Eastern Teaching Methods Are Superior To Western

If you have two textbooks in front of you, one from the United States and one from Russia, you’ll immediately notice a big difference: the American textbook is full of pictures and colorful diagrams with short captions. The Russian textbook is just blocks of text. From a young age, the American educational system indoctrinates students to be entertained while learning, which has the effect of shortening their attention spans and limiting the amount of material they can learn.

Another big difference that was recently highlighted in the NPR article Struggle For Smarts is that hard effort is looked upon as weakness in America…

In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it’s just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle.


“We did a study many years ago with first-grade students,” he tells me. “We decided to go out and give the students an impossible math problem to work on, and then we would measure how long they worked on it before they gave up.”

The American students “worked on it less than 30 seconds on average and then they basically looked at us and said, ‘We haven’t had this,’ ” he says.

But the Japanese students worked for the entire hour on the impossible problem. “And finally we had to stop the session because the hour was up.


in the Japanese classrooms that he’s studied, teachers consciously design tasks that are slightly beyond the capabilities of the students they teach, so the students can actually experience struggling with something just outside their reach. Then, once the task is mastered, the teachers actively point out that the student was able to accomplish it through hard work and struggle.

If it’s easy, then you’re not learning the material. You can apply this to not just learning but life.

Read More: The Fastest Way To Learn A Language

19 thoughts on “Eastern Teaching Methods Are Superior To Western”

  1. If this is true then we are sorely in need of this type of education in the West…but I think it has more to do with what a culture values; in the West: (fame/wit/style/sexiness) vs. the East (hard-work/thrift/obedience/politeness) more than teaching style. When I traveled in the military I saw smarter kids than in the USA being taught algebra on a dirt floor-chalk board. So it has far more to do with individual student’s motivation than the teacher or flashy textbook. Good to see an article that focuses on this than just the amount of funding.

    1. I attended a private British school where they taught you with the discipline of Asian schools and the creativity of western schools.
      best system ever

  2. Hey Roosh, on a completely different subject, I just wanted to say thank you. A pleasant surprise to find in one’s inbox. I’ll get some good use out of it.
    Again, my thanks.

  3. Standard Western pedagogical practice recognizes multiple learning styles, so diagramming and images are commonly used to supplement plain text for visual learners. I don’t really have problem with that, as long as it doesn’t skimp on substance.
    While the self-entitlement of North American kids is a serious issue, the culturally prevalent form of perfectionism that equates effort with failure and expects instant mastery with minimal effort is truly corrosive.

  4. As a teacher, I agree in part.
    There’s definitely an emphasis on entertainment and novelty value, often at the expense of substance. However, teachers are competing for the fragmented attention spans of a digital generation that are used to receiving any and all information in byte sized chunks.
    As Boz mentioned, the more learning modalities you can appeal to in the limited time you have to teach a very crowded curriculum the better. Which is more memorable? Chunks of text or information replete with visuals and audio?
    I lived in Japan for three years teaching in their elementary and high school systems and I wouldn’t give a bucket of piss for their pedagogy. Dry, bland and instantly forgettable the day after graduation. Most of the teachers too, couldn’t teach if their lives depended on it.

  5. “Russian teaching is better than American teaching”
    America is 15x more productive in terms of economic output and richest country on the planet.
    This is the dipshit that many of you guys look up to.

  6. While I think this is definitely true to an extent, unfortunately it is used as an excuse to write horrible text books in the US for STEM subjects. I remember my $200 PDQ text book routinely skipping important steps in proofs and hand waving it as an “exercise left to the student”. This wasn’t for difficult exercises at the end of the chapter – it was for the initial introduction to the concept. I eventually used books from Britain to learn the subject and used the book only for the questions assigned by the professor. I had a similar problem when I took Linear Algebra and Monte Carlo Modelling.
    I think that this has much more to do with students not being worked hard enough by their parents and teachers than the textbooks.

  7. Made me think of my very experienced Peruvian Spanish teacher. She told me she can’t teach norteamericanos very well, because they are used to activities that don’t help a longer memory span, and learning materials based on fun and games. She said Europeans had a much better learning capacity, and were able to memorize words and grammar, discuss, give their own opinion, and be interested in the Peruvian culture. For North Americans she needed to tailor a baby-kinda-lecture for every class, and drizzle in games. She could not touch any cultural, political or religious issues of any importance, and anyway the North Americans were not able to freely talk about or analyze their own thoughts or opinions like a European. She didn’t mention Eastern Europeans, but I’m convinced they would be even better learners than the Western Europeans. (And Asians were too servile, could never admit they didn’t understand, etc, which made learning and interaction complex.)

