One way of achieving this is to ensure quality and related teaching and learning, which is among the priority areas in regional plus international debates on education for the future and in the post-2015 development plan.
In the Asia-Pacific region, there is a growing concern that training and learning tends to focus on areas that are assessed in learning achievement assessments. At the same time, there is little knowledge on how and whether students are actually learning beyond measurable test scores. In some countries, high-stake examinations have also been subject to increasing criticism as one of the main reasons for that widespread practice of teaching mainly meant for test preparation. In some other countries, teaching still heavily relies on traditional approaches such as lecturing, rote learning and repetition, rather than fostering other types of skills and competencies needed to prepare young people to live and function, often referred to as ‘non-cognitive’ skills or ‘transversal’ competencies, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal and communication skills.
These lead to the question of what pedagogical approaches have to enhance the quality and relevance training and learning for the future in the region. In this particular context, UNESCO Bangkok has coordinated with partners in the region to conduct a research project on pedagogical techniques for the future. The study identified and critically analyzed diverse features of pedagogical techniques in Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Preliminary findings are that many classrooms in the region still rely on a conventionally used approach in teaching and learning. It really is argued that conventionally used methods like chalk and talk plus hierarchical relationship between students plus teachers are still important elements in shaping learning and its structure in lots of classrooms though there is a clear consensus that these one-way transmission models are far from adequate in delivering the new learning outcomes which are competence-based plus process-oriented.
However , some countries such as Japan and the Republic of Korea have started to embrace interactive approaches for some time in their education and learning reforms. Some activities like active spoken activities and differentiated instructions in order to cater for individual needs have become institutionalized in the current practices among some of their colleges.
Prof. Edmond Legislation Hau-fai, Associate Professor of Department of Curriculum and Instruction on the Hong Kong Institute of Education who is involved in the research project, commented that some major obstacles of adopting online pedagogical approaches in the region include the insufficient quality teacher education and the insufficient resources to support schools and teachers to experiment new pedagogical techniques. To overcome these obstacles, Governments should formulate progressive policies plus strategies aiming at transforming teaching plus learning in classrooms. Societal consciousness and support for the new pedagogical approaches are essential as well.
In Prof. Law’s views, the particular interactive models of classroom activities that stimulate reflective thinking and improve problem-solving skills should be the focus associated with education reforms on pedagogical techniques in the region. These models provide students with opportunities to perform active plus higher order thinking. It is important that learners should be empowered with full capacities of being able to realize their own personal aspirations and social duties.
Other recommendations in the research project include improving teacher education and learning and professional development and providing conducive work environment for teachers along with right incentives, which coincide with the global strategies as suggested within the EFA GMR. More detailed findings of the research project will be available later in 2014.
For more information, make sure you contact Ushio Miura [u.miura(at)unesco.org] or Antony Tam [kh.tam(at)unesco.org] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit.
Written by Antony Tam [kh.tam(at)unesco.org]
• EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/14