News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Each culture has a unique educational system.
In the U.S, students participate in many extra-curricular activities and spend a lot of time learning how to socialize. As a result, U.S. kids are comfortable in a wide variety of situations. However, many U.S. children do not develop the necessary science, math, and communication skills to handle basic job functions. As a result, many U.S. kids are comfortable deviating from the norm, but lack the necessary skills to develop innovative solutions.
In China, Singapore, and India kids spend many hours with tutors to build a classroom advantage. There is often insufficient time to play and socialize and little flexibility to “think outside the box”. These people have strong science, math, and communication skills, but generally lack the ability to innovate.
In Ecuador, Uruguay, and Mexico socialization is part of the culture and academic pressure is much less than it is in many parts of Asia. Most students are tracked when they enter high school. Students who choose the science and math track are generally better academically prepared than most kids in the U.S. Yet, extra-curricular exposure is uncommon, so kids from that part of the world often have difficulty adjusting to the rigors of the workplace.
Even though it is easy for us to continue to educate our children within our cultural norms, it is not wise. Instead we should learn from other cultures and adopt effective approaches from other educational systems to provide our students with a competitive advantage.
As we change, we should be careful that the alterations make sense. For example, some Asian countries are discussing lowering subject matter proficiency expectations in an effort to improve creativity. At first glance this change makes sense,. However, the U.S. is demonstrating that low subject area proficiency makes innovation challenging. Instead it would be better to use an K-12 creativity curriculum to teach students how to apply and integrate their subject matter expertise in unique and unconventional ways.
In addition, it would unwise to create a culture where young people spend all their time working to gain an academic advantage at the expense of the socialization and non-academic exposure, since this too would stifle creativity and innovation.
Creating the best educational environment for our kids is not easy. It requires the confidence to break cultural barriers and the flexibility to “think outside the box”.