Can you remember your times tables? Quick! What’s 6 x 8? 7 x 9? 3 x 12? If you didn’t hesitate with the correct answer, chances are high that you are either over 50, naturally gifted at Maths or weren’t educated in the West. If you’re like me you might have come up with an answer… after a second or two, but you wouldn’t be entirely confident to lock it in if I was Eddy McGuire and you were about to win a million dollars.
Is there something wrong with my memory just because I’m a young Aussie? Did I spend too much time playing outdoors as a child and the sun got to my brain? Unlikely, I was a diligent student. My dear husband, on the other hand, spent as much time as he could tearing around on his bike- and can remember all his times tables at the drop of a hat. The difference? He went to a Chinese school, while I was educated in a Western one.
Denis Lane, in is his excellent little book ‘One World, Two Minds’, explains the difference. Teachers, in an Eastern view of the world, are given a very high place of respect. The student does not think of questioning the teacher. What the teacher says, the student accepts. This results in a lot of rote learning and the development of excellent memory capacities, but weakness in independent critical thinking. In Western education, the trend has been for the teacher to become ‘learning facilitator’. The emphasis is on leading the student to make discoveries for himself, and to learn as as he goes about individual projects. The ‘learning facilitator’ is not there to tell the student what he needs to know. This method results in creativity and independent thinking, but poor numeracy and literacy.
So, what do we do with our son? Will we send him to China for primary school, and bring him back home to Australia for high school? I don’t think that’s an option. More likely we will homeschool.