This is the question that Sachin Maharaj asks in this opinion piece published in the Toronto Star. There is much debate about becoming more like the Chinese as we watch the rise of the Asian economies. One of the things that is missed in this debate is just how innovative these economies actually are. Do they actually come up with new technologies and methods for doing things or do they merely copy what is invented elsewhere? For many years before entering the World Trade Organization China was accused of many cases of patent infringement.
A major point that the article makes is that much of Asian education is based on rabid competition amongst students so that children enter school at the age of 2 or study after classes until 11:00 p.m. It takes a toll on the physical and mental health of the students. It also makes one ask what is the role of education, to create cogs for the economic machine or to create happy, creative entities?
When I look at the emphasis that corporations and right wing think tanks place on standardized testing it reminds me of why we made a major shift in our educational in the 1960’s in order to create a more innovative and creative environment for learning to take place. At the time the U.S. was shocked by the Soviet launch of Sputnik and needed to catch up. A decade later they put a man on the moon. Those who are advocating to the old days of the three R’s or suggest we emulate Asian education systems better watch what they wish for.