Globalization, Changing Demographics, and Educational Challenges in East Asia: Volume 17


Table of contents

(14 chapters)
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List of contributors

Pages vii-viii
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In recent years, scholars, policy makers, and the popular press have hailed East Asian nations for their impressive educational performance. In China, dramatic expansions in education coincided with a period of dramatic growth in the youth population, setting the stage for a period of unprecedented economic growth (Fang & Wang, 2005; Hannum, Behrman, Wang, & Liu, 2008). Educational expansion in Korea during the past few decades has been remarkable, to the point that now Korea has the highest rate of college graduation in the world among young adult cohorts (Park, 2007). Korea and Japan have achieved some of the highest scores and lowest levels of inequality in comparative tests of achievement, although Japan has fallen in the rankings in recent years (OECD, 2008). The city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore commonly perform well in comparative tests, with Singapore's curriculum for math, in particular, singled out by some scholars and policy makers in the West as a model for emulation (Ginsburg, Leinwand, Anstrom, & Pollack, 2005). The effectiveness of primary and secondary education in East Asia is also reflected in the competitiveness of these students in global higher educational admissions. For example, in the United States, the most frequent destination for international postsecondary educational migration, China, Korea, and Japan alone account for 29.5% of total international student enrollment (Institute of International Education, 2009).

Japan has long occupied a unique place in East Asia and continues to do so in an era of increased global interconnectivity. Beginning with the Meiji Restoration (1868), it became the first in the region to make a decisive, sustained, and highly successful attempt to “modernize” its political, economic, and social structures, thereby largely avoiding Western domination. This particular historical trajectory built directly on social foundations laid during the prolonged closure of the Tokugawa period and largely allowed Japan free reign to craft its own version of modernity, educational and otherwise. One result of this conscious, directed process of “catch-up” was an impressive “compression” of the transition to modernity – a phenomenon that had stretched out over hundreds of years in most Western countries – to little more than a half century (Kariya, 2010); a feat unmatched by any country in the first half of the twentieth century. Following the devastation of the Second World War, Japan redoubled its efforts to “catch-up” and through a combination of high birth rates following the war, export-driven economic growth leading to an explosion of manufacturing jobs, a commitment to egalitarian growth and full employment, and the creation of an educational meritocracy that meticulously selected the country's best and brightest, the country quickly moved up the value-added chain until, by the early 1980s, the Japanese economy was globally dominant (Katz, 1998; Okita, 1992). As such, by the 1980s, Japan became unique, first, in being the only country in the region whose social conditions facilitated genuine comparison with the “advanced” countries of the West and, second, a model for “modernization” that other countries in the region could emulate, first the four Asian Tigers and then (although rarely explicitly) China in the post-Mao “Reform and Opening” period (Rappleye, 2007; Kojima, 2000).

In response to this criticism of the schools that had been building for decades, in 2002, the Japanese Ministry of Education (MOE) enacted a collection of initiatives that aimed to better equip students to face the realities of rapidly shifting social, economic, and political conditions. Ministry officials hoped that the reforms, which were labeled the “relaxed education” policies, would induce substantial changes in the way education is organized and delivered across the country. Government reports emphasized that the prevalence of problems experienced by Japanese youths necessitated reforms that could reduce the pressures experienced by their students and enhance their interest in learning.

This ethnographic study analyzes the translation and implementation of the relaxed education policies in a sample of Japanese elementary and junior high schools. The analysis provided highlights the tensions experienced by education stakeholders as they attempt to reconcile their ideals about education with more immediate concerns about what will bring students success in a competitive academic marketplace. Particular attention is devoted to the issue of equity, and how the relaxed education programs are affecting the learning opportunities and performance of different groups of students.

Textbook content and curricula are artifacts that can serve as indicators of social contexts and societal values. In this chapter, we use qualitative and quantitative content analysis to examine the content of Chinese language arts textbooks for basic education during a period of curriculum reform in China at the start of the 21st century. Given the important role of the Chinese language arts in the socialization of students into official societal values, this study seeks to provide insight into the nature of the official world view in China and addresses the societal ambivalence between global vs. national/local and traditional knowledge vs. Western/contemporary knowledge. We find that there is a slight increase in themes that reflect contemporary global concerns such as creativity and social justice. We also find that, in the face of the globalizing cultural influences of the new millennium, there is a sustained emphasis on the role of the Chinese language curriculum in the transmission of traditional Chinese cultural values and on the cultivation in Chinese students of an appreciation of their rich cultural traditions.

This chapter examines the trend in school enrollment and transitions to senior high school and to college in China for selected young cohorts since the 1990s, based on the analyses of the sample data from population censuses in 1990 and 2000 and the mini-census in 2005. We pay particular attention to educational inequality based on gender and the household registration system (hukou) in the context of educational expansion. Results show a substantial increase in educational opportunities over time at all levels. In particular, women have gained relatively more; gender inequality has decreased over time, and the gap in college enrollments was even reversed to favor women in 2005. However, rural–urban inequality was enlarged in the 1990s. The educational expansion has mainly benefited females and urban residents.

