What do you do after school?
This could possibly be untrue, but from everything I have came across, it has painted a picture in my mind, that Western education systems tend to have a lower quantity of homework and exams, or in another sense, assignments and tests tend to carry a smaller significance in Western students’ lifestyles.
Of course, this lower volume of knowledge could be the reason why Asians tend to have a higher textbook-based intelligence, as compared to Westerners. After all, Asian universities are climbing up the board at a rapid pace. Based on the QS World University Rankings, the National University of Singapore is currently in 24th position, while the University of Hong Kong and University of Tokyo are in 26th and 32th place respectively.
But if we were to look from a different perspective, 40 out of the top 50 universities, are Western. How is this possible when they have a seemingly less stressful education system as compared to their Asian counterparts?
Well, if we were to stop and ponder, maybe the key to success does not lie in memorising an entire textbook-worth of knowledge? Maybe the way to succeed does not lie in the regurgitation of content?
There is definitely no right or wrong education system. But there definitely are pros and cons, strengths and flaws, advantages and drawbacks.
When there is lesser homework, more time could be utilised on non-academic aspects. Although in my society, we participate in Co-Curriculum Activities (CCA), huge heaps of homework are dumped on us everyday, with a requirement to be submitted in a short span of time. This forces us to juggle between the responsibilities of a student and the roles of a CCA member, often leaving us inadequate time to explore other aspects outside of this restricted boundary. In my impression of a Western society, students possess a greater freedom to progress in certain non-academic skills, such as drawing or writing stories. As much as these skills could be found in Asian societies, they are usually very confined. Even if one is in a CCA, let’s say Art Club, one would more or less, have to adhere to a certain set of rules and instructions, resulting in an inability to do what one wants. Thus, Western students tend to be more able to pursue non-academic aspects, as they have a greater amount of free time.
The type of education system also determines our talents and future careers. With a greater focus towards academic areas, students are more likely to identify their talents with regard to academic subjects. For example, classmates would be more inclined to recognise each other by the subjects they specialise in. “She is good in Chemistry.” or “He excels in English.”, these are some of the characteristics synonymous with an Asian individual. However, strengths such as “He has a knack for drawing.” or “Her singing is so beautiful.” are more common in Western societies. This is because Western students have the time ability to locate their talents in non-academic areas, which leads to a smaller importance of their academic grades. In a crude way of saying it, grades tend to define Asians, whereas Westerners are demarcated by their individual non-academic talents. This also impacts on the demography of careers in the respective society. For Asian countries, there would tend to be a higher concentration of systematic and knowledge-oriented jobs, like Science and Technology, Research and Development, etc. On the other hand, there would be a wider variety of jobs with a higher percentage in Western societies, some examples would include visual arts, performing arts and literary arts. In my opinion, Western countries would have a more well-balanced workforce. Hence, our aspirations tend to follow the type of education system we are in.
Last but not least, compulsory tasks produce followers, not leaders. Issuing of homework, setting a deadline, designating of tasks… These rigid and obligatory instructions may make students develop textbook-based intelligence, but ultimately, it may cause students to lose their own ideology, lose their own way of thinking. They are compelled to do whatever they are told to do, and it results in them mindlessly working, without having a say in what they really want to do. In contrast, Western students would have their own mindset and a greater ability to lead the lifestyle they want to.
All in all, no type of education system is perfect. Even though I may have a slight inclination to envy the Western way of teaching, Asian form of education has its benefits as well.
As the saying goes,
“The grass on the other side is always greener.”
We often look at other things that we do not possess in general, through rose-coloured glasses. But once we experience or gain them, we develop regrets and envy the time when we did not have them. Plus, no one can truly conclude what is good and bad, without having seen both sides of the coin. These are after all, just my opinions. I definitely do dream of being a Western student, being able to watch anime quite regularly and being able to blog a lot, roaming about through websites and interacting with fellow anime lovers of the Internet. But that can only be a fantasy because it is impossible to achieve this in the academic-oriented society I live in. I can only possibly do about half as much as I want to. But nonetheless, we should focus on reality, and not try to escape it, because denying the fact in front of your eyes will only lead to dissatisfaction. Even in an Asian society, despite the massive streams of assignments, we can still maintain our own set of thinking, and understanding that whatever it is, do not let the education system control us. Know what you want, and do what you want. Only then will you not regret this one life that had been bestowed upon us.