Asian students perform better academically than U.S. students throughout the entire school year. In order to prove that Asian students do perform better, Harold W. Stevenson and his colleagues proposed a series of large cross-national studies, beginning 1980. Stevenson discussed his studies in the article Learning from Asian Schools .
The studies compared Chinese, Japanese, and American children who sampled from first grade and fifth grade classrooms in elementary schools in Minneapolis, Chicago, Sendai, Beijing, and Taipei. The studies found that in mathematics average scores of the Asian first and fifth graders were higher than the American averages. When compared the scores from different grades, the studies found decline in American schools as well as improvement in Taiwan and steady high performance in Japan. In addition, the studies found that in reading the Asian students caught up by the fifth grade following the increased demands in Asian languages, although American first graders tended towards the top on these tests. The test results undoubtedly confirmed the truth about the superior performance of Asian students over American students.
According to the studies, Stevenson found that there were three main reasons associated with Asian children s success: cultural differences, educational system and teacher performance. Asian mothers considered the most important thing in their children s life is to do well in school; education is equivalent to the children s future. Therefore, Asian mothers hold high standards for their children s academic performance, believing that the road to success is through effort, having positive attitudes about achievement, and studying diligently.
In contrast, American mothers had very high satisfaction with their children s academic performance because they lacked measurement standards for performance, and believed their children s success came from being born with intelligence and being diligent. American mothers also placed a lesser emphasis on academic achievement because they believed their children s childhood shouldn t solely focus on school. Asian mothers attitudes caused their children to work harder to improve their performance.
In addition to the cultural difference mentioned above, the different education system also formed a barrier for American students through the road of success. In school daily life, American students spent most of their time in the classroom. Dissimilarly, Asian schools had frequent recesses and a longer lunch period that in turn maintained the students attention to the teachers. The after school activities and clubs in Asian schools made the school an enjoyable place, therefore, students appeared well behaved and well adjusted, which could be proven by fewer complains in school and better attendance by Asian students. Due to the clear academic goal, the more demanding curriculum for Asian students actually did not cause extraordinary stress.
Asian teachers performance also contributed to the students academic achievements. Compared to American teachers individual work and self-adjusted schedule, Asian teachers usually consult each other, worked as a group to design teaching techniques in following the national curriculum, hence provided the best understanding from the students. Asian teachers only spent part of their school time teaching and prepared the classes in the teacher s room for rest of the working time; this allowed them to prepare their classes well. Asian teachers followed preplanned materials and assigned a brief period of seatwork throughout the class period (Stevenson 236), which provide a series of productive interaction and discussions for students.
In contrast, American teachers had to cover all elementary school subjects and spent most of their time at school teaching, so they didn t have enough time to prepare classes. In addition, American teachers explained concept first and gave seatwork later during class, thus reducing the students attention. Even the Asian teachers education background was not as high as American teachers, the in-service training under the supervision of skilled models (Stevenson, 236) used by Asian schools gave the teachers the skills to gain students attention, which included giving feedback to students, using more materials that can be manipulated and relating the subjects to the students daily life. In conclusion, the U.S. had to create a cultural emphasis on academic success and education, which is not merely increase the length of school days but had to change the way of American teachers jobs performance.
Stevenson considered the culture difference might cause some biased results, so he proposed his studies by using wide range of scientific data to gain the precise statistics. According to Stevenson s studies, Asian students perform better academically is a truism. Nevertheless, American schools will not achieve the same level of success if they completely imitate Asian schools. In addition, Stevenson merely compared the children s scores might ignore their practice abilities. Although theories dominate practices, the good performance on test paper does not equal to the strong practice abilities.
Undoubtedly, the great academic performance achieved by Asian schools is worth praise, however, it is very difficult to compare success factors between different cultures. Therefore, the ways to improve American schools performance should be adjusted to fit in the need and want of American schools. In other words, merely introducing higher standards, longer school days, and new education systems cannot improve the performance of American schools. Simultaneously, it is very important for American schools to discard the dross and select the essential from Asian schools academic experiences in order to establish a series of countermeasures. Once American schools recognize their shortcomings and build a new academic culture base on their advantage, American academic achievement will rise to world standards.
When I was a third grader of elementary school in China, my Chinese teacher not only impressed me through her outstanding teaching performance but also evoked my interest in writing composition. In Chinese education standards, third grade of elementary school is the time to learn how to write a short narrative composition. I had no idea how to describe an affair s process. On the first day of class for composition, I felt really nervous because I did not know what I was going to face. I thought the teacher would give us something to write, but what surprised me was that she started the class by telling us a tale of the fisherman and goldfish.
I was immersed by the interesting story and felt completely relaxed. After the teacher finished the story, she distributed a copy of it to us and started a discussion about the story. Following a series of what if, how and why questions about the story under the teacher s instruction, we reached an alliance that the writer s abundant imagination and remarkable writing skills let readers fall into the story. The teacher did not ask us to write anything after the class; I had already readied to start my first composition in my mind, because I had understood how a good story could bring happiness to people.
For the rest of my years in elementary school, I wrote compositions to entertain myself and finally could not live without it. The compositions that I wrote in the third grade were really ridiculous, but I always remembered and appreciated the teacher s aspiration and encouragement. Without her positive feedback, I would never have benefited from writing Chinese composition. From my personal experience, I believe that Asian students do not gain the remarkable academic achievements by sheer good luck. In other words, the academic success of Asian schools is worthy of praise.