This chapter discusses cultural differences in educational practices of the East and West. In East Asian countries, where Confucian philosophy has influenced its educational practices, values of respect for authority, harmony among a group, and diligence in the face of adversity are its overarching principles. Western countries emphasize Socratic principles which value open dialogue and advocate critical thinking among students. This chapter then discusses educational history and practices in Japan as a case study of education in the East. In this age of globalization, educational systems in one culture cannot exist in isolation, and we often have to look at ways to accommodate students from diverse cultural backgrounds in an educational program. Finally, the chapter examines the difficulties students from a Confucian culture will encounter when they enter educational systems in the West to pursue advanced degrees, and suggests the ways for educators to be inclusive of students of differing cultural backgrounds.
Education In The East Vs. The West
Many academic teachers in multicultural classrooms the author has talked to in the past mention that students from different cultures exhibit differing patterns in their learning styles and in their interactions with their teachers and peers. However, it is often not discussed why such differences exist. As culture consists of “ideas, values, and assumptions about life that are widely shared among people and that guide specific behaviours” (Brislin, 1993), we have to look at those underlying values which guide the specific behaviours of students.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Collectivism: The tendency of people to belong to groups or collectives and to look after each other in exchange for loyalty.
Low-Context Culture: It refers to societies where people tend to have many connections, but of shorter duration or for some specific reason. In these societies, cultural behaviour and beliefs may need to be spelled out explicitly so that those coming into the cultural environment know how to behave.
Online Learning: The term similar to e-learning—online education. Educational methods utilize the Internet on which students and teachers interact for given educational objectives.
Uncertainty Avoidance: It refers to the extent to which people feel threatened by ambiguous situations, and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these.
Individualism: The tendency of people to only look after themselves and their immediate family.
Femininity: It refers to the extent to which values such as caring for others and quality of life are valued in the society.
Masculinity: It refers to the extent to which values such as success, money, and materialistic acquisition are valued in the society.
Power Distance: It refers to the extent to which less powerful members of institutions and organizations accept that power is distributed unequally.
Confucian Philosophy or Confucianism: An ancient Chinese ethical and philosophical system originally developed from the teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius. Confucianism is a complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasireligious thought that has had tremendous influence on the culture and history of East Asia.
Socratic Model: The instructional method based on Socrates’s teaching. It stresses critical thinking and utilizes repeated questioning to expose what one is ignorant of, and thus to arrive at truth. Socrates believed that learning should lead to knowledge, not to merely true belief.
High-Context Culture: It refers to societies or groups where people have close connections over a long period of time. Many aspects of cultural behaviour are not made explicit because most members know what to do and what to think from years of interaction with each other.