Study, reported in the December Scientific American...


January 14, 1993

A NEW study, reported in the December Scientific American, once again concludes that Asian schools are doing a better job teaching kids than American schools. No surprise there.

But the study's conclusions about what the Asian schools are doing right challenge conventional wisdom. The article, written by Harold W. Stevenson, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, reports:

"During the past decade, it has become a truism that American students are not being adequately prepared to compete in a global economy. The latest research shows that the deficiencies become apparent as early as kindergarten and persist throughout the school years. These deficiencies have been most evident when the students are compared with their peers in East Asia. Yet contrary to popular stereotypes the high levels of achievement in Asian schools are not the result of rote learning and repeated drilling by overburdened, tense youngsters. Children are motivated to learn; teaching is innovative and interesting. Knowledge is not forced on children; instead the students are led to construct their own ways of representing this knowledge. The long school days in Asia are broken up by extensive amounts of recess. The recess in turn fosters a positive attitude toward academics."

Recess as a key to better school performance? It makes sense to anyone who knows how much energy young bodies have to burn. Alas, common sense doesn't often get far in education bureaucracies.

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