Cultural values

3rd October 2008 at 01:00

I want to offer clarification about my paper on the role of cultural values in learning, as reported in your article "Cultural values, not teaching, are the key to learning, stupid" (TES, September 26).

I did not mean that high-quality teaching is not crucial for maximising learning, but that particular forms of pedagogy do not explain why children in certain Eastern countries perform so well. In such nations, consistently high scores in large surveys over the past 40 years reflect higher levels of academic motivation and engagement that stem largely from cultural traditions. I also said that globalising influences might threaten these over time, as they have done in some Eastern European countries.

My main point was that if the UK wants to rival these high-performing countries, then addressing modest learner engagement and effort, rather than constantly introducing reforms, will be crucial. But, given our own cultural traditions, this is more easily said than done.

Professor Julian Elliott, University of Durham.

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