Depending on where we stand on the globe, lifestyle habits and education can be influenced by several factors including language, climate, belief-systems and political priorities within any particular country. From East to West, children develop different strengths according to the local cultural preferences. Some countries encourage competitiveness, such as the USA which boasts some of the top Universities in the world, Harvard and UCLA included. Finland is also considered having one of the best educational systems in the world, but with Equality of Learning at its heart, competition is not encouraged, so there are no mandatory tests.
Each country has its own entirely different methods of teaching and yet, most manage to achieve respectable results in the league tables.
Climate is also influential as to when schools will open or close their doors: While Spain has summer breaks which extend to nearly three months, Australia runs its academic year from late January to early December to accommodate the heat of its own summer period. In China, air pollution levels mean that sometimes classes are cancelled altogether.
While France is predominately a Catholic country, it does not mix religion with education, whereas Christianity is at the heart of most schools in Ireland. Japan, however, prefers to focus on the morality and endurance of its pupils, the emphasis being on the quality of their citizens’ moral code which is central to their own educational system.
Schools across the world also have very different ideas about when children should start their academic lives. In Holland every child is expected to start school on their 4th birthday so that they are all at the same developmental level and avoid the disadvantage that some children with August birthdays experience in other countries, compared with their September peers beginning in the same year at the same time.
In Germany, children will begin their formal education at age 7 after a period in Kindergarten, whereas, in the UK children begin at 4 or 5 years old and in China, formal education begins as young as 2 years old.
How much education is best, is also a hotly debated subject around the world. China is renowned for producing world-class engineers, mathematicians and scientists and this is primarily owing to an educational system with an emphasis on learning by drill, repetition and the memorising of facts while analysis and critical thinking are not encouraged. Chinese children become used to memorising thousands of characters which make up their language and this naturally prepares them for the strict learning methods used throughout their schools. In the UK, however, critical and independent thinking is greatly encouraged which is why many entrepreneurs and creative personalities have historically emerged from around the British Isles.
In Britain, schools generally begin at 9am and finish at 3.30pm with after school clubs and homework extending throughout the rest of the afternoon.
In France, school starts at 8.30am until 4.30pm with a 2-hour lunch break often consisting of a 3-course meal. In South Korea, however, children at secondary level are at their desks between 14 and 16 hours per day which will involve formal school, dinner at home, and then private schooling and intensive revision and often extended homework late into the night. International league tables demonstrate the success of these pupils, but the difference in Eastern thinking over the expectations of their Western counterparts is vast. Many European countries favour the concept of the Individual, ie; quality of personal life and mental equilibrium for its citizens, whereas in other parts of the world, academic excellence at all costs is the means by which respect and status is demonstrated for one’s family and country as a whole.
As we can see, the diversity of learning styles from around the globe has many influences and yet most countries still manage to produce excellent results which take into account the requirements of its people, culture and geographical position.