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80% v 50% the education race

(11 Posts)
munstersmum Wed 22-Jun-11 12:34:20

Just read that more kids in Singapore get 'C' grade or better in English than do kids in the UK. shock

How have we got to that? Or better still how do we reverse it?
The article has a clear political lean. Any views? What do those in education feel when they see the UK going down the international league tables?

cory Wed 22-Jun-11 12:52:51

First of all, I would want to know if standards are actually falling in the UK, i.e. if there are fewer children in the UK actually becoming numerate and literate, or if it is more a case that the East are shooting ahead. If it is the former, then we have to pull our socks up. If it is the latter, I would be interested in seeing how this is achieved- how much pressure, what happens to drop-outs, what are the risks of too much academic pressure.

I would also want to know exactly why the government think it is so important to copy the Swedish free school system, seeing that the Swedish education minister has now gone out and admitted that its introduction in Sweden is associated with sinking results and rising segregation and that he regards it as a failure. Do we have to have a second-hand education system from these people?

Absolutely agree with the paper thouth that the comment by the shadow minister about modern languages was shocking; seeing that low aspirations is known to be a major problem, surely the government should be doing something about addressing those rather than pandering to them?

boswellia Wed 22-Jun-11 20:08:49

Afraid it's even more shocking that that. Back in the 1970s when we lived in the Far East, for children who went to school (which was not everyone as I believe they had to pay school fees even for government schools, places were limited so they had two 'shifts' at 7.30am and 1pm hence doubling capacity, and it was academically competitive), it was normal for them to do five A levels and expect to get As. That was when the standard offer for medicine was Bs, and As were very rare. I remember how easy school life was, on returning, to get to the top of the class and skipping years, and how lax behaviour seemed, and I went to a school where there were no discipline problems. However the respect shown to teachers was palpable in the East, perhaps because education was a privilege. Teachers there were also impeccably behaved, because it was a privileged position in a society with long memories. Learning was much easier in that setting.

I expect it's more relaxed now, but they probably still value education much more than we do. I would be surprised if state schools don't still charge nominal fees, which many people have to make some sacrifices to meet.

Actually now I'm trotting down memory lane, I wonder if that could be a solution to expanding our good schools. Rather than making them unworkably large, we could have two shifts. Shifts were a complete lottery so sometimes a family would have early and late shifts. When we visit nowadays, we often see families with children in uniform going out for dinner at 7pm, so they must still have them.

The other thing is of course English is a MFL for them, and not spoken at home. I suspect (thinking about it more) that this relative performance is not a recent thing, but until recently education was not a universal right in these countries. So I suspect that getting Cs at GCSE would be considered a bit of a failure.

Cortina Thu 23-Jun-11 09:27:09

There's a different attitude towards learning in Asia. It's assumed that most are capable of excellent results and children have a habit of living up (or down) to expectations. Generally speaking in Asia cultural expectations are different. The whole family are heavily invested in a child's performance in school, to succeed is to do the family proud to fail is to let the family down.

As Amy Chua explained/demonstrated in her recent book it's assumed children are tough rather than fragile. A harsh regime of study/teaching that Westerners might shudder at is seen by many children in Asia as for their own good. Guy Claxton has also said 'the weaker cultural realtionship between ability and self worth means that Asian children rarely show any lasting effects in terms of resentment or an undermining of 'self esteem'. Whilst not everyone may agree with the methods there is a belief that they can do well if they try, if they fail it's not their intrinstic ability/IQ that's at fault but their performance and conduct.

Whether we agree with harsher methods or not in the UK we seem to believe that some can only go so far, that ability has a ceiling. Many were quick to point out Amy Chua's daughters did so well only because the raw material was there, an IQ of 150 etc, I doubt this occured to Amy. GCSE is an entry level qualification yet I heard a teacher say recently how wonderful it was her son was on course for a GCSE grade B in maths. I wondered why not an A*? Not everyone is destined to be a rocket scientist but I believe with good teaching and a good attitude anyone 'average' should be capable of gaining an A*-B at GCSE. We should be far more ambitious.

IndigoBell Thu 23-Jun-11 09:45:55

They work criminally hard in China.

Watched some docu about it a few years ago.... So might be remembering bits wrong.

