Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Test Chinese Schools Still Fail

The Deputy Principal of Peking University High School isn't impressed with Chinese students' success on tests:

Both multinationals and Chinese companies have the same complaints about China's university graduates: They cannot work independently, lack the social skills to work in a team and are too arrogant to learn new skills. In 2005, the consulting firm McKinsey released a report saying that China's current education system will hinder its economic development.

But don't the PISA results at least show that China's K-9 education is the best in the world, and that standardized testing, as U.S. President Barack Obama seems to believe, is necessary to improve American schools?

Not really. According to research on education, using tests to structure schooling is a mistake. Students lose their innate inquisitiveness and imagination, and become insecure and amoral in the pursuit of high scores.

Even Shanghai educators admit they're merely producing competent mediocrity. The OECD report states, "[T]he dictates of the examinations have left students with little time and room for learning on their own. 'There is an opportunity cost in terms of time and space,' said [one experienced Shanghai educator]. 'Students grow with narrow margins' and are not fully prepared for their lives and work in the future. This is seen as a deep crisis, exacerbated by the reality of single-child families."

A consensus is growing that instead of vaulting the country past the West, China's schools are holding it back. They equip everybody with the basic knowledge to be functional in a socialist economy. But now that China is a market economy hoping to compete globally, it's jealous of America's ability to turn its brightest students into the world's best scientists and businesspeople.

Reform is on the horizon. This year the Chinese government released a 10-year plan including greater experimentation. China Central Television's main evening news program recently reported on Peking University High School's curricular reforms to promote individuality and diversity.


The Test Chinese Schools Still Fail

High scores for Shanghai's 15-year-olds are actually a sign of weakness.


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