Prof. Ng Aik Kwang dari University of Queensland, dalam bukunya “Why Asians Are Less Creative Than Westerners” (2001) yang dianggap kontroversial tapi ternyata menjadi “best seller”. (www.idearesort.com/trainers/T01.p) mengemukakan beberapa hal ttg bangsa-bangsa Asia yang telah membuka mata dan pikiran banyak orang:
1. Bagi kebanyakan org Asia, dlm budaya mereka, ukuran sukses dalam hidup adalah banyaknya materi yang dimiliki (rumah, mobil, uang dan harta lain). Passion (rasa cinta thdp sesuatu) kurang dihargai. Akibatnya, bidang kreatifitas kalah populer oleh profesi dokter, lawyer, dan sejenisnya yang dianggap bisa lebih cepat menjadikan seorang utk memiliki kekayaan banyak.
2. Bagi org Asia, banyaknya kekayaan yg dimiliki lbh dihargai drpd CARA
memperoleh kekayaan tersebut. Tidak heran bila lebih banyak orang menyukai ceritera, novel, sinetron atau film yang bertema orang miskin jadi kaya mendadak karena beruntung menemukan harta karun, atau dijadikan istri oleh pangeran dan sejenis itu. Tidak heran pula bila perilaku koruptif pun ditolerir/ diterima sbg sesuatu yg wajar.
3. Bagi org Asia, pendidikan identik dengan hafalan berbasis “kunci jawaban” bukan pada pengertian. Ujian Nasional, tes masuk PT dll semua berbasis hafalan. Sampai tingkat sarjana, mahasiswa diharuskan hafal rumus2 Imu pastidan ilmu hitung lainnya bukan diarahkan utk memahami kapan dan bagaimana menggunakan rumus rumus tersebut.
4. Karena berbasis hafalan, murid2 di sekolah di Asia dijejali sebanyak mungkin pelajaran. Mereka dididik menjadi “Jack of all trades, but master of
none” (tahu sedikit sedikit ttg banyak hal tapi tidak menguasai apapun).
5. Karena berbasis hafalan, banyak pelajar Asia bisa jadi juara dlm
Olympiade Fisika, dan Matematika. Tapi hampir tidak pernah ada org Asia yang menang Nobel atau hadiah internasional lainnya yg berbasis inovasi dan kreativitas.
6. Orang Asia takut salah (KIASI) dan takut kalah (KIASU). Akibat- nya sifat eksploratif sbg upaya memenuhi rasa penasaran dan keberanian untuk mengambil resiko kurang dihargai.
7. Bagi keanyakan bangsa Asia, bertanya artinya bodoh, makanya rasa penasaran tidak mendapat tempat dalam proses pendidikan di sekolah
8. Karena takut salah dan takut dianggap bodoh, di sekolah atau dalam seminar atau workshop, peserta jarang mau bertanya tetapi stlh sesi berakhir peserta mengerumuni guru / narasumber utk minta penjelasan tambahan.
Dlm bukunya Prof.Ng Aik Kwang menawarkan bbrp solusi sbb:
1. Hargai proses. Hargailah org krn pengabdiannya bukan karena kekayaannya. Percuma bangga naik haji atau membangun mesjid atau pesantren tapi duitnya dari hasil korupsi
2. Hentikan pendidikan berbasis kunci jawaban. Biarkan murid memahami bidang yang paling disukainya
3. Jangan jejali murid dgn banyak hafalan, apalagi matematika. Untuk apa diciptakan kalkulator kalau jawaban utk X x Y harus dihapalkan? Biarkan murid memilih sedikit mata pelajaran tapi benar2 dikuasainya
4. Biarkan anak memilih profesi berdasarkan PASSION (rasa cinta) nya pada bidang itu, bukan memaksanya mengambil jurusan atau profesi tertentu yg lebih cepat menghasilkan uang
5. Dasar kreativitas adlh rasa penasaran berani ambil resiko. AYO BERTANYA!
6. Guru adlh fasilitator, bukan dewa yang harus tahu segalanya. Mari akui dgn bangga kl KT TDK TAU!
7. Passion manusia adalah anugerah Tuhan..sebagai orang tua kita
bertanggung-jawab untuk mengarahkan anak kita [dipotong oleh WhatsApp]
On Ng’s Why Asians Are Less Creative Than Westerners
A book review by Elisabeth Rudowicz & Teresa Ng (City University of Hong Kong)
English & Chinese Version
The title of Ng’s book is indeed provocative, to both Asian and Caucasian readers. The ability to use provocations in a constructive manner is considered by De Bono (1990) an essential skill for anyone who wants to replace judgment with “movement” or “forward effect.” Ng’s provocation seems to be very efficient in initiating such a “movement” and jerks our thinking and behavior out of well-established patterns. Ng’s provocation turned out to be a strong motivating power for us to start an intellectual affair with this well-written and engaging book.Why Asians Are Less Creative Than Westerners deserves the attention of anyone who wants to know more about creativity, as well as its influence in different historical times, societies, and cultures. The book, although written for the general public, is firmly rooted in solid scientific research but is free from jargon and technical language. For a creativity researcher, the book is thought-provoking, involving, and at times entertaining. For a novice to the creativity field, or for a layperson, the book offers interesting, vivid, and attractive initiation into the issues of an interplay between the self, culture, society, and creative behavior. For all readers, the book puts forward some suggestions on how to liberate oneself from habitual uncreative patterns of behavior and become a creative individual leading a more fulfilling life.
