Learning in Taiwan, Portugal

Taiwanese elementary students use hands-on learning, writes Bill Costello of Making Minds Matter.

For example, Taiwanese students went on a field trip to a castle they studied in social studies; they collected local plants and used them to make a dye in science; and they worked with compasses and rulers in math.

. . . I observed a science teacher and art teacher in Taiwan collaborate in guiding students through a science project that involved drawing.

Portugal is investing heavily in interactive whiteboards and laptops, writes Don Tapscott on Wikinomics. But what’s remarkable about seven-year-olds looking up the definition of “equinox” on their laptops is how well these kids can read.

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  1. That sounds exactly like the education of my kids, ages 7 and 4. Hands on, experiential learning is alive and well – and, in fact, originated in – the United States.

    Having taught in Taiwan for five years, I experienced a mostly Confucian education system with the “sage on the stage” lecturing to classes of 80 – 100 students who furiously wrote down everything the teacher said and then memorized it.

    There are positives and negatives to all systems, and while Taiwanese kids may spend twice as much time in school as Americans, their doctors, scientists, engineers, accountants, etc. are not twice as good. Their bridges and buildings aren’t twice as strong. They don’t have twice as many inventions and patents.

    American schools still lead the world in innovation – both in the workplace and in the schools.

    NOTE – That’s not saying we can’t improve.

  2. Those type of lessons sound like the unit studies used in homeschooling.

  3. It’s nice that second-graders somewhere know the word “equinox”.

    Most innovation in any field is junk, because most new ideas are not good ones, and even those that are, require a lot of effort to actually work better than current practices. And education seems to me to have a must worse track record than engineering, science, or even the creation of TV shows. I agree that the end result of American education (meaning, the people that graduate in the top 10% of our best universities) is still the best, but I’ve never seen any evidence that these people are better than previous generations, and the bottom 10% of our public high schools seem to be coming out MUCH worse.

    I hated rote learning, and I quit high school to go to college at 16, but I survived public schools. And I doubt that any of my high school classmates – even the ones in the idiot-track classes – would have been unable to spell “severance”, as was required (twice) by the nice young woman at the local video store yesterday. She was surely more intelligent that most of the kids I went to high school with (although perhaps only in the top 45%), and she had managed to graduate and be, apparently, pretty close to illiterate. She would certainly have benefited from some more rote learning, and less “innovation” in the classroom.

    I’m fine with the idea of home schooling parents teaching their kids however they wish – my eldest daughter designed her own studies and worked with essentially no supervision, only coming to us with questions. But having an education professor with limited classroom experience and only really interested in tenure, promotion, and book deals, make up some plausible sounding new technique, and then abusing millions of kids with it, is a bad idea. And doing it over and over again, is very bad policy. I’d rather see the kids going back to McGuffy’s Reader than to introduce more innovations like “whole language illiteracy” or “whole math innumeracy”.