News / Asia

Seeking Creativity, Asian Educators Look to US Programs

President Barack Obama and students at Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, Sept. 16, 2011.
President Barack Obama and students at Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, Sept. 16, 2011.

American high school students perennially rank behind their Asian counterparts in standardized math and science tests, but in a surprising twist, some countries that rank above the United States want to learn from the best American high schools.

While Chinese and South Korean schools, in particular, are excellent at preparing students to excel in test taking, experts say they are realizing the limitations of their systems and the need to incorporate creativity and critical thought into their high school curricula.

“Schools around China, especially in developed areas like Shanghai and Beijing, are exploring education reforms with help from government,” said Xing Xu, a writer for Shanghai Education, a bi-weekly publication of the Shanghai Education Commission. “Some of them have got some good results: less homework, less memorizing, more discussion and practice.”

Xu added that top U.S. high schools place great emphasis on student initiative and practical experience, things “Chinese students lack.”

Li Jing, the deputy principal and director of international programs at the high school affiliated to Renmin University of China in Beijing, said China launched an educational curriculum reform in 2010 “aiming to promote a more student-centered learning setting, as well as to encourage students' creativity and critical thinking.”

One of the goals of that 10-year plan is to “learn advanced education ideas and experience from other countries in the world.”

South Korea, where students consistently rank near the best in the world in math and science, is also interested learning about top American schools.

“The proportion of creativity and emotional and character education is lacking [in Korea] compared to academics,” said Kwak Bong-jong, who until recently, was an education officer at the Korean Embassy in Washington, DC.

Adam Wojciechowicz, a spokesman for the embassy, said in an e-mail that Korea is not searching for a direct model upon which to base its own schools, which meet fairly high standards as it is. But because of the strong interest in all levels of education in Korean society, he said, they are trying to keep informed about new trends, ideas, curriculums and models of teaching in the U.S., especially at top schools. "They are continually striving to improve,” he said.

Ilryong Moon, a member of the Fairfax County School Board, located in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, said that while South Korean schools have been very successful, they need to foster more creativity and analytical thinking “if they want to go another notch higher.”

Moon, a Korean-American who came to the U.S. in the 1970s, said the current system in South Korea is so deeply entrenched that no one knows how to change it.

“When they talk about education reform in South Korea, even if a high percentage of parents think they need to find a better system, no one will want to have their kids be the guinea pigs,” he said.

South Korean and Chinese officials seeking potential inspiration from top schools in the U.S., often call on Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, located in Fairfax County.

There is “extreme interest” from Asian educators, press and government officials, particularly Chinese and Korean, in American top schools, said Evan Glazer, the principal of Thomas Jefferson High School, which is considered one of the best in the U.S. The school is so highy regarded for its innovative approach that on Sept. 16, President Barack Obama traveled there to sign the America Invents Act, the first update to patent law since 1952.

“We get an extraordinary amount of visits from schools and officials from Asian countries,” Glazer said. “This summer, I hosted 75 principals from China. We’re usually one of the stops. They’re usually doing a national tour. I think they want to make the best American schools the baseline.”

Other schools visited included the Illinois Math and Science Academy, Andover and Exeter.

Interviewed in a recent article in Shanghai Education, Glazer was asked how Thomas Jefferson fosters critical thinking, creativity, getting out of the classroom environment, student-teacher collaboration, and how to combine science and math with liberal arts.

During a recent visit to Thomas Jefferson, it was easy to see why there is so much interest in it.

It’s a so-called magnet school, meaning a school with a specialized curriculum that attracts students from a larger geographic area than a regular public school, which draws from a defined area. It was established in 1985, as a result of a partnership of businesses and schools with the goal of improving education in science, mathematics and technology.

While the curriculum focuses on math and science, there’s a heavy dose of liberal arts, electives and foreign language study. There’s a stress on creativity as well as analytical and critical thought.

Students conduct university-level research in specialized laboratories in fields such as microelectronics, neuroscience and biotechnology. These labs give students opportunities for independent research and experimentation, as well as a chance for interaction with professionals from various fields through a mentorship program.

This kind of self-directed, hands-on, creative, collaborative curriculum is rare in China and South Korea, where the main focus of high school is to prepare for college entrance exams, often through intense rote memorization and a standardized curriculum.

A standardized curriculum implies almost all schools offer the same curriculum in order to reach the same standards.

“That means there has not been a lot of flexibility to try alternative curriculum approaches,” said Glazer in an email.  “In recent years, however, China has been developing ‘experimental schools,’ an effort to offer unique curriculum without accomplishing the same national standards as other schools.  In essence, they are starting to give schools more freedom in the learning opportunities to students.”

Glazer added that while the U.S. has explored various kinds of specialized schools, “lately the U.S. education system is pushing for more national standardization - similarities in curricula across states.”

Interestingly, according to Glazer, the trends in the U.S. are heading more in that direction.

Glazer said he “sees the pendulum in China swinging away from standardized curriculum," while it's "swinging the other way in the U.S.”

Interestingly, according to Glazer, the trends in the U.S. are heading more in that direction.

Glazer said he “sees the pendulum in China swinging away from standardized curriculum, while I see it swinging the other way in the U.S.”

You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid