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U.S. vs. China: Thoughtful Chinese Author Says U.S. Schools are Better

In my debates with American high-tech entrepreneur Bob Compton, I argue that U.S. schools are way ahead of the Chinese, and likely to stay there, at least in the production of creative, job-producing go-getters like Bob. Bob says I am not seeing what a great threat the rapidly improving Chinese education system is to our global economic superiority. Now we have a new book, "Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization," by someone who knows more about this than either Bob or me: Michigan State education professor Yong Zhao.

Just one of his chapters, number 4, "Why China Isn't a Threat Yet," is worth the $27 cost of the book. Born and raised in China himself, Zhao (pronounced Jow) describes in detail what our schools are doing well, and not so well, and does the same with China. He concludes that we are still ahead in developing creative thinkers. The Chinese won't be able to catch up until they do something about---don't laugh--their awful college entrance tests.
Theirs are much worse than the SAT, mostly because it is so much harder to get into a good university in China than in the USA. The competition, since they have so many more people, is horrid. The emphasis is on cramming to get a good score. The recommendations of teachers, so important to U.S. colleges looking for creatively gifted applicants, lose out in the crush of scores in China.
"Unless China drastically reforms the college admission system to expand the criteria beyond test scores on a few subjects, it is unlikely that any effort to nurture more creative talents and healthy students will bear fruit," Zhao says.

By Jay Mathews  | August 18, 2009; 6:54 PM ET
Tags:  U.S. vs. China; Jay Mathews; Bob Compton; global competition;  
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Ever since it was "obvious" in the 80s that Japan was going to, quite literally, buy the United States, there has been a movement to attempt to emulate Asian schools (and more recently, Indian schools).

This was a stupid idea then, and it is a stupid idea now. We are never going to out-cooperate the Japanese, or out-cram the Chinese/Indians. And why would we even want to? What benefit would we get if we managed to do it?

We should instead concentrate on the things we are actually good at, such as creative thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | August 20, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

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