Mittwoch, 9. August 2006

Asian learning culture

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In East Asia the status of a person depends on the fact that he "is someone" and that he occupy a corresponding position. Whereas in Germany professional authorities are esteemed highly, that means, people who "can do something" and who are therefore experts (cf. REISCH/TANG 1992, p. 15).
Teachers, lecturers, superiors and elder persons are natural persons of respect, who need not legitimize themselves. They are not scrutinized and criticized. Criticism, confrontation are considered as disrespectful and impolitely to a maximal extent, even aggressive or hurtful, this is a sign of bad education. Discussions and contradictions are unusual, hints on mistakes as well (cf. REISCH/TANG 1992, p. 6). Queries imply that something was forgotten or explained insufficiently. This would comprise subtle criticism, this is not compatible with the assigned roles. Teachers are persons of knowing and respect at the same time, they arrange their knowledge to the unknowing (the students). The students are therefore dependent on the teacher (cf. ROHLEN/LETENDRE 1996, p. 287). Because "knowledge is power", the person imparting knowledge is settled higher in the hierarchy than the person who learns. If a teacher must have himself taught from a subordinate, then this has face-loss as consequence.

In Asia it is considered as a characteristic of bad trainers if they admit that they do not know something. A teacher does not expect from his students to discover or elaborate the knowledge themselves. If he possesses knowledge, he should also pass it on, if he does not, he is no longer accepted as a knowing person.

Teaching and learning style

The situation of teaching is primarily one-sided, a one-way-process: what the teacher announces is relevant and right. The students are not entitled to ask about sense and purpose, to require reasons or even to question the content the task of the students is solely to suck up the mediated knowledge like a sponge, they appropriate as much of the teacher's knowledge as they can. The following table compares prefered teaching and learning styles:

(cf. REISCH/TANG 1992, p. 12)

It is probably exaggerated to claim that the teaching process is more affected that its content, but this much is certain that the classes aim altogether at a receptive learning style, at the mediation of knowledge and at the support of reproductive abilities. The participants are accustomed to receptive learning. Repetitions are one of the characteristics of the teaching process and used regularly without the statement's content varying. Asian students learn by repeated practise rather than by explanation (cf. LEESTMA/WALBERG 1992, p. 244). This learning style can be very strenuous and demands an intense effort, but Asian students are used to this kind of learning. They are aware that knowledge leads to success and social prestige ultimately. Besides, active participation is not common and the demand for it would provoke astonishment. In addition, Students are very insecure being afraid of saying something wrong. This would be a disgrace in front of the class and lead to face-loss, this time with the student.

Theoretical education is consequently dominant and as a matter of priority opposite the practice - practitioners enjoy essentially less prestige. In Asian schools therefore students learn that extensive knowledge is the most essential.

Relationship between teacher and student

The following table compares behaviour that is mainly encouraged in Western and Asian societies. The different relationship between Asian teachers and students can be deduced easily from this.

(cf. REISCH/TANG, p.11)

Respect is given by students towards a teacher not only during working hours, but also outside the work place. The relationship of teachers and students does not finish after school but also applies in the private contact, but personal contact with the students is re-garded as unusual.

Despite formal distance and respect in the contact together, careful interest and worry are significant for the harmony and the learning process. Formal harmony in learning situations is maintained at all times. Teachers would not point out the students' mistakes, because this could follow already mentioned face-loss. The meaning of harmony is very important, especially in the Japanese society (cf. SCHUBERT 1992, p. 123-128). Uppermost principle is the avoidance of confrontation and this is imparted since early childhood. Homogeneity of social order is stressed extremely in Asia.


Teachers in East Asian countries are highly respected. His or her social status can be compared with the prestige teachers used to have in Western societies in former times. The reasons that contribute to this remarkable status are various.

Confucianism and Buddhism are nearly omnipresent in East Asian cultures and deeply rooted in the individual life of every member of society. From a child, Asians are faced with the prevailing rules and duties which are passed on by parents and teachers enduringly. Very early children learn about the importance of avoiding confrontation and of respecting authorities. Asian societies are considered to be vertical and hierarchy plays a weighty role which is often underestimated by Westerners. Opposition and contradiction are not exercised directly to a reputable authority like teachers, trainers and educators. Teachers derive their high social status from the fact that they are the ones who impart knowledge to persons who are ignorant and "not knowing". Even if teachers are not paid as their position in society would imply it, being a teacher is a popular profession in Asian countries. Reasons like lifelong job-security or social prestige see to it.

But it would be naive to claim that the schooling situation is that unscrupulous and perfect without any critizism. For example, in Japan, the flood of entrance examinations and tests to be passed to attend a reputable high school or university is criticized not only by Westerners but also by students, parents and even teachers in Japan. The Japanese "examination hell" is more and more scrutinized closely and sometimes even declared as "test fetishism" (cf. DECKE-CORNILL 1996, p. 107). Japanese government thinks about reforms in the educational system, for example more liberty in terms of creativity or modifications of the curriculum. This also happens against the background of forming more creative individuals to remain competitive in the international market (computer science, software engineering etc.) (cf. BPB 1997, p. 26).

In some fields, the teacher's authority is not as unimpeachable as it used to be and the students' behaviour shows tendencies of violence and offences in school, especially among students themselves. But compared with the difficult situation in Western countries, this development could be regarded as relatively insignificant. As far as the teacher's status in Asia is concerned, it should be pointed to the fact that even if his absolute authority might have changed over the last years, the famous phrases "Knowledge Is Power" is still relevant.

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Rose 10. August 2006 um 12:49  

Hi Ahoj... Thank you for your comment in my blog... was very nice... so... what can I say?? I don´t speak very well english... so try understand me!! :D
Your blog are very interesting.. weel done!!

And the other side has that to have much pactient with the men´s ... it´s not easy!! :) :)

Continuation of good work!

Rosália from PORTUGAL!!

Patricia M. Santana Nina 10. August 2006 um 22:09  

I did learned my english! Ok, Even whegn the examinations or techniques used in Asia might be TOO MUCH, we find that they have very, excellent professionals in all the areas. Anyways, living your life just trying to get more success, makes you miss so many great things in life...I read in a magazine that in those nations suicides are very commun, because of all the stress and competion and restriccions they have...Well, my english is not that good to continue writing. Anyways, thank you for stoping by my bolg, even when yo don't speak spanish, I saw your profile and found other blogs you have.


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