  8. Jason, you’re mistaken in your thinking that productivity, as we measure it in terms of dollars (fiat currency I might ad) is meaningful. If we want to use such a simplistic measure of productivity, then I guess Warren Buffett is up at the top of the productivity pyramid, yet he produces nothing of value — no products or necessary services to better mankind. He simple conducts business to make money.
    If the Federal guberment’s 2012 deficit of 1.2 TRILLION is 7.3% of GDP, and we factor out true organic growth of let’s say 2.3% (and that’s being generous), do we get to factor out 5% of GDP in any so-called productivity gains simply due to the way we measure productivity in inflated dollars? And, if we did, where would the US really stand compared to, say, the BRIC countries? That’s like distance with a shrinking balloon as the ruler.
    So it is with the Western education system that places value on arbitrary achievements such as obtaining a degree. What’s a degree other than a certification by a governing entity that you’ve completed some course of study to some academic metric, i.e. grades. However, keep in mind that in our western system, grades are based on a relative, moving standard knows as “the curve” which measure a group against the norm of the population. It’s the shrinking balloon measure that allows kids who can’t focus for more than 30 seconds to give up on the problem, thereby setting the standard by which me measure academic productivity.
    You’re grading productivity “on the curve” by simply comparing productivity in dollars to productivity in euros, yen, yuan, etc. A bigger stack of money alone is no indication of a nations ability to generate things of VALUE. And a much better measure of the PRODUCTIVITY OF OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM is not something as meaningless as the numbrer of college graduates we produce, their grade point averages, or how much money a college graduate in the US makes compared to Mumbai, for example. A much better measure of our academic productivity gains is…
    And we’re dropping quickly from first place a few years ago to around 18th in the world., despite the exponential growth in our education system’s institutions and spending during the same time period.
    Here’s just one article that ties these two idea together.
    We can say we’re number one day long and pat ourselves on the back because our skewed metrics say we’re great. However, other countries such as the BRIC countries aren’t relying on measuring their success in such terms. They’re overtaking us quickly — academically and economical — and we better get our act together lest we be cast into irrelevancy.

  9. mefinks it’s not western textbooks/teaching methodology but rather “modern western” textbooks and teaching methodology.
    basically use textbooks from the Apollo days and before (it’s been downhill since)

  10. This article makes a pretty profound point. I have seen this first-hand when I was in Bosnia and got a chance to interact with military officers from different countries. The methods of teaching foreign languages in Eastern Europe puts the US to shame. The focus is on rigor, accomplishment, and practicality. In the US, the focus is on political correctness, keeping spoiled students entertained, and coddling.
    And the sad thing is that it was not always so. I have bought language textbooks and reference grammars published in the US in the early 1900s, just for fun. Stuff in those days was all about academic rigor, not bullshit.

  11. In my country we used the same teachings method like in Soviet Union. After the collapse of communism, they said: we have to change the curriculum, it’s no good anymore, we have to follow the American model, because ours is emphasis on knowing not understanding.(I don’t agree,but they said that) so the educational system has been through several reforms.The result? Schools produce lots of idiots.

    1. Western teaching methods for studying foreign language are superior then the methods used in Eastern Europe. In US most students start learning a foreign language in high school or late middle school. Here when you are 8 years old (second grade) the first foreign language is introduce, and when you are 12years old (six grade) the second is introduced. When I was in primary and middle school the method of teaching foreign language was different that nowadays, it was based on grammar. I think I read, understand and write in French and German better than a French or a German, but I’m not used to talk. I’m feeling stressed when I have to make a conversation with a German, he’ll think I’m dummy 🙂 I studied more his German literature than make conversation. Weastern teachings are based on conversation, so are better.

      1. How come that US (and the rest of “Americas”) remains sooooooooo monolingual? If there is any place in the world where they know how to learn (or teach) languages, it is Europe… and especially Eastern Europe.

  12. Read the book, “Mindset” by Carol Dworkin. In it she details the two types of mindsets children can develop while trying to learn. The first is the “fixed” mindset and the second is the “growth” mindset.
    Children who are told they HAVE a gift for learning develop a belief that their ability to learn is FIXED and learning ought to be easy. Children who are told they learn things because they work hard develop a GROWTH mindset.
    Guess which mindset we promote in the U.S. with all of our “gifted” programs?

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