a hard working ethic.


The fact that students in China and Singapore and other countries consistently

believe that achievement is mainly a product of hard work, rather than inherited

intelligence, suggests that education and its social context can make a

difference in instilling the values that foster success in education coupled with

the Finnish and British experience.

Reading, science, and mathematics are important in any education system but

thinking, innovation reasoning and non-academic subjects rather than

memorizing is critical to children’s learning in school. So PISA tests tells only

a little about these important aspects of a countries school system.