Saturday 18 May 2013


Disciplined and Sturctured Environment and Its Influence on Creativity

Disciplined and Sturctured Environment and Its Influence on Creativity: A Documentary Comparing the Chinese and the Danish Education System

I believe in cultivating the good habit of doing homework at a young age, in the same manner as what many child development experts advocate parens to cultivate the love for reading right from the start by reading to children when they are babies.

I believe in making learning fun. However, no matter how one tries to make learning fun… one will reach a stage where it will require time, effort and determination to internalize learning, even for the smartest person. The challenge is how to guide your child to cultivate the ability to focus, to have the self-motivation and determination to learn so as to internalize learning.

Thus, I believe in cultivating discipline. And discipline should be cultivated at a young age. This means providing a structure to your child’s daily routine.

I have been warned by some people that my emphasis with J on learning and doing homework at a young age will kill a child’s creativity, love for learning and childhood. It does fill me with insecurity from time-to-time whether I am doing the right thing.

Deep down, my hypothesis is that I don’t think so it will kill a child’s creativity. One will need to be structured in order to create. One will need to have sufficient knowledge in order to create. There could be exceptions/outliers which fall out of the bell curve.

My belieft is based on the following:

1. God

I look at God. The Bible mentions that God is a God of order. The amazingly beautiful and creative universe that God created is one that is filled with logic and very systematic. God completed His creation in 7 days, each step building on top of the previous step. This shows an orderly method and process in creativity.

2. Chinese Educational System

The Asian way of rote-learning has long been critisized. I pesonally do not think that rote learning should be the way to go, but some parts of it are unavoidable. Learning language for example, there are aspects of the Chinese grammar, Danish grammar, English grammar and French grammar (and many other languages which I am not familiar with too) which cannot be explained, but simply to learn by heart. And of course, it is not sufficient just to learn it by heart, one needs to practice it.

However, the Asian way of learning is more than rote-learning. The Chinese and Singaporean curriculum are much larger than the Danish curriculum. In order words, the average Chinese and Singaporean student come out having learned a lot more than the Danish student after 9 years of education. However, in Denmark, the emphasis is on mastering the process of learning, not the "amount" of learning, which Singapore is working on improving.

Which is showing a better results?

First, we looked at the PISA results which showed the Asian students having higher scores.

Next, we ook at a comparison of the education system of China and Denmark, which was recently done by the Danish Broadcasting, and the documentary shown on 6th May 2013, consisting of a series of 4 documentaries.

The team followed and compared a typical and average class of Secondary 4 (14 years old) Chinese students from China and a class of Secondary 4 (15-16 years old) Danish students in Denmark in 4 areas: Reading, Mathematics, Team Work & Creativity and English.

The Chinese and Danish students were given the same test papers. The class size of the Chinese is 54 students. The Danish class is about the same size (combining two classes of 25+/- students each).

The Results

The Chinese did better especially in Mathematics by a strong margin and interestingly also markedly better in Team Work & Creativity, which was traditionally viewed as a strength of Danes. The Danes did better in English by a strong margin.

In the measure for creativity, the only student singled out with the ability to think out-of-the-box is surprisingly a Chinese student, who is rated as in a special class of creativity. This is interesting, considering that he is a product of a highly structured and disciplined schooling system.

A special class of creativity that show thinking out-of-the-box drawn by a Chinese student assessed by a Danish Expert

The Chinese schooling system is characterized by the following:

- Highly disciplined
- Highly structured
- Highly organized curriculum
- Long schooling hours (12 hours a day)
- Lots of homework

The Chinese students exhibited the following traits as can be seen from the video:

- Highly ambitious
- Highly self-motivated
- Highly respectful to teachers and authority.

The Danish schooling system is characterized by the following:

- Highly child-led: i.e. the child decide what he/she wants to do (you see many of the boys choosing to play with their computers during class instead and the teacher actually allowed it!)
- Laizze-faire
- High degree of freedom
- Short schooling hours (6 hours a day)
- Little homework

The Danish students exhibited the following traits as can be seen from the video:

- Lack of drive and ambition
- Lack of self-motivation
- Lack of respectful to teachers and authority (or may I say rude, coming and going as they wish, not following the class and disruptive)

Although it is a small sample size, it may not be conclusive, but it does provide some data.

From this research, I am convinced that discipline, homework and structure will not in anyway hinder creativity. I am thus less insecure in my beliefs now.

Videos of the Danish Documentaries

Video on Team Work and Creativity:

Here is the video of the documentary, but unfortunately, it is in Danish. However, you can get a feel of the culture of the Chinese class and the Danish class, and see the difference in the behaviour of the students in both classes.

For the Singaporean audience, please note that this video is RA rated because of the following:

In the test for creativity, the students were shown two circles and asked to use their imagination to create based on the two circles. The Danish students did not do as well in creativity measurement, but where the Danish students excel in creativity, they were mainly expressed towards sex. This is shown in the video (Could this be the result of exposure to pronography in the Danish society at a young age?)

Video on Reading:

Video on Mathemtics:

Video on English:

My After-Thought

What I take away from this documentary is that discipline, structure and homework is a vital part for learning, for learning to be effective; and that I don't have to worry so much that it will kill the child's creativity. For the more knowledgeable one is, the more one can draw from one’s wealth of knowledge and experience, when creating and innovating.

Will I follow the Chinese way?

I will cherry-pick, but not following fully the Chinese way. It produces results – excellent results in fact, but it takes away a child’s childhood. There is no time for play. It is a high price to pay. This could perhaps explain why China has such a high rate of suicide. Success does come with a price, and may not always bring your true joy. It is important to lead a balance life. I think China realizes that and is working towards it.

I will try to incorporate the Danish's emphasis on giving a child a fun and relaxed childhood with the Asian way of incorporating discipline, structure and a culture of doing homework in bringing up a child (or should I say the traditional way, since many modern Asian moms are moving away from this so-called "Asian" approach).

Thus, I will continue to pursue our School Time with homework with J.


The important thing is to have a good balance, which is a major challenge.

And I need wisdom to know how to strike a good balance.

Not just any wisdom. I need God's wisdom. For at times, I cannot see my own blindspots, swinging towards two extremes - being too lenient and too strict. It comes with getting down on my knees and pray. In our journey of parenting, we do not walk alone. God walks along with us, if only we let Him. If only I let Him! But in a time-pressed modern life, I often have neglected this area of my life. So I should remember to get down on my knees and pray for wisdom in our parenting journey.

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