Rote-Based vs Application Based – As Seen from Japan

When a country starts to change its approach to education there will be people who are completely in favour of the changes, those fervently against change and all shades in between. This happens perhaps more so with education than any other field. As Sir Ken Robinson, because everyone (by and large) received an education they believe they are fully entitled to speak as ‘experts’ on the subject.

So, change happens and people wait to see results. Of course, determining what are results of the change and what are results of bigger or systemic changes in the society are near to impossible. Add to that the fact that some of the outcomes seen can be the result of the changes that happened years earlier and you have a recipe for the change doubters to grow in force and strength.

When it comes to figuring out ‘what’s working’ many around the world have chosen to use the OECD comparative PISA tests as a useful benchmark. This enables them to assess the ‘competitiveness’ of different countries’ educational systems though the performance of students in an international comparative set of tests.

Countries that go up or remain high in the PISA rankings crow about the superiority of their education systems and extrapolate all sorts of conjectures about what this means for the quality of their future workforce, the state of their future economy. Those that drop or remain low in the rankings (such as USA and Japan) see much gnashing of teeth and attacks on their educational infrastructure. In the melee, a lot else gets put aside.

So, we see from this article, a simplistic response in Japan to poor PISA results – an increase from 4,900 to 6,100 pages of material to be learned in Japanese elementary school. To cover this material teachers will have no choice but to return to old, traditional rote learning ‘driven’ teaching methodologies.

Japan Fattens Textbooks article

Here in India there ius no question that we are in a phase where the movement is strongly away from rote learning, towards more holistic approaches, more application based learning and attention to the processes as well as the content of what is to be learned. However, this piece is an interesting insight in to how forces opposed to these changes could easily cause such a trend to switch and reverse.

Progressive educators beware!!

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