A collection of essays in this volume exemplifies the breath of challenges Asian education systems diversely struggle. From India to Thailand, from Singapore to Pakistan, these systems are inspired to attain educational excellence. The concept of excellence is in and of itself debatable. While some equate it in the form of higher international standing in league tables, others yearn for greater equitable and inclusive systems. Across contexts, there is call for education for peace.
In the case of Singapore, the country has, within fifty years, transformed itself from a backwater fisherman village to be one of the most outperforming education systems in the world. Amongst all its secret ingredient, Singapore’s political commitment to meritocracy is the driving force for excellence. Replicating it? Not so fast.
Thailand, its neighboring country, often looks westward and eastward for successful best practices. While the country has eyed for Thailand 4.0, a complete economic and social transformation toward digital economy, reality has it that the system is still grapple with getting the basic literacy and numeracy skills right, confronted with the old tradition of patronage system and limited with commitment and resources to make real change possible.
The pressure on Indian educational system is paramount and it is caught in a whirlwind pendulum.With 1.32 billion populations, more than 360 million of them are illiterate. In light of this, schools are compelled to be learning organizations that lead changes for educational quality– to help Indian economy prosper.While changes have not happened fast enough for Indian schools to leap economic benefits, they are also tasked with even more pressing issue like gender equity and social cohesion. The widening gap between those who haves and have nots in India is – alarming.
The issue of multiculturalism education has caught much of Asian educators’ imagination, especially when Jihadi terrorists exploit on poverty, deprivation and anti-westernization sentiment to encourage hatred and animosity to divide people and nations. It is important that education must instead preach tolerance and promote peace.
No matter how excellence is perceived and interpreted by Asian educators, education – in all its might – is viewed as the way forward to achieve economic growth and promote social harmony. The struggles for excellence, authors in this volume argue, are complex and constraining. But not committed to it is not an option – either.