Study on Group and Self Oriented Culture

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According to Dimmock, C and Walker, A's article, the group-oriented culture is more dominant in the Asian societies and middle-eastern countries whereas the self-oriented culture is more dominant in the Anglo-American societies.

In group-oriented culture, people are more dependent in each other and they maintain harmony in the group and the need to stay together is maintained. There is a firm and stronger relationship in group-oriented culture. There is also a strong cultural value in group-oriented culture. Asante (1987) and Pope, Cheng, and Leong (1998) suggested that there is a sense of connectedness in the Asian societies and all group-oriented cultures.

In contrast, self-oriented culture is seen as an independent and individualistic individuals who rely very less on one another but are more capable compared to group-oriented societies. They are very modern and youth oriented compared to group-oriented society. They are very complex and have values such as being competitive, autonomy and having more freedom. They believe in equal treatment and are capable of confronting directly when problem arises. They believe in a formal structure and are very direct.

The U.S. is generally considered as self oriented society (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swindler, & Tipton, 1985), whereas all Asian societies are considered as group-oriented (Gudykunst et al., 1992)

b). Decision-making in school

In group-oriented culture, it is like a philosophy that many personal decisions are taken by the superiors. In Asian society, there is a strong hierarchical relationships in the relationship between parents and children, teachers and students, employers and employees. They do not follow much on laws or rules usually. They consider specific situation rather than applying universal principles. Personal feelings carries more weight. As there is respect for hierarchy, less questions are asked by individuals. Group oriented culture have values that include security, obedience, duty, in-group harmony, hierarchy, and personalized relationships. Therefore it is obvious that decision making lies on the oldest , most knowledgeable, most experienced and the most superior in group oriented culture.

In self-oriented culture, Anglo-Americans practice 'Limited Relationship Cultures' where decisions taken are based on measurable criterions and on the issues at stake. For example, when there is a promotion of staff, it is always based on justification depending on the performance (which is measurable), whereas in group-oriented culture, personal decisions are made without strong evidence or other objective facts.

c). Creativity and Problem-Solving skills

In Asian societies, replication and rote learning styles , which means students are


required to reproduce knowledge gained, are more significantly used whereby it is less likely to produce creative students. Suzuki (1983) stated that Asian students are stereotypically quiet, docile and hardworking. They are good at following instructions but limited in their creativity. In Asia, the students learning style is teacher-centered because of traditional Asian culture's social hierarchy.

However in Anglo-American societies, a more creative approach is followed. They are more conducive, beneficial and also are capable of reproducing whatever learnt in a more creative approach. Students here are well-informed and come out with creative and innovative ideas.

Problem-solving in Asian societies are more informal and flexible whereas in Anglo-American societies, decisions are made strictly by the book and are very formal.

d). Leadership

In Asian societies, the power is more centralized. People observe a strict chain of command where rank is very important. The most eldest or experienced in the group is respected. They have the authoritarian style of leadership, along with structured and more practical solution (Leong, 1986; tsu & Schultz, 1988; Yu & Gregg, 1993). The principal's role in a school is very powerful in this group-oriented culture.

Self oriented cultures have been described as supporting a sense of separation between individuals and having values that include pleasure, winning in competition, achievement,


freedom, autonomy, and fair exchange (Asante, 1987: Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swindler, & Tipton, 1985; Cheatham, 1990; Hofstede, 1980; Ivey et al., 1997; Triandis et al., 1993).

In Anglo-American culture, power is distributed more equally and everyone had a fair chance of leading. Here, leadership values can be seen in teachers and parents rather than focusing only on the principal or head of the school. There is more equal and fair chance for everyone to lead in Anglo-American societies.

How (a) to (d) is manifested in the system of education in Malaysia ?

(a). Group-oriented culture and self-oriented culture

In Malaysian education system, it is basically a group-oriented society. The education system in Malaysia is aimed at instilling unity among the multiracial citizens. Through education, the government aspires to build a resilient nation, just society and strengthen human development. From here we could see the importance given to a group and not as individual progress.

However, in my opinion, we do not recognize the multi-cultural origins of other races and religions. Therefore, there is lack of cooperation especially among the Chinese, Tamil and national schools in Malaysia.

(b). Decision-making in school

Education in Malaysia is federal responsibility. It is highly centralized and is a

feature of group-oriented culture. The Ministry of Education controls every detail in


the system. In schools in particular, the decision-making lies upon the principal of a school who has the authoritarian power to make the final decisions. Schools tend to be very hierarchical.

In the Education Ministry, decisions are often made through a process involving many process and procedures before a consensus can be established through a series of deliberations. This could be seen in the decision making of teaching Science and Mathematics in English. Sometimes this process can take a long time and requires patience Senior leaders in the Education Ministry orchestrate the process and secure the support of the all the people involved like school principals, teachers, parents, students and non-governmental groups. Nevertheless, their input carries a lot of weight and they sometimes have the final say when making the final decision. They may not rely much on rules or laws. They usually consider the specific situation rather than applying universal principles. Personal feelings and experiences weigh more strongly than empirical evidence and other objective facts do. This is very obvious in the case of teaching Science and Mathematics in English when all Tamil and Chinese schools were against the idea and implementation.

Teachers also represent authority, power and knowledge. It is unethical to challenge, question, or disrespect a teacher's behaviour, therefore, it is natural for Malaysian students to follow-teacher driven learning styles.

(c). Creativity and problem-solving skills

As Malaysian education system implies rote learning practice, it is unlikely that creativity


plays an important role here. Students are more book and exam oriented, practical understanding and learning are lacking in this area. Therefore, we see products of education who lack certain skills.

Though there is a hierarchy to follow, in most cases, power is not used properly. Therefore problem solving skills is very flexible and informal in Malaysian education system. There are many interferences from third parties like political groups in Malaysia when comes to implementation or solving problems related to education. For example, the issue of teaching Maths and Science in English Language.

(d). Leadership

As Malaysian education system follows group-oriented culture leadership is more centralized where the highest rank has the most power of control over situation. Moreover, schools have hardly any autonomy and principals play important roles as leaders.

In the Education Ministry, the Education Minister has the highest leadership power and below him, all the subordinates like the district education officers, school principals, and all the teachers are responsible to carry out the implementations and educational programs planned for all the national and vernacular schools.

It is mentioned earlier that in group-oriented society like Malaysia, leadership is held by the most superior and authoritarian style can be seen clearly. Promotions are given based not really based on experience and knowledge but more on word of mouth and likings by the superiors. A teacher is promoted when he or she has a good reputation with mainly the


principal of the school.