Changes in the Education Systems of East Asian Countries Look to the West

Image by David Woo*

Success carries its own need for change

Since World War II, East Asia has had the fastest-growing economy in the world. Japan was rapidly joined by China, Singapore, South Korea, and other nations seemingly swept along by each other’s successes in the marketplace.

From the beginning of its post-war ascent, East Asia has made education a priority. Now, the face of its education is changing. While this is much less debated than the economy, it is certain to have a profound effect on East Asian rapport with the West.

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A Convergence of Disciplines: Singapore’s New ArtScience Museum

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Last week in the Bangkok Post, Ezra Kyrill Erker wrote about the stunning new ArtScience Museum in Singapore and about its three inaugural exhibitions. First of all, the lotus-shaped museum building by architect Moshe Safdie is quite beautiful and, most of all, fascinating—a part of Safdie’s Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort. The headline for Erker’s article is “A Station for the Imagination.” And, if that wasn’t enough to draw me in, the museum’s tagline is “Embark on journeys through curiosity, inspiration and expression.” As a “curiosity junkie” of sorts, I couldn’t resist a closer look. The idea of art and science as conjoined (as in the museum’s moniker), is appealing as an exemplar of the ideal of STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) that integrates arts-centered learning, a sometime-topic featured on this blog. The museum’s website describes this foundational idea:

“The Museum’s showpiece exhibition, the ArtScience Gallery, is an homage and introduction to the nascent field of ArtScience. What unites Art and Science is the instinct to observe, connect, take risks and explore new ideas and ways of understanding nature’s wisdom and experiences that shape our culture. Visitors to the ArtScience Gallery will explore these mysterious connections between the arts and the sciences through three galleries – Curiosity, Inspiration and Expression – thus undergoing their own journey of creativity.

“The Museum will also play host to marquee exhibitions curated by leading museums and collections. These visiting exhibitions will be recast through the lens of ArtScience, allowing visitors to experience the creative process and interaction of influences that gave rise to great moments, movements and inspirations in time.

“Unique to the region, the ArtScience Museum expresses Singapore’s priorities and ambition to be the exchange capital of the world, providing an internationally renowned forum for the exchange of the latest ideas and theories. The ArtScience Museum is an endowment to Singapore’s creative class, and it is Singapore’s gift to the world.”

As Erker articulates it, “science is more subjective, imaginative and creative than many assume,…art is empirical and applied and thus the two fields rely on one another.” The museum’s permanent exhibition organizes the visitor’s experience through three the three concepts representing curiosity, inspiration and expression. According to the website, “by demonstrating how creative minds meld the disciplines of art and science to make objects that transform our world, [the exhibition] takes visitors on a journey inside the creative process across three unique spaces.”

Erker also reviews the three current temporary exhibitions, one of which is the Silk Road exhibit from the American Museum of American History in New York. It is interesting to contemplate this visiting work from the perspective of “ArtScience.” Check out Erker’s full article here.