As the economic centre of the world is shifting from West to East, so is the centre of high performance in school education. Four of the world’s five highest-performing systems are Hong Kong, Korea, Shanghai and Singapore, according to OECD’s 2009 PISA assessments of students. In Shanghai, the average 15-year old mathematics student is performing at a level two to three years above his or her counterpart in Australia, the USA and Europe.
In recent years, Australia and many OECD countries have substantially increased education expenditure, often with disappointing results. Grattan Institute’s new report, Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia, shows how studying the strengths of these systems can improve our children’s lives.
Success in these systems is not determined by culture – by Confucianism, rote learning, Tiger Mothers and so on – nor is it always the result of spending more money. Instead, these systems focus on the things that are known to matter in the classroom, including a relentless, practical focus on learning and the creation of a strong culture of teacher education, collaboration, mentoring, feedback and sustained professional development.