Increasing income inequality particularly since the economic crisis of 1997 has called attention to the issue of growing educational inequality in South Korea. Although much recent research has been directed at understanding the socioeconomic gap in academic achievement, few studies have empirically examined how this gap has changed over time during the past decade in South Korea. Using nationally representative data for the most recent three cohorts (1999, 2003, and 2007) of eighth-grade South Korean students from Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), this study examines trends in the relationship between socioeconomic background and student achievement. The eighth-grade TIMSS data demonstrate that the influence of socioeconomic background on student achievement has increased over time during the past decade, offering evidence of growing educational inequality in South Korea. Various factors may contribute to higher educational inequality, including the widening income gap and recent educational transformations geared toward school choice and tracking.

The rising number of marriages between a Korean husband and a foreign wife, the growing influx of foreign migrant workers, and the ongoing entrance of North Korean defectors have diversified the racial and ethnic composition of student populations in South Korea. The increased diversity in student populations presents serious challenges to Korean schools that have long been accustomed to homogeneous population and culture. The current study provides an overview of the current educational conditions of “multicultural students,” encompassing three major groups: children of international-marriage couples, children of foreign workers, and children who are North Korean defectors (or born in South Korea to parents who are North Korean defectors). In particular, current school attendance of children from multicultural families and the educational challenges they face in school and at home are described. Then, this study introduces current policies and programs enacted by various agencies to deal with the diverse needs of those multicultural students and also to increase awareness among citizens of multicultural issues. Finally, this chapter closes by suggesting directions for further policies and efforts to promote multiculturalism in Korean education.

Immigrant children's educational assimilation has been a concern to policymakers in the former British colony of Hong Kong, which has received continuous immigration from Mainland China. This chapter examines the academic progress of Mainland Chinese immigrant students in Hong Kong's junior secondary schools from Form 1 (7th grade) to Form 3 (9th grade). Our database is the Medium of Instruction Longitudinal Survey (MOILS) that tracks a cohort of junior secondary students in 1999–2000 from a representative sample of all Hong Kong secondary schools. We find that Mainland students start out in Form 1 at a higher level of achievement than do native Hong Kong students in all academic subjects except the English language. They attain greater subsequent achievement gains than do native students in most subjects. Even though they do not catch up with native students in the English language, they narrow the nativity gap over time. Mainland students’ high performance cannot be explained by their low socioeconomic backgrounds, or the poor- and low-achieving schools they attend. School type and age moderate the nativity-achievement relationship. Schools with low-ability students are more effective than are schools with higher-ability students in promoting Mainland students’ achievement. Older Mainland students show greater academic progress than do younger students regardless of nativity. The implications of these Hong Kong results for the United States and international studies on immigrant children's academic assimilation are discussed.

This chapter discusses the social mobility and the political consequences of three education events in Hong Kong: the extension of free and compulsory schooling in 1978, the construction of universities after the Tiananmen repression amid popular unrest, and the creation of two-year degree programs after Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region. The chapter shows the repercussions of these events for civil society organizations and political parties. The chapter first reviews the historical context for state-society relations created by the current Special Administrative Region and the former British Crown Colony. It presents two alternative perspectives on the impact of higher education for civic development and social mobilization, perspectives rooted in neo-functionalist and in neo-Weberian sociologies of education. Next, the chapter discusses the actors and agents of political change in Hong Kong. Inferences are drawn about the social integration of new immigrants from Mainland China, as well as the opportunities for women and for lower-income students, based on analysis of 35 years of Hong Kong Census data (1971–2006). The chapter concludes by raising questions about the future ability of governments and parties to define the postsecondary policy agenda, an agenda that now threatens to escape from government control and become a flash-point of popular mobilization.

Korean educational migrant (kirogi) families have received widespread popular attention due to their ironic form of family that sacrifices the togetherness of a family. Recent trends suggest that this practice is spreading to the less affluent classes and that many such families are heading to ‘new’ destinations, including Singapore. This study examines the transnational schooling and life experiences of Korean transnational educational families in Singapore. It addresses the questions, why did these families choose Singapore? Why did transnational schooling, which parents almost unanimously said that they had organised for the betterment of their children's future, lead to some families getting stuck in the destination country?

Fieldwork in Singapore and Korea was conducted between April 2006 and September 2007. In-depth interviews with both mothers and fathers who have at least one child attending public, private or international schools in Singapore, at the primary or secondary level, were conducted with 18 families. The analysis was conducted using a grounded theory approach and NVivo 7/8.

Although the Korean state's emphasis on international competitiveness and parental aspirations for their children's future upward social mobility were common motivators, Koreans in Singapore were also attracted by the relatively low cost, English–Chinese bilingualism and other ‘family-friendly’ features in Singapore. However, kirogi children had highly contrasting schooling experiences and they met with mixed success in gaining what they expected. Furthermore, many children in public schools faced demotion and other difficulties in their new school environments. Some less affluent families found themselves facing dilemmas of cross-border schooling. This study shows that transnational schooling does not necessarily operate equally favourably for participants from diverse class backgrounds. It also demonstrates that the societal contexts of reception in both the countries of origin and of destination, including the buffering institutions and reference groups and peer culture, are important factors shaping the schooling and life experiences of educational migrant children and in reconfiguring their trajectories.

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Research in the Sociology of Education
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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