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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora