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Category archive: Asia

Tuesday July 15 2008

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan batsman and wicketkeeper, writes about why Sri Lanka has produced so many highly effective, yet highly individual cricketers:

Over the last few years Sri Lanka have had quite a few self-styled unorthodox cricketers coming through - Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Romesh Kaluwitharana, and now Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis. It’s wonderful to have this newness, this difference, because it opens up everyone’s eyes, including fellow cricketers who might get something new from these guys to improve their game overall.

One of the reasons for so many unorthodox cricketers coming through in Sri Lanka could be, as in other parts of the subcontinent, the way kids learn to play cricket: they learn by watching, and then start playing in backyards or streets or wherever they can find space. It’s possibly there that they develop these individual styles. Unless they have access to formal coaching, they tend to develop along their own lines, especially if they come late to proper leather-ball cricket.

He talks in particular about Muralitharan, who is about to become the most prolific taker of wickets in the entire history of test match cricket, albeit with a highly unusual (some say illegal) action:

In some instances, if they are discovered at a very young age, there arises a problem when coaches start trying to make them conform to orthodoxy. All the above mentioned cricketers, with the exception of Murali, were discovered quite late. Murali had the luxury of having an open-minded, liberal, forward-thinking coach in Sunil Fernando, who let him develop along his own lines and just tidied up what needed to be tidied up without changing what made him unique.

All of this reminds me very much of the difference between how classical and rock musicians get their start.  The classicals get coached and coached, the rocksters just copy and play, in the musical equivalent of the backyard or the street, i.e. the upstairs bedroom or the garage.

Rock and rollers thrive on novelty, on being different from the pack, and this kind of start ensures that they are indeed highly individual.  But cricketers also do well by being different.  Much of Murali’s success has happened because batsmen have never faced anything quite like him before, and can’t practice against anyone else who is similar, because no-one is.

Saturday May 31 2008

No question about it, this lady is my favourite edublogger just now.  Take this latest posting, for instance.  I have no idea whether I agree with it or not.  But I am very sure that I find the general subject matter most fascinating.

I smile uncomfortably. I hold up my hand as if to say ‘enough’: (it’s ok Hero, you don’t have to keep bowing). And so I bow to him, I suppose to show that there isn’t any need for him to continue bowing.

The boy hesitates. He is confused. He frowns. He doesn’t understand. And as Hero is trying to process my reaction, it dawns on me that I am behaving in the very way that ensures the destruction of our children in England: teachers queuing up for lunch, people listening to both the side of the child and the teacher when a child is in trouble, children being treated as equals with their teachers.

This Japanese boy knows how to show deference to his elders, and in his society this is expected and encouraged. Now he is faced with an elder who rejects this deference. It leaves him confused, as it does to all of our young people in England.

Pecking orders have always fascinated me, which for many decades expressed itself in fascination with, in the broadest sense, politics.  To whom do we properly owe allegiance or at least deference?  Who is claiming allegiance or expecting deference who is not truly owed it?  And how are these various ideas expressed in the minutiae of human behaviour?

And, setting aside the rights and wrongs of it, why do people (children in particular) seem spontaneously to defer to some people (teachers in particular), but not to others?

Tuesday April 29 2008

This by Matthew Ladner, is interesting:

South Korea in fact engages in remarkably different education practices when compared to the United States. South Korea spends less per pupil, but pays their teachers more. This feat is accomplished through larger average class sizes - which are approximately twice as large in South Korea than in the United States.

Korean teachers however are paid much better and enjoy greater professional prestige than their American counterparts. The McKinsey report cites data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showing that a 15 year veteran teachers in South Korea is paid an average of 2.5 times GDP per capita. In America, the average is a little more than 1 times GDP per capita.

Higher pay and prestige allows South Korea to recruit teachers from those in the top 5 percent of their university graduating classes. Korean schools have many applicants for every teaching job. Meanwhile, in the United States, the low upper cap on the pay fails to attract many of our brightest and most ambitious students. American schools on average recruit teachers from the bottom third of American university graduates.

Additionally, American schools once had a near monopoly on employing bright university educated women. That monopoly has since retired to the dustbin of history and will not be returning. Our national preoccupation with lowering average class size has also impacted lowered the average effectiveness of the teachers we’ve hired. The average class size in American schools has plummeted since the baby-boomers went through the system, but our test scores have remained flat.

Americans have been obsessed with lowering class size, while Korea has emphasized getting the brightest students possible into the classroom while thinking nothing of packing 40 or more children in a classroom. Who made the right choice?

My only worry with this kind of thing is the assumption that test scores necessarily measure educational success.  But then again, if you measure educational quality by real world outcomes (my preferred method), South Korea scores well with that also.

That niggle aside, like I say, very interesting.  Joanne Jacobs found it first, to whom thanks.

Monday March 17 2008

Guido Fawkes has been in Vietnam, where ...

… Guido has discovered that the governing Communist Party is privatising the provision of state-funded education ...

So, they’re cleverer than Joan Bakewell then.  (See below.)