But, they go to school from 8 - 6 (even in Y1), then they come home and do homework. By the time they're in secondary school they would be doing homework till 11:00 every night.....

And that's because there's not enough places at uni. So if you're not the best of the best you won't get in......

Personally, I'm quite happy with some kids getting Cs or failing. With the vast majority of people who want to go getting accepted to Unis, and for kids not to be studying from 8:00am - 11:00pm every night.....

Just cause a child get's an 'A' at A levels, doesn't mean they can compete globally. Employees are looking for soft skills and critical thinking skills that exams don't test......

And just because a child fails GCSE doesn't mean they're unemployable.....

munstersmum Thu 23-Jun-11 09:52:26


Thanks for the very thoughtful responses. One common thread seems to be our aspirations & the value we as a society place on education. It's interesting to consider this in the context of so many mumsnet queries about how do I help my child's development / education. Is the mumsnet population typical or not?

I confess to not knowing much about education systems overseas at all. Your insights & knowledge are greatly appreciated.

Boswellia your comment about using buildings more hits home. I've said the same about hospital diagnostics services eg MRI scanners. I also think many degrees could be 2 yrs 'proper' F/T rather than spread over 3 yrs....but that's another issue.

munstersmum Thu 23-Jun-11 09:55:24

Hi IndigoB

Totally agree I would not want school age kids studying such hours. Was talking to a Japanese friend who said it's common there for kids to go from school to additional tutoring classes all the way to bedtime. she wasn't a fan either.

IndigoBell Thu 23-Jun-11 09:57:27

Chinese school day

Not something I'm jealous of at all....

If you watch this clip instead of break time they have organised exercise, and 'lunch time is a chance to catch up on homework' sad

electra44 Thu 23-Jun-11 11:15:47

There are a lot of societal differences between Singapore and the UK other than the cultural . One example: up until approx 12 0r 15 years ago, graduates were encouraged financially to have children while poorer people were not. When I lived there until 2005, if you were lower income, you could deliver your first three children in a grade C hospital for a sum of about 300 sing dollars (forgotten exactly the amount). The cost went up to about 1500 dollars for child 4.

Singaporeans do well in school and work hard and there are lots of great things about the country and its wonderful people, but it isn't really possible to make direct comparisons as the governmental controls/incentives there over local people means that the social and cultural differences - a number of which would be unacceptable to a majority of British society because of the implications for personal freedom -are too great.

MrsDaffodill Sun 26-Jun-11 20:06:41

Oh yes. I went to high school in Japan. There the quote is "four hours pass", "five hours fail" and they are talking about hours of sleep! All the rest, just about, is study.

That said, I do resent this attitude that Japanese/Chinese students end up with no soft skills. These are countries with a huge emphasis on personal and family relationships. In Japanese high schools, it is compulsory to be in a club and there is a huge range to choose from - brass band, volleyball, karate, etc. People do put real time and commitment into their clubs, it is not all study. They also clean the school themselves! It is all so different.

Likewise, your class is a real social grouping which is hugely important. Every sports day each class would prepare a marching routine, and a class themed costume event (planning and making all costumes, etc).

It does not look like a western teenage life but neither is it incomplete - social, sporting, artistic needs are met in different ways.

Also there is less emphasis here on a body of knowledge that all must have. If you go to school in Japan there is a list of Japanese and Chinese classics you must read and understand - at every school level. I am constantly baffled by how little emphasis there is on the western canon, for example. I read to my children every day, but had not made a concerted effort to cover every essential text. Then I realised my oldest child was eight and did not know who Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel were. I suddenly realised that if I did not have a check list of what I thought my children should read/hear read to them, no-one else would. I recently had a conversation with a French friend schooling her children in London who had made the same realisation - she felt in France, too, there would have been more made of ensuring all vital texts were covered.

I am not saying that Asia is better. I actually value huge amounts of the British schooling system. My children are doing well. The Japanese teenage suicide rate is not something to envy.

More I am saying that without looking at the whole cultural situation it is difficult to make comparisons.

erebus Tue 28-Jun-11 13:32:06

And, frankly, what's the problem with 'working for a Chinese millionaire who studied maths at Harvard'? Surely that's globalisation writ large!

On another note, I was in Singapore recently and smiled at the notices in McDonalds politely requesting that children didn't use the tables for studying as other patrons wanted them!... imagine.

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