China is developing quite a reputation these days for surprising us. This includes becoming the world’s second largest economy, showing off some political muscle and stepping on western industrial toes. In fact the Chinese are proving remarkably adept at most things these days, and that includes the Chinese tiger not sleeping on the subject of Chinese education either. This implies far more than basic education for the masses, because Chinese education standards are improving too.
Every three years the OECD or Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development founded in 1951 and based in Paris, France issues an international scorecard that compares education standards across the globe. This time the world was not entirely surprised when Shanghai’s 15-year-olds scored tops in reading, math and science. Is this the end of the Chinese peasant gently poling a sampan through endless rice fields, or was the survey flawed as some suggest?
Deputy Principal Jiang Xueqin of Peking University High School is one who agrees that an obsession with discipline in education can come at a high cost. He believes that Chinese education standards encourage copying and not innovation in line with policy for the nation’s manufacturing industries. If he is correct, then the Shanghai result could be masking something worse.
Could this be true of schools in Japan, South Korea and Singapore who all scored well too? If so, then what might this imply for the generation of America’s future leaders who scored average in science and reading and slightly below par in math in the same survey? Ought the nation to be pleased, concerned, nonplussed or worried about it at all? President Obama certainly took it seriously in his State of Union Address last week when he said that if we want to win the future — if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas — then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.
At least 128,000 Chinese are dissatisfied with current Chinese education standards – that’s the number of Chinese enrolled in U.S. Colleges and Universities this year that’s up 30% on last. I find it interesting that so many hitherto inscrutable Chinese now want to challenge authority and think critically, at least according to Peggy Blumenthal of the IIE who released the data that brought news on Chinese education and international controversy too.