Can’t find anything about this via Google.

Sunday February 17 2008


Several hundred comments to denounce a single harmless gap-year student. Poor guy. I thank Jesus there were no blogs or internet when I was his age. This Max is no more twattish than any other British teenager, only he has the misfortune to have a father who got him a column in The Guardian.

Is nepotism out of control in our newspaper industry? I remember Victoria Coren used to write columns about her A-levels in The Daily Telegraph. Those were superb, but then she starts abusing her position of authority to get a job for her drooling old parent, the self-styled “Alan”. And I was, like, we all admire your daughter, Mr Coren, but don’t you have any talent of your own?

No need to go there to Read The Whole Thing because that is The Whole Thing.  But, if you haven’t already, go there anyway and read all the rest of the blog.

Being a libertarian I have to be relaxed about nepotism, because nepotism happens in the free market and is bound to.  People trust their own family more than random people, and so employ and promote them, having first taught them the business better than random people.  Trades and skills, and all the necessary attitudes and habits of mind needed for them, run in families, thanks to both genetics (including selective mating), and environment.  Why fight it?

Monday January 21 2008

I find this kind of thing fascinating:

SINGAPORE, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Singapore-listed education provider Raffles Education Corp (RLSE.SI: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Monday it plans to list part of its Chinese assets on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The firm said in a statement that it has appointed UBS AG (UBSN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) as an adviser for the listing. The company did not give the total value of its Chinese assets or the amount it intends to raise through the listing.

Raffles Education has a market capitalisation of about $2.2 billion.

In its biggest investment in China to date, Raffles Education bought a university campus in Langfang City, Hebei province for 2 billion yuan ($276 million) in October last year.

In November last year, the company’s chief executive, Chew Hua Seng, told Reuters that Raffles Education will continue to buy educational institutes across Asia especially in China.

The company’s stock price was down 2.9 percent by 15:58 Singapore time (0358 GMT). (Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing By Ovais Subhani)

The point is, this is business news, with share prices and company profiles attached.  Big Asian mega-education companies are going to start buying British state schools one of these decades, and the state will be glad to be rid of them.  That’s why it’ll be selling them.

Monday December 24 2007

I suppose the usual way for an Education Blog to function over Christmas would be to shut down for the holiday.  But I’m going to keep this blog going, with something here every day right throughout the Christmas season.

I am making a point.  Education used to be an industrialised process.  (For many it still is.) But for many others, it has become something that they can do for themselves, any time.  At any time of the day, at any time of their lives, and at any time of the year.  Scarce educational resources, strenuously deployed by educational professionals, are now being engulfed by an abundance of stuff you can learn about whenever and however you want.  So, just as this blog got airborne at some random date in November, when it just happened to suit me, instead of at the beginning of the “academic” year, so too, contrariwise, will it just bash on over Christmas.

But old school education is absolutely part of the territory here, so here are a few old school websites to enable you to learn ...

Christmas seems to come upon us very quickly, at a time when teachers have many other things to do to. The aim of edna‘s Christmas Page is to give many links, all tested for their active status, suitable for classroom use, from the evaluated resources in the searchable edna database.

... about ...

In Czechoslovakia, the night before Christmas is spent fasting. A child who does not touch food all day is promised that he or she will see the golden pig (reminiscent of the golden boar which Freya, the Scandinavian Queen of Heaven rides through the night skies, and of the boar’s head served at medieval English midwinter feasts).


Although the majority of people in Thailand are Buddhists, the Thai people love to take part in celebrations. Christmas is not a holiday here but the students from our school still celebrated it by singing, dancing and playing party games.

Any excuse eh?

Saturday December 22 2007

This photo is mostly being talked about as a picture of human misery.  Poor girl, being chained for as long as he lives to a dirty old goat like that!  He is forty.  She is eleven.


But there is also an educational story here.  Mothers are the most potent drivers of education, as anyone who has ever taught small children quickly learns.  Children whose mothers push or entice them towards learning are off to a flying start.  Children whose mothers are indifferent to them learning, learn far less.  The more powerful women are in a society, the more this impulse asserts itself, the most educated societies – the early adopters of mass literacy, for instance - being the ones where women have always had the most clout.  By comparison, societies where women have low status compared to men tend, educationally, to languish.

But how can you measure the “clout” wielded by women?  One rough and ready but very telling way is to ask: What is the average age of women when they get married?  And: What is the difference between the average ages of men and women at marriage?  When the average age of marrying women is quite high - middle or even late twenties, say - and near to that of the men they marry, this signifies a society of near female equality and considerable female power, notably with regard to the rearing of children.  But when the average age of marrying women – marrying girls - is a lot lower than that of the men they marry, this signifies a society of severe sexual inequality, with women wielding far less power.  Women tend to be far less well educated when they become mothers, and that female drive towards education is blunted.  Educational advance suffers, not just for girls, but for everyone.

So, this is a very educational picture, and not in a good way.

A picture of educational failure
“Where do you want to go next?”