UCJC Education Breakfast: Asian countries are seeing their performance increase but their levels of student well-being decrease

The second UCJC Education Breakfast, Success Factors in Asian Education Systems, was held this morning at the UCJC Almagro building in Madrid. Ismael Sanz, General Director of Innovation for the Madrid Regional Government, compared the results for the latest PISA report from countries such as Singapore, Japan, China, Korea or Vietnam. These conferences, organised by the University Camilo José Cela, are sponsored by the Magisterio newspaper.

Asian countries are ranked in the top spots in the PISA report. However, ‘these countries are not very influential’, said Sanz. He started by dispelling three commonly held myths on decisive factors in academic performance. The first is per capita income, since these countries have results well above what would be expected from their income. The second myth to be dispelled is that quality and equality are mutually exclusive, and the third is that the greater the investment per student, the better. Asian countries are proving that these factors are not decisive in academic excellence, since they have very high levels of the former at centres that boast equality.

On the other hand, the salary of teaching staff does influence students results. The quality of teachers is more important, for example, than the number of students per classroom, which is less decisive. Sanz focussed on the importance of collaborative learning between teachers, for them to be able to sit in on colleagues’ classes to further their ongoing training. He advocated for less class time and more collaborative learning. Another influential factor was the dedication of the students themselves. In Asia, academic performance is due in part great perseverance and effort put in by students.

However, despite the success in education in these countries, which is on the rise, there is one indicator that does not gel with these levels of excellence. The well-being of Asian school children, also measured by PISA, is below that of the majority of OECD countries, one metric where Spain does score well.

The conference was opened by Nieves Segovia, President of SEK Education Group, and Francisco López Rupérez, Director of the UCJC Chair on Education Policy, who spoke on the nature of education and the development of non-cognitive skills, such as motivation, work ethic and responsibility, as key factors driving academic results.