Actually, there is no harm in harmony!

Posted by France on Apr 20, 2016

In fact, my mind has not changed that much from Task 3, Khan Academy was just a reaction or a supplement to the teaching methods employed in the US; Khan saw an opportunity or perhaps a gap that needs closing and I cannot blame him for trying. Both Pershan and Blair, however, identify the need for a harmonised method of teaching/curriculum where improvement is welcome and not ostracised. But, my question is, can the U.S. and the U.K. be compared with countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Netherland, Czech Republic or Singapore? These countries achieved better performance than the U.S. and U.K. despite the States spent a comparatively higher GDP towards schooling to any other countries in the world (CBS News, 2010). Certainly, taking into account of what I’ve read and learnt so far, my approach to teaching is currently being positively challenged. As for Japan; could culture be a reason for the country’s success at Mathematics?

With hindsight, Khan Academy seems to be a product of the inactivity or discernment of those responsible for making good decisions. The blended learning idea, actually, isn’t bad since it’s intended to promote independent learning and allow teachers to focus their attention on those in need. Hence, a harmonised method of teaching/curriculum would be beneficial which would expose students with different abilities to meet autonomy in learning. After all, what Pershan suggested was:
1. To explicitly connect new stuff to old stuff,
2. Make separate videos for the statement of the problem and their solutions.
3. Present multiple solutions in videos or present multiple videos and solutions, while Blair (2007) proposed a harmonisation of methods with contents, with regards to Inquiry-based learning. In fact, “if someone is not against us, he/she is for us”. According to SRI Education (2014), “Research on the Use of Khan Academy in Schools” involving 9 sites, 20 schools and more than 70 teachers who agree that Khan Academy can be used as a supplement in classroom.

Is it wise to compare the teaching method of Japan with the U.S. or U.K.? If yes, perhaps the following needs some considerations; the first thing that I observed from the video was the classroom layout. In Japan, the set-up encourages collaboration and team work. Although the task given to them wasn’t taught before, they share the problem together. On the other hand, although the students were taught on the topic, they seemed disconnected with each other, the desks were positioned in such a way that it discouraged collaboration and team work. Could the sustained success of Japan, as well as the abovementioned countries, lie in their willingness to work together? Could metacognitive skills be developed that way as alluded by Blair?

The irony is that, developing independent learning could depend on collaborative work which Japan, Singapore and the other countries managed to do successfully. According to the article by CBN News (2010), how do they do so much with so little, Japan has lower spending on schooling, but, actually the entire system is set up to emphasise the development of vocational teachers.


  1. jat32
    23 April 2016

    Interesting what you say about collaborative working. Would be interesting to know how the Japanese exams work. Do they measure individual achievement as in the UK/US or do they (in part, maybe) reward group work and collaboration?

    • fbontemps
      25 April 2016

      I’m now interested to know how the Japanese exams work too, but after reading the article on Finland, I was quite surprised that mandatory exams are at the age of 17-19 and I think I’ve heard Marjan spoke about similar system in Netherland. That gives opportunities for late developers and those who have bad start to catch up as well. For me that’s revolutionary!!!

  2. Fintan Donnellan
    24 April 2016

    You mentioned culture as a possibility for Japan’s success in math education. Other countries with a similar culture like Korea and Singapore share a similar culture and also have the same success. But what about European countries like Finland and the Czech Rep? They’re Western countires like Britain and America, yet they’re more successful. Of course, these countries aren’t like for like and have their own cultural differences, but I don’t think that’s completely relevant. Let’s learn from these countries, take the best bits from their systems, improve on them when possible and phase these changes in from the lower age groups upwards.

    • fbontemps
      24 April 2016

      Thanks Fintan, you have some great points there, that’s why I gave my think piece that title, the way forward is to incorporate those good things that we perceive as good and try to apply them. However, we are only on Task 4 and I’m a sure that there will be other ideas that will come up. Still referring to what you said with regards to Finland, I was completely amazed when I read the article by Adam Lopez (The Guardian), “How the Finnish schools shine” though we are talking about a European Country, this country use virtually a totally different approach towards teachers employability, methods of teaching, methods of assessments, schools autonomy, etc. and where politicians leave the teaching staff making their own curriculum. In 2015, Finland came 6th in the Global Schools Ranking behind Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Could culture be a factor though? Reiterating what Willingham stated that “our brain does have the necessary equipment” some will take more time than the others, but it can be done. The system that Finland, Singapore and perhaps those successful countries tend to use at Schools i.e. that “no one is left behind” is producing good fruits.

  3. pepsmccrea
    28 April 2016

    Some really interesting questions posed here, and connections made with previous tasks. I suppose the missing ingredient here for me is: where does all this leave you in your teaching. Will it change what you do in the future?

    • fbontemps
      28 April 2016

      That’s true Peps, I’ll pay more attention to this one in the next think piece. Many thanks!

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