Eastern and Western educational philosophies: Their strengths and weaknesses

Differences in culture make Eastern and Western education systems different. However, both the educational philosophies are concerned with the betterment of their students, communities and the nation as a whole. Despite the cultural differences though, the education systems of both eastern and western countries have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Eastern education instills values of self-discipline, obedience and diligence in the students. It focusses on the knowledge derived from religion, too, which helps them grow spiritually.

This education system prepares students to face life by helping them to internalise the importance of relationships through a humanistic approach. Loyalty is often observed among the students.

Eastern education is more systematic with a standardised syllabus and timetable. For example, the integration of Buddhism and Confucianism supports the enhancement and adoration of familial goodness, respect and dedication of an individual towards the parents and teachers. Familial goodness is a major factor in experiencing world peace.

Buddhist education is to attain a level of wisdom to get rid of pain and suffering.

The Buddha’s teachings help in understanding innate, perfect and ultimate wisdom, by which we understand there is no inherent difference among beings. Buddhism’s teaching consists of three major points – meditation, wisdom and discipline, and it considers the purity of the world to come from an individual’s inner purity, by which mind without discrimination binds the world in harmony with love and peace.

Confucian teaching comprises three main teachings. First, it is important to understand relations between humans as it helps to have a healthy and lovable relationship with the people. Second, it is important to have human connection with the universe in order to have love for nature and respect heavenly beings and spirits.

Third, it is important to have a connection between humans and the environment.

When we understand it, we may be more likely to take care of everything around us in our environment.

Eastern education is, however, teacher-centred, which makes students mere observers as they tend to be lazy in the class.

Eastern education is seen as “knowledge providing” by the teachers, and students act as “knowledge receivers”, being inactive in any creative group activity in the class. This situation creates a great challenge for teachers in the formal system inn increasing children’s active participation in learning. This results in students having less initiative, refusal to do any critical thinking and generating any innovative ideas.

Western education emphasises active learning through understanding, creativity and compliment giving. Active learning definitely helps students with different skills like communication skills, interpersonal skills, and mass-facing skills that are helpful in their professional careers.

By respecting the opinion of the students, students are motivated to make an effective presentation, and it also helps them to become more creative. This education system imbibes the students with a true sense of self-management, self-responsibility, problem-solving skills, and to face the world happily. A blend of Eastern and Western educational philosophies will help students many more since it values the principle of individualism.

Time and again, getting involved in class discussion and getting too friendly with the teachers may, however, degrade the students’ self-discipline since they address their teachers by the first name.

When students reach the level of maturity, a fully entertaining democratic environment in the class is appropriate.

Receiving praise on a regular basis may diminish the value of praise and discourage you from working hard. Active learning is a time-consuming process and may cause an inability to complete the syllabus in time.

Nepal is following the Eastern philosophy of education where the teachers strive for academic excellence of their students. The students lack professional skills as they are not made to share their voices or views. The teachers assume it as a class distraction when questions are raised frequently in class. Nepali education focusses on life as it emphasises more moral values. The concept of humanism is deeply rooted in Nepal’s education system.

However, there is an urgency to prepare students with career or professional skills, too.

In the context of Nepal, introducing a new education system has become crucial. The curriculum must be designed in a way that reflects both knowledge and spirituality to prepare students to face the world happily. A blend of Eastern and Western educational philosophies will help students experience the best of personal, professional and emotional life with spiritual consciousness.

Incorporating both Eastern and Western educational philosophies prepares them to face the changing world. Buddhism and Confucianism, two of the oldest Eastern philosophies, emphasised the importance of educating students to be virtuous in terms of honesty, loyalty, peace and love rather than just teaching subjects.

Similarly, Western educational philosophies instill in the students practical skills like communication skills, problem-solving skills and leadership skills through self-confidence in the learners. Integration of both educational philosophies in education should equip students to face life in the most efficient manner.

It is urgent to adopt this blend of philosophies in the context of Nepal for effective teaching and learning with positive outcomes on the part of both students and teachers. The government launched the National Policy on Early Childhood Development in 2004 that aimed to safeguard the rights of children aged 0-5 and also enhance their cognitive, social, physical, emotional and spiritual development.

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