The primary goal of the book, as stated by Ng, is to explain why it is much harder for Asians to behave in a creative manner, as compared to their counterparts in the West. The author attempts to achieve this objective by looking at how Asians and Westerners typically behave in their respective societies. Ng places much emphasis on the importance of cultural and societal influences on one’s psychological makeup, which in turn determines one’s behavior. Ng further argues that this psychological makeup, including among other things the indigenous conception of selfhood, value system, and perception of conflict, is manifested in childrearing philosophy and practices, which in turn lead to the observed differences in creative and task-involved behaviors between the Confucian/collectivistic societies of the East and liberal/individualistic societies of the West.
Ng’s assertion that it is much harder for Asians to think, feel, and act in a creative manner than for Westerners is supported by the fact that Asian society is tightly organized, collectivistic, hierarchical, and face-conscious. It places great emphasis on social order and harmony, where the Galilean self (we-ness) is promoted. Asian parents socialize their children to be psychologically dependent on the in-group and to avoid conflict. In contrast, Western society is loosely organized, individualistic, and egalitarian. It places great emphasis on a democratic exchange of opinions where the Ptolemaic self (I-ness) is promoted. Western parents socialize their children to be independent and to have a positive outlook on conflict. In fact, we are totally in line with the idea adopted by Ng from creativity theorists (Csikszenmihalyi, 1988; Mooney, 1975) that culture and social system is a major component in shaping behavior in general and creative performance in particular. But we have a general impression that the cultural/social perspective has been overemphasized and the other aspects regarding creativity development, including personality, thinking processes, and evaluation of creative products, have been neglected. Despite this concern, Ng’s focus maintains a good balance between Asian and Western cultures.
We are impressed by the systematic organization of the book’s material and its “theoretical to practical” approach: Chapter 1, presenting a review of the basic conceptualizations of creativity; Chapter 2, examining differences between Eastern and Western cultures; Chapter 3, describing the psychological makeup of the Asian and Westerner; Chapters 4 and 5, exploring relationships between culture and creativity; Chapter 6, focusing on how Asians and Westerners strive for success; Chapter 7, contrasting the conflict patterns of the Asian and Westerner; Chapter 8, posing and exploring a challenging question: Can the East survive the West?; and Chapter 9, providing some guidelines on how to nurture creative individuals and a more creative society of Asians. Ng nicely develops his ideas from the existing research and ties them up with real-life examples. Moreover, the book is brought alive by appropriately chosen poems, humorous drawings, and personal accounts.
Ng demonstrates an excellent grasp of and ability to present the cross-cultural differences between the East and the West. He mastered the skill of showing the differences among the cultures without making a direct comparison. He does not limit his analysis to the here-and-now but takes a historical perspective. His examples are drawn from such various countries in the East as Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. His perception of the West expands beyond North America to Australia and Europe. He presents himself as impartial and at the same time very involved. The analysis, examples, and discussion presented by Ng are not only culturally fair but also highly culture sensitive.
Our observations presented in the previous paragraph may surprise a potential reader who was taken aback by the provocative title of Ng’s book. In our own experience, one of us, a Chinese, was slightly discouraged and felt a bit uneasy seeing the title, whereas the other, a Caucasian, experienced a slight boost to the self-esteem. Both of us, however, were united toward the end of the book. After reading Ng’s book we are confident that the author has been driven by the desire to understand and to explain and not by the desire to compare and evaluate. As Ng acknowledges, “To me, it seems rather clear that neither the East nor the West can claim the moral high ground in dealing with each other” (p. 206). There are lessons for the East and the West to learn from each other.
We must say that Ng has done a great job in making the book accessible and attractive to a broad spectrum of readers. The book is both enjoyable and easy to read, with each chapter providing provocative headings, real and vivid examples, lovely pictures, and a chapter summary. The meaning of the psychological concepts has been explained in simple terms, and the boxed articles provide a more in-depth look at certain issues that have not been covered in the main text. Hence, the book is a good catalogue of achievements and failures of humans both in the East and the West.
This is a refreshing, enjoyable, and encouraging book. It provides practical guidelines that are extremely useful for ordinary individuals to liberate themselves from uncreative patterns of behavior that have become habitual. The book is strongly recommended to all who are interested in or working directly or indirectly in the area of creativity because it is one of the most comprehensive popular works available on creativity and culture. University students, teachers, parents, and researchers would all benefit from this text, which is upbeat and inspirational.
- De Bono, E. (1990). Six Thinking Hats. London: Penguin.
- Csikszenmihalyi, M. (1988). Society, Culture, and Person: A System’s View of Creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), The Nature of Creativity (pp. 76-98). New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Mooney, R. L. (1975). A Conceptual Model for Integrating Four Approaches to the Identification of Creative Talent. In C. W. Taylor & F. Barron (Eds.), Scientific Creativity. Its Recognition and Development. New York: Robert E. Krieger.
Creativity Research Journal: Year 2003, Volume 15, Pages 301-302