I came from Hongkong, a place where we taught according to a tight and huge syllabus expecting my students to understand everything and do well in examinations.
I believe many Asian countries were the same - giving the world an impression that Asian are good in learning. Look at the international education assessment.
Now Singapore Ministry of Education is advocating Teach Less, Learn More: Re-igniting Passion and Mission. It is about
about shifting the focus from “quantity” to “quality” in education. More “quality” in terms of classroom interaction, opportunities for expression, the learning of life-long skills and the building of character through innovative and effective teaching approaches and strategies. Less “quantity” in terms of rote-learning, repetitive tests and following prescribed answers and set formulae.
However, the report I quoted in Private Schools in the Poorest Countries painted a very different picture. It seems that James Tooley believe students are not learning anything in public schools in some developed countries while Singapore Government wants to cut down on content and focus more on personal development.
I believe the key issue is in the quote of the Teach Less Learn More page. By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, MOE Work Plan Seminar 2004:
It is the teachers who inspire our students to do more than the ordinary, or to go beyond what they can achieve with ease. It is teachers who take education beyond 'filling a vessel with knowledge', and who 'light a fire' in our young.