Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chinese Education -The Educated Giant

The Educated Giant was a Nicholas Kristof op-ed in the NY Times about China's education system. (I'm not sure how long this link will last as they didn't have their normal long-term icon for links.) He brings up some good points like foreign language instruction starts a lot sooner in China (and most European countries) than in the U.S. He also makes a point that bears thinking about in our youth culture of "I want it now", rap music (you may agree with Russell Simmons but he's smiling all the way to the bank whether or not he puts on a public persona of "I care") and the 3 Bimbos of the Apocalypse (Britney, Paris and Lindsey). (Having said that, I do believe that climate change may be extending to hell as Paris is actually going to do jail time.)

"A third reason is that Chinese believe that those who get the best grades are the hardest workers. In contrast, Americans say in polls that the best students are the ones who are innately the smartest. The upshot is that Chinese kids never have an excuse for mediocrity."

So much of youth culture is about not being smart. It's not cool. But kids want learning easy and fast (at least my teen at home does) and no matter how entertaining or relevant you make curriculum, it takes work.

There are plenty of things you can point to as wrong with Chinese teaching starting with its roteness. But as more Chinese students learn English and come to the U.S. for college or grad school (or their universities and grad schools seek to emulate the U.S.), they might not stay in that rut. I saw on ESPN that the Chinese have now brought teams to the world cheerleading championships (stop laughing) who were terrible the first year and then, by their second year of competion, could bring it on. The Chinese may not be great innovators at this point but boy, when they put their mind to something, watch out. And I think that's Mr. Kristof's point.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"A third reason is that Chinese believe that those who get the best grades are the hardest workers. In contrast, Americans say in polls that the best students are the ones who are innately the smartest. The upshot is that Chinese kids never have an excuse for mediocrity."

There is a very interesting book on this exact subject:

“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck

For other (shorter) treatments of the book, see Po Bronson’s article in New York Magazine:

http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

or an NPR interview with Dweck:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7406521

From experience volunteering in our school, I would say that many low achieving kids believe that if they fail once, that means that they aren’t good at something and shouldn’t bother trying. I’ve been talking with them about the fact that when they do something over and over and work at it, they are building super-highways in their brains where there used to be forests (environmentally incorrect, but potentially academically powerful!).

Maureen

Anonymous said...

From my daughter's study of Mandarin, we've had the pleasure of meeting several families from mainland China. All of them tell me how they marvel at American comments regarding career, the way so many Americans put great stock on doing a job they'll like, even love. In China, this is an unknown. There is hard work. Study and education are prized. While I don't think this is an attitude unique to Asian culture, it's also reflected in the philosophy behind Suzuki music education. Dr. Suzuki believed that everyone should experience music, and that everyone could learn to play an instrument. Giftedness had nothing to do with it. Repetition and parental support had *everything* to do with achieving the goal of playing beautiful music. WenG