14 May 2014

missing the lesson of tiger mums

● One cannot apparently stray into the field of education these days without quickly feeling one has entered a realm of fantasy and dishonesty, far removed from earthly realities.
Pearson, the parent company of the Financial Times and of numerous educational publishing arms, has produced a report on education around the globe entitled “The Learning Curve: Education and Skills for Life”. Its authors show some respect for Asian education, including parents’ relative intolerance of failure — as popularised by the phrase “tiger mother”. However non-child-centred or otherwise unsound their approach may be by the standards of educational ideology, it seems to produce better average results for pupils than the one we currently use.
The 28-page report itself, however, is almost entirely devoid of hard conclusions, being filled instead with homilies of a wishy-washy kind, such as that (amazingly) “student interest”
has an effect on outcomes in a variety of ways
and that
effective education requires a broad range of actors, which points to the benefit of having a broadly supportive culture.
Sir Michael Barber, Pearson’s (and Tony Blair’s) education adviser, probably felt he had to produce some sound bites for the press, to avoid the vacuous report being ignored altogether. Ludicrously, however, he did so by turning the whole thing into a criticism of the (supposed) belief in heredity.
... in Britain and America, particularly, there is a perception that you are born either bright and the education system pulls that through, or doesn’t ... [whereas Asian countries have] a culture that prizes effort above inherited “smartness” ...
Only in the fantasy world of educationalists could anyone assert that the lack of commitment to school achievement in the old-fashioned sense (e.g. learning to read, or add up) prevalent in many Western countries is a result of “overprizing inherited smartness”.