‘East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet’, Rudyard Kipling wrote, and despite world getting more and more homogenous, West and East are still different. Due to difference in history, prevailing religions, political regimes and so on, and these differences are clearly seen in Western and Eastern approaches to education.
1. Creativity vs. Effort
Western educational systems put stress on the ideas of creativity. Of course, the system being a system means that many things are unified, but still, it usually does its best to promote individual approaches to different students.
Eastern education is all about effort and struggle – no thing is hard if you practice enough. Therefore, children are given enormous amounts of homework and are taught to work hard – that’s why Asian students are often much more productive than their peers when they get into more relaxed Western educational institutions.
2. Participation vs. Reception
Western education moves further and further along the road of turning students into full-fledged participants of education process. They are encouraged to ask questions and dispute with their teachers, to think critically. In the East, students are the recipients – they submit to the authority of teachers and the process itself is far less interactive.
3. Special needs: Inclusion vs. Separation
Western education makes great efforts to include children with special needs into the general mass of students – they tend to be taught together with normal children or at least it is considered to be their fundamental right.
In the East we generally see a diametrically opposite approach – children with disability are almost always taught separately from the rest, and it isn’t considered to be discriminatory, just logical.
4. Individualism vs. Conformity
Rugged individualism has always been one of the most characteristic features of Western societies and it is only natural that Western educational systems reflect it. Individuals are considered to be much more important than groups; which means that Western students are far less afraid of vocalizing their opinions and making mistakes – these are considered to be the natural part of personality development.
Eastern societies tend to be much more collectivistic, and collectivism breeds conformity – in order to succeed in a group, an individual has to conform to its values, principles and opinions while avoiding criticism and saving face whenever possible.
5. Fulfillment vs. Result
The popular idea in current Western education is that students have to find fulfillment in their studies – that is, study what they like and how they like in order to find their place in life. Eastern education, however, aims at making people more productive – both for themselves and the society in general. Children are being sent to cram schools from early age, spend long hours studying in order not to lose out to their peers – in other words, education doesn’t aim at being fun.
When all is said and done, we should remember that the word ‘versus’ here is for decoration only. These are not opposing views; these are just different approaches to one and the same thing.