Mittwoch | 3. Januar 2001

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Das wahre Bildungsproblem in Konfuzius-Asien: Mangel an Flexibilität, Kreativität, komplexem Denken und der Fähigkeit, sich geänderten Verhältnissen anzupassen:

Die Bildungspolitik Asiens wird in den letzten Jahren immer wieder aufgrund der Erfolge in den Bereichen Naturwissenschaft und Mathematik gelobt. Vor allem die Schüler aus konfuzianisch geprägten Gesellschaften gelten als extrem lernwillig und diszipliniert, wobei die Schattenseiten in Japan und Korea bereits zu erheblichen Negativschlagzeilen geführt haben, weil eine erhöhte Selbstmordrate und ein militärischer Drill schon an Kindergärten kaum in die Erfolgsstory eines gesunden Erziehungssystems passen. Das wahre Problem der statischen Frontalausbildung besteht darin, eine den sich wandelnden Verhältnissen angepasste Ausbildungsstrategie zu entwickeln. Hier tun sich asiatische Gesellschaften auf ihre Weise ebenso schwer mit der Anpassung wie die westlichen Gesellschaften, bei denen die Gefahr bereits realisiert ist, daß vor lauter Reformanpassung, die Grundlagen der Ausbildung verloren gehen. Der nachfolgende Artikel aus der REVIEW am Beispiel Singapors verdeutlicht die Herausforderung der Bildungspolitik vor Ort. Zugleich macht der Beitrag deutlich, welche Chancen westliche Bildungseinrichtungen haben, wenn sie sich auf der Basis einer soliden Grundlagenausbildung auf den asiatischen Markt begeben:

Aus: Far Eastern Economic Review, Dezember 14, 2000: von Trish Saywell/Singapore:

"Thinking Out of the Box"

Singapore is trying to encourage creativity in its schools. But will it work?

WHEN IT COMES to education in Singapore, old thinking dies hard. just ask the boy who was caned by his mother for scoring 83% in a science exam-despite being the fourth-highest scorer in the class. In an earlier incident, he was caned for scoring 73% in a maths exam, according to The Straits Times.

Now the nine-year-old gets so anxious over exams he suffers from asthma, cold sweats and diarrhoea. His mother makes him spend six hours a day on homework, the paper reports. During school holidays he spends eight hours a day on revision and preparation for the next terrris work.

His mother isdt apologetic, saying she maintains the pressure because she wants him to get into a prestigious secondary school and to succeed in life.

The tale has many Singaporeans upset. "The mother should be caned," says one irate educator. "Kids like this are traumatized every time they have to take an exam."

Caning for poor grades is fortunately the exception in Singapore, though excessive attention to schoolwork, getting good grades and spending hours of afterschool time preparing for exams seerns to be the rule.

REVISING FOR EXAMS: Less reliance on rote learning, more on problem-solving

According to a recent survey Of 4742 children aged io to 12 commissioned by The Straits Times, students are more afraid of exams than of their parents dying; one in three thinks that sometimes life isdt worth living; nearly four out of five spend as many as three hours studying after school; and seven out of io receive extra classes after school hours.

It' s facts like these that have prompted some government officials to criticize the systern, which relies heavily on examination results and rote leaming rather than creativity. Even traditionalists admit the current teaching methods and curriculum which champion a discipline-oriented, Confucian approach, worft prepare students for the demands of the knowledgebased economy.

CHANGE OF EMPHASIS

A vocal chorus of educators and MPs is calling for education to focus less on academic abilities and more on problemsolving, critical thinking and creativity. "Examinations are a big block to creativity," says Carmee Lim, a self-proclaimed "radical educator" and retired principal of Raffles Girls' Secondary School. "We only ask for the right answers. That stops the brain from thinking."

in the past three years, the Singapore government has listened to the criticism and taken action. As a result, Singapore now puts more emphasis and resources into driving the Knowledge Economy.

For one, it's starting to tinker with university requirements. Instead of using A-level grades as the main, or sole, admission criterion, starting frOM 2003 other factors will be given weight in assessments. These will include a reasoning test like America's Scholastic Aptitude Test, project work and extra-curricular activities.

