It’s every parent’s wish that their son/ daughter will do well at school and achieve what is within their reach and perhaps even a little beyond.
Sending your children to an international School abroad, certainly highlights the vastly varying definitions of achievement that each nationality possesses. Each parent / nationality focusses on different aspects of education. French, American, Australian, Dutch, British and South Africans all bearing different emphasis on academics, emotional development, social development and expression of individuality. A dynamic group of nationalities provides a great environment in which kids can learn, after all, everyone knows that the environment in which children learn is of the utmost importance to overall achievement, right?
Being quintessentially Irish, my own personal approach has remained the same over the last ten years. ‘Work hard and try your best’. An approach that has always yielded fair results. They were always well placed in the class, as good, if not better than the others, particularly in Arabia where some of the Arabic students were keen to get over school as soon as possible to start running the family’s Lamborghini Franchise.
However, it seems that an international school in the Far East is very different to an international school in the Middle East. There is one factor that makes education in the Far East a different level and….. it’s…..Koreans. ‘You try being in the top five when there are six Koreans in my class’ my daughter howled. ‘And three Chinese, two Vietnamese and the about five from Hong Kong and Singapore’. The highest achievers by any standards, these eastern students are wiping the floor with their western classmates and year after year they graduate to attend the best colleges all over the world.
I couldn’t argue it was true, these eastern kids are like scholars on meth, robotic in their ambition they finish the school day and launch into an evening of one-on-one private tuition. Meanwhile, the Ciara’s and Aoife’s of the world, have trudged through their homework/Instagram, whilst munching on chocolate digestives, and the Irish response to that is, ‘don’t get crumbs on your laptop because I won’t be buying you another one’.
But what is it, what is it that makes them more driven and subsequently get better results? Pushy parents is the answer. While western mammies are busy mollycoddling their kids and sticking unworthy attempts at art on the fridge, lest the children develop a complex with regarding to their creative skills, our eastern counterparts are employing private tutors to top up their child’s school day with an additional two to three hours extra tuition.
And so the question is, to what extent do classmates (namely, Korean and Chinese students) and the learning environment really affect a students learning and subsequent results? Perhaps it’s a double edged sword. There are two obvious knock on effects of being surrounded by modern day Einstein’s day in day out.
Effect number one, the student shows signs of defeat because there are so many students at such a high level they feel they cannot compete. They become a little relaxed about their work, they scoff at pushy Asian parents and sit back on a comfortable B grade and refuse to be moved.
The flip side is that the student rises to the challenge, isn’t happy about being in set two or three for maths when before they were always in set one. Being surrounded by ambitious, bright and hungry (for success not rice) students, drives them on, makes them realise that achieving exceptional results is possible and important. They strive for better and better grades and when they start to achieve they continue and don’t stop until they have taken over Shanghai. Maybe not quite, but results are showing that it’s not money or status that are making these kids achieve, its pushy parents. The parents are instilling the importance of education and ambition in their kids from a young age and its working!
So down with the pictures on the fridge, less of the disingenuous praise for an average report and start putting pressure on our western kids.
Then again, is there a point? Will there always be a better Korean out there somewhere?