China’s Winning Schools?
Nick Kristof with a spot-on op ed in today's NYT about the strengths – and weaknesses – of China's educational system:
But this is the paradox: Chinese themselves are far less impressed by their school system. Almost every time I try to interview a Chinese about the system here, I hear grousing rather than praise. Many Chinese complain scathingly that their system kills independent thought and creativity, and they envy the American system for nurturing self-reliance — and for trying to make learning exciting and not just a chore.
…For my part, I think the self-criticisms are exactly right, but I also deeply admire the passion for education and the commitment to making the system better. And while William Butler Yeats was right that "education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire," it's also true that it's easier to ignite a bonfire if there's fuel in the bucket.
The larger issue is that the greatest strength of the Chinese system is the Confucian reverence for education that is steeped into the culture. In Chinese schools, teachers are much respected, and the most admired kid is often the brain rather than the jock or class clown.
Americans think of China's strategic challenge in terms of, say, the new Chinese stealth fighter aircraft. But the real challenge is the rise of China's education system and the passion for learning that underlies it. We're not going to become Confucians, but we can elevate education on our list of priorities without relinquishing creativity and independent thought.
That's what we did in 1957 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. These latest test results should be our 21st-century Sputnik.
January 15, 2011
China's Winning Schools?
An international study published last month looked at how students in 65 countries performed in math, science and reading. The winner was: Confucianism!