How Tiger Mom change the perception about Asian exam oriented education

tiger mom, exam oriented, education

Cover Image via: CNN

“Tiger Mom” Education = Eastern Education Style?

Since the “tiger mom” Amy Chua published the book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom in 2011, “tiger mom” education has been thought to be synonymous with Eastern education. Meanwhile, the negative comments against Eastern education have never been less. In general, we (including the East and West) has the stereotypical depictions of Eastern education as scolding and spanking, setting rules and behavioral constraint, and exam-oriented; above all, result being the most important part of the education!

Generally speaking, children who receive Eastern education excel at academics, but they have no creativity, no civic awareness, more self-centered and so on. In the book of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, Amy Chua said that she used “cursing, threatening, bribery, and seducing” as part of her methods of educating her children. Are these really the way Eastern education is? In fact, are there any traditions that encourage “cursing, threatening, bribery, and seducing” as a way of education?


Examination is not the real problem

Many claim that exam-oriented education has caused let children to suffer, depriving them of their creativity development. From the imperial examination in Sui Dynasty, the Eight-Legged Essays in Qing Dynasty,  to the current exam-oriented education, Chinese society has been placing great emphasis on “studying for exam” for over 1400 years. There wouldn’t have been any normal Chinese people left if exam is awfully harming children. China has gone through a glorious era for the past 1400 years, and has produced many successful individuals. So, should exam to be blamed for diminishing the purpose of education?

During ancient China, females and illiterate people were not allowed to take the imperial exam. People during that time were mostly working in farming, fishing, or business, only elites are entitled to schools. Whoever qualified to sit for the imperial exams during the Ming and Qing Dynasties are in fact, almost equivalent to the ranking of government official today.

Does that mean that imperial exam was not stressful enough to cause any suicidal in the ancient China? No, certainly it did happened. Such cases were considerably rarer as exams were a “privilege” to the few limited elites.  A farmer or a businessman could never have been burdened by imperial exam. Suicidal over exam could never happened with the commoners. However, nowadays, with the entitlement to education, every child faces the pressure of school admission and ranking from very young.

While the ancient  imperial exam required students to be knowledgeable, to think critically, and to be able to write good essays, today, modern exams are all about facts ― all you needto do is to memorize “right answers”. The ancient imperial exams produced talents; while modern exams produce students who know nothing except getting good results. (Remember the news of a 40 year-old Chinese PhD graduate end up jobless in United States and was sent back to China, back in 2015?)

Examination itself is not a problem. What becomes a problem is to take exam as the center of life, making exam result as the criteria of success benchmark and neglecting

children’s mental development and learning attitude.

Learning how to cope with failure is as important as learning to succeed

China has experienced a great loss for nearly a century. The decline of the Republic of China has caused Chinese and even Overseas Chinese losing confidence towards traditional Chinese culture. Even so, Chinese culture has its advantages; it emphasizes great love, social values, and humanity values. These are the fundamental values of Confucian culture. Moreover, traditional Chinese culture pays more attention on family values than Western culture.

Yet, colonization and exploitation of China by Western European that happened centuries ago have made modern China and Chinese become unbearable towards failure. In my opinion, Western education has played a good role in terms of how parents cope with their children’s failure. Should we use exams to demand children to get good results, to restrict them, or even to suppress their growth? Or should we utilize it to educate our children to strive for the best and to cope with failure? Should we tell children “You have to succeed” or ”You are doomed if you failed your exam”? Or should we tell them “Come on, let’s see how we can do it better next time” or even “It doesn’t matter if you failed your exam, we can make achievement in areas other than academic”?

Lulu Chua-Ruberfeld, the daughter of Amy Chua, reflected back on her upbringing and said ”I think I had a tough childhood, yet a happy one. I was playing up to six hours of violin a day and it was too much. However, when I got tired and rebelled, my mom could easily have given up on me. When I did poorly in a test, she did not let me lie in bed and wallow. She would instead tell me I need to get up and study to get a better mark so I would feel better. She pushed me when I needed it.” It turns out that the daughter of “tiger mom” would sometimes get poor results and rebel―just like any other children do. The reason of the success of “tiger mom” is not her aggressiveness as a tiger, it is her perseverance of not giving up on her children whenever they perform poorly.

Translated from: 应试教育真的伤害了是孩子?还是父母的态度伤害了孩子?

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