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The Dragons’ Will

Why do students in some East Asian countries excel at mathematics?

The role of valuing and values education in the mathematics achievement of students in some East Asian countries

Do students in some East Asian countries typically excel at mathematics because of carefully scripted cognitive teaching, or does the valuing of achievement and the will to succeed play a larger part than we think?

Join Associate Professor Wee Tiong and chair Professor Janette Bobis in conversation hosted by the Comparative and International Education Research Network, Sydney School of Education and Social Work, and Sydney Southeast Asia Centre.

When: 2.30–4.00pm, Wednesday 10 May, 2017

Where: Room 612, Education Building, University of Sydney

The latest results for arguably the two most significant international comparative studies, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), were released in December 2016. Despite both studies assessing different aspects of mathematics learning, five of the top seven performing economies in PISA 2015 (Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Singapore) are also the top five performing economies in TIMSS 2015. Together with the other two top performing economies in PISA 2015, mainland China and Macau (both of which did not take part in TIMSS), these economies have traditionally been associated with the dragon culture. John Jerrim’s analysis of the Australian sample for PISA 2012 also demonstrated how immigrant students from these parts of East Asia attained the highest performance scores despite being schooled in an overseas context.

Associate Professor Wee Tiong proposes that the cultural inculcation of East Asian students of the valuing of achievement and the will to excel is the primary force behind mathematical prowess. He will share examples from mathematics classrooms and the wider societies in Singapore and mainland China to demonstrate how the fostering of the achievement mindset takes place in these countries intentionally or otherwise. These will be contrasted against the sorts of valuing being promoted to students in mathematics classrooms and the wider societies in Australia.

About the speakers

Wee Tiong SEAH is Associate Professor in and Head of Mathematics Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne. He has been teaching at Bachelor, Masters and PhD levels in both Asia and Australia since 2002. His research interests include comparative research, the role of values in facilitating student learning, STEM education, and the experiences of immigrant and refugee students and teachers in mathematics pedagogy. Wee Tiong was a member of the Australian federal government’s Expert Advisory and Research Group and he currently leads the ‘Third Wave Project’, a 20-nation research consortium. He has delivered numerous keynote and invitational speeches, most recently at the 2016 International Congress on Mathematical Education. Wee Tiong is member of the editorial boards of several academic journals, including the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education.

Professor Janette Bobis is a mathematics educator and researcher in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Her teaching, research and publications focus on teacher learning in mathematics education and student learning concerned with motivation and engagement in mathematics and their understanding of estimation and mental computation strategies.


Free event open to the public with online registration. Please confirm your attendance for planning and catering purposes.