I have just returned from a fascinating ‘digital education tour’ of Asia – Singapore, Korea and Vietnam to be precise, and would like to take this opportunity to share with you some insights on the different attitudes towards education I encountered.
I spoke to various stakeholders within schools, as well as educators, educational publishers, parents and students, and have come away with a few interesting thoughts. First and foremost: that Asian countries understand better than any other the importance of education and the benefits of investing in education.
Here’s a brief summary of what I discovered in each of the countries:
Singapore invests the most money per student in digital education – the government understands the importance and has the resources to invest in educational technology and digital content, and digital learning is widely used, by individual students mostly at home. Regrettably, despite a well-meaning and investment-ready government, the digital tools and learning platforms being used are not particularly advanced, and I would go so far as to say… are a little behind.
The Korean government also greatly understands the importance of digital education, and has gone a step further to declare a ‘book-less’ school by 2015. But, it seems they may have been a little too ambitious as it soon became clear there is no way to meet this deadline without much preparation. And so, Korea is currently investing in establishing an infrastructure, training teachers and purchasing devices including authoring tools and learning platforms as well as digital content and other educational technology. Things are moving slower than originally expected, but I do believe that ‘slowly but surely’ they will get there. . I also believe that by 2018 Korea will be a leader of digital education throughout Asia.
What I found even more fascinating in Korea was the parents’ involvement. Parents too are willing to invest in their children education and do so, especially in afterschool English and Math lessons.
Vietnam was probably (on a personal level) the most admirable. The Vietnamese government has far less resources to invest in education in general, and certainly lack the resources to promote digital education in the same manner as Singapore and Korea – they’re just not there yet… Parents on the other hand do. Vietnamese parents understand the importance of getting a solid education, and see English as a central part of that. This must be the reason they are willing to invest roughly $50 a month, a relatively high percentage of their monthly income, towards after-school interactive English classes for children as young as 5.
All in all, it was a fascinating trip; and as I said earlier, I have no doubt that Asia is a thought leader in shaping education in the digital age, with a real focus on using technology to improve the learning experience and make it much more effective and fun, both in class and at home.