In 1997 the government also launched a programme called "Thinking Schools/Learning Natiorf to promote problem-solving, teamwork and discussion in primary and secondary schools. Last year, for example, content in all subjects was cut by 10%-30% to allOw more time for strengthening thinking skills, creativity and innovation.

"It's a variation of the idea that the era of rote learning may have been appropriateinanindustrialpast,butisnot »

appropriate in the New Economy," says Saravanan Gopinathan, dean of initial teacher-training programmes at the National Institute of Education, part of Nanyang Technological University.

Information technology will be an essential tool for the future. So as part of its educational refonns the govemment plans to raise the level of IT use in schools. The target is for students to be using computers 30% of the time by 2oo2.

Under the plan, every school will also be fülly networked, allowing teachers and pupils to access course material, the Internet and digitized media in every classroom. Teachers themselves will use computers to prepare lessons, teach in the classroom, mark students'work and communicate.

Some parents and educators say the reforms are sound in principle but havent rereshapedattitudes."Thingshaverit aly changed," says an economist at the National University of Singapore. He argues that while students'workload has been cut, the emphasis on the remaining curriculum has been intensified, so in fact there has been no gain.

He also points out that schoolstypically ranked by student results and performance-still emphasize top grades, rather than creativity.

Nonetheless, progress is being made. At Raffles Girls' Secondary School, for instance, project-based learning and computer use are changing the way students think and learn.

in some classes, students work in teams of four on projects that range from researching the impact of EI Nino on whales' migratory patterns to the use of insects in Chinese medicine.

"One group tried to come up with new kinds of food for astronauts," says Lim, the schoots former principal, who initiated many of the reforms during her lengthy tenure. "Another group tried to find out what happened to all the food that the airlines waste and what could be done

GATHERING TO LEARN: A change of mindset with it. One suggestion was crushing it up and using it as animal feed. The kids used a video and put their project on a Web site. Project work is a wonderful opportunity, especially when we want kids to work with others."

TOOLS FOR CREATIVITY

Computers are now a fact of everyday life at Raffles, Lim says. Students take notes in seminars using laptop computers, as well as using them to send coursework to teachers. The school now also has a cyber-learning centre with state-of-theart technology. And some lessons are even Netcast live, enabling students from other schools to log on and join in.

In another change, Lim adds, the school gave teachers S$2,000 ($1,140) each to design their own classrooms. "One Grade Seven teacher put carpet down on the floor, removed all the chairs and bought low, japanese-style tables. Then he especially when we want kids to work with others" had kids read poetry to tape-recorded beats and rhythms. They loved it."

Ort an island-wide level, by October last year, IT was being used in 5%-15% of the school day and 95% of teachers had been trained in IT use, according to the Ministry of Education. Every school has broadband access to the Internet and there is one computer for every six students, double the number in 1996.

Some schools have even used a portion of their IT budget to hire Futurekids, a chain of computer-equipped learning centres that teaches innovation, analytical thinking and independent decisionmaking, along with computer skills.

"We're giving them tools to develop their creativity~" says Regina So, a director at Futurekids, adding that since 1997 its contract work in schools has doubled as educators make the shift toward greater IT use. "The majority of schools here are looking for computer programmes," she says.

Despite the success stories, Singapores drive to develop individual creativity in the classroom calls for a big change in attitude. Some parents, such as Siti Maryam Mohammad Parik, say changes like project work are "positive" and that her elder, nine-year-old daughter happily leaves home for school two hours earlier once a week to work on her projects with friends. But her seven-year-old daughter is confused and doesdt receive enough instruction from teachers on how the projects are to be done. "The projects should be done on school time," she adds, «not at home."

Other parents worry that project work will detract from the time their children spend on maths and science so they can do better in exams. The National Institute of Educatioris Gopinathan says teachers who had mastered one way of teaching now have to come to grips with a new one. "But they are no longer the sole authority," he notes, adding that parents, too, 'Vonder whether all this new leaming is going to be something they can manage, they can control."

Wong Toke Moon, a lecturer in engineering at Temasek Polytechnic, says it might take a generation to change the students and parents' outlook. "We're going in the right direction, but it will take time," he says.

   

 

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