The education systems of Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Shanghai routinely top international rankings and their reform efforts in the last three decades are often held up as a model for the west. Dr Yong Zhao, however, argues that Asian education systems have succeeded in spite of, rather than because of, these changes.
Interest in learning from Asia’s high performing education systems has grown rapidly in recent years. A flurry of research reports, media stories and personal accounts of how these systems achieve their superb rankings on international league tables have been promoted widely and offered as suggestions to education systems around the world. However, most of the popular observations that many of us are familiar with fail to point out the most important lessons to be learned.
The best lessons from Asia are not to be found by asking: ‘What helped these systems achieve their fantastic test scores?’ Rather, the question we need to ask is: ‘What has been going on in these countries over the past few decades to transform their educational practices?’