The ability to come up with new and imaginative ideas is not just a mental anomaly but also largely a product of one’s culture. But in order to grasp any given culture, we must look back at its historical context. We see that western cultures typically tend to be more individualistic as their history is filled with animosity against aristocratic authority. Individualism became a statement of personal liberty and this in time fostered creativity.
On the other hand, collectivism arose in societies where yielding to group cohesion and shared ethics were needed for survival. This was the case in most Asian cultures, and in turn is clearly reflected in its education systems. For example in China, the main goal of educators is to train students to become “useful” members of society. As a result, children develop dexterity of certain skills but lack a self-directed aptitude that in turn hampers their potential to be creative. Furthermore, the education system in China is prepared towards identifying career paths as early as possible. For those who are found to be good at math and science, a large portion of attention will be devoted to teaching skills needed exclusively in their respective disciplines. Subsequently, Chinese students are arranged with resources to help them remain along their determined career paths at the cost of staggering their creativity. Although the Chinese education system comes at the cost of staggering creativity, is being creative of any use to students? The simple answer is, yes. Research has consistently shown that creativity is a good predictor of success in college and even more so in Graduate school.
An interesting policy difference is the Chinese believe in merit pay and in using student test scores for determining teacher compensation. The classes that showed the most academic growth resulted in that teacher (banzhuren) receiving a bonus that might range from 3000 yuan to 6000 yuan (one month or two months pay). On the contrary, a teacher whose students did not show growth will be evaluated accordingly. As you would expect, there are pros and cons with this policy and opinions vary broadly.
Taking a look at the Europeans, we see they have their own ways of doing things as well. For example in Finland, school hours are cut in half, there is minimal homework, there are no standardized tests, students are given 50-minute recess breaks and free nutritious meals. The Finns' unconventional approach to education has vaulted Finland to the upper echelon of countries in overall academic performance, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation…