Playing catch-up to Asia risky, warns expert

Playing catch-up to Asia risky, warns expert

The research, conducted by Mitchell Institute Professorial Fellow, Yong Zhao, revealed that despite superior international test scores, the top performing Asian countries are radically changing their education systems to avoid a decline in creative talent and health.

Zhao said those inside Asian education point to other factors such as high levels of student depression and anxiety and excessive academic burden as reasons behind the reforms.

“Educational leaders in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore understand that to thrive in a globalised, technologically sophisticated economy, students need much more than what can be measured with test scores in a few academic subjects,” Zhao said in a statement.

“While they are proud of their achievements, there is widespread rejection of traditional education policies and practices such as rote learning, narrow and standardised curricula, long hours, and harsh testing regimes.”

Zhao said the top-performing Asian countries are prioritising 21st century skills such as creativity,
communication, collaboration, and higher order thinking, as well as emphasising student social-emotional and physical health.

“They know they need highly skilled, independent and emotionally intelligent young people who are well prepared for the future.”

Standardised testing in Australia has been slammed in the past for ignoring the importance that 21st century skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving and knowledge building play in a child’s cognitive development.

Ron Gorman, director of the Association of Independent Schools WA (AISWA), told The Educator in April that NAPLAN’s standardised testing was the wrong focus in measuring students’ academic success.

“If we are focusing on NAPLAN as the measure of success, we’re actually focusing on the wrong thing,” Gorman said.

In his report, Zhao agrees.

“Imitating traditional policies and practices that produce students who perform well in tests is very short sighted,” Zhao said.

“Essentially, Western education reforms that play 'catch up’ with the Asian systems of the past are at risk of becoming obsolete in the very near future.”