Monday, September 13, 2010

Insanity on a Global Scale

After a 10-year experiment in “pressure-free education”, Japan has determined to go "back to basics" and add some 1,200 pages to the standard textbooks for elementary school students and give them more homework. The move, according to the "experts", is necessary to ensure that the Japanese students can compete with students from other countries and places like S. Korea and Hong Kong. (http://www.blnz.com/news/2010/09/05/Japan_fattens_textbooks_reverse_sliding_9bee.html)

The world is becoming more and more uniform.  There is now a standardised test called PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) for students from all over the world.  And, students in the US, from Florida to Alaska, are expected to live up to the "Common Core State Standards", a set of standards devised by the folks at the Council of Chief State School Officers who, after drinking who knows what it is, believe that they are capable of devising a set of uniform standards.

Longer school hours, more homework, more assessment and yet more homework...

Great. It sounds really great. Things won't get better until they can't get worse. Let more people join the mass of hysterical sleep-deprived zombie-like parents marching in the hall singing, "Top Scores to Our Children!"

10 comments:

Dhana/戴安娜 said...

greeting for you
ehm sorlo this posting make me know more getting info thanxs n keep our blog friends good luck

lalei said...

The state of education is a mess - and all in the name of attending big name universities. It's depressing and I have to wonder what the options are. I suspect we should all back off and allow our children to be average, attend average universities and I venture to guess the everyone would be happier in the end. It is really difficult to not succumb to societal pressure and join the ranks of helicopter parents, but the sad thing is, the risks seem high and as parents, we aren't very likely to gamble with our childrens' future. Thus we all end up on the same treadmill towards "success". Sigh.

Gweipo said...

Have a look at "Children of the Code" they have some very interesting videos, on of them is about stewarding the health of your children's learning, they refer to the "dark side" of learning and "shame" and it's very interesting.

By the way, my Japanese classmate told me that in Japan Parent TEacher conferences are held in the students home so the teacher can get a feeling for what's going on there...

W said...

Hi lalei,

My wife and I are faithful followers of the leave-the-kids-alone school. We always take pride in having not sent our daughter to Kumon, NTK, XYZ Math, Kelly Yang's workshop, Lok ? Chinese, etc. etc. We are deeply convinced that the more the parents interfere with their kids' affairs, the more problems they will create for their kids in the long run.

W said...

Hi Gweipo,

I know what to do if our daughter's teacher comes to our place - we will open a bottle of good wine and drink it with him/her.

lalei said...

"We are deeply convinced that the more the parents interfere with their kids' affairs, the more problems they will create for their kids in the long run."

I so agree. Somewhere there is a line between interference and guidance - the problem is identifying just where that line is, and I suspect it varies from child to child.
I admire your ability to back off and ignore the societal norms, especially in HK.
In the end I suppose all the children turn out fine despite our parenting failures. We all do our best.

Gweipo said...

I had lunch with a parent from a famous int'l school today and she said a group of the parents are on "homework strike", they feel it's gotten so out of hand ...
I notice the homework creep at ISF where my conscientious doesn't waste time, focused daughter is spending hours on homework each night and waking up at 6am to finish off - and won't not do it, despite my saying enough is enough.
Even the latest curriculum handbook has increased the expected hours (excluding reading ) from 20 minutes in Foundation a few years ago to an hour. What are they thinking. These are 4 and 5 year olds.

W said...

Based on what I heard from parents from other schools, the same is happening everywhere. CanIS used to be more relaxed. Not anymore. It’s now in the habit of assigning tons of homework to its students. A friend of mine whose daughter is in CIS middle school tells me that her daughter needs at least 4 hours to finish her daily homework and projects, and she seldom goes to bed before 1 a.m. Comparing university destinations of various international schools is the favourite pastime of a lot of parents. Schools that do not regularly produce students with IB scores of 38 or above are considered bad. I really want to ask those parents to take the IB exam themselves to see if they can score anything close to 30. I have great sympathy for the schools’ management. What can they do when the majority of the parents are living under an illusion of control and blindly believing that getting into Ivy League/Oxbridge is the key to success and happiness of their children? My strategy - I avoid the crazy parents like the plague and ask my girl to do what she wants to do first before she attends to her homework, and to tell her that it is certainly not OK to put the same amount of efforts into every piece of work. Some homework is not as smart as others and should not be treated as seriously.

Anonymous said...

Truth be told, it is the same the world over. In the US and UK, parents with means, play the same game. I guess they are all trying to do what is best for their children, but it is clearly obvious that thought something may be gained, something is also lost. It wouldn't be a bad exercise to step back and gaze into the future of your child. Pretend the don't achieve Oxbridge and they instead attend Edinburgh. Would it be so bad? Would they be failures, or is it possible that they could turn out just fine? It's all too much and it takes a set of strong parental values to avoid the pressure. The admissions tutors know full well how to discern among the many applications they receive. Violin lessons, sports, creative pursuits - yes, all wonderful, but ONLY WHEN PURSUED WITH A GENUINE INTEREST. There is a world of difference between a child who was forced to play the violin, learn a language or participate in D of E.
I know one young lad whose parents were of limited means and his dream is to be a aeronautical engineer. He attended state school and volunteered at a local small airport for his early teens. In exchanged he earned flying lessons. THAT is genuine and it shows initiative. The problem with all these middle and upper class kids is that it is all available to them, but in reality none of it is worth anything to them because they haven't learned the value of personal choice and participation.
Bah, this all makes me crazy!

W said...

Hi Anon,

What makes the sad scenario more sad is that it does not seem to be limited to the upper/middle class. A lot of the parents in the lower income group feel equally helpless. They are in a constant state of hopelessness and despair. Desperate middle class housewives and househusbands send their kids to this and that classes; the equally desperate ones in the lower income group simply give up.

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