[photopress:Chinese_students_learning.jpg,full,alignright]Which has the better education system: the United States or China? Which is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. The accepted difference is the US goes in for what you might call, if you were generous, creative learning and and China leans towards rote learning.
A recent report by the LA Times states both systems are well on their way to becoming outdated. (Not, you understand, as outdated as the LA Times where it has just been announced 140 staff are to be fired, 70 of them from the newsroom. What that does to the editorial quality of the newspaper is worth pondering.)
China started to revamp its education system in the 1990s to introduce more creative and critical thinking in the classroom.
In the US, schools have been urged to adopt a more structured, Asia-influenced math syllabus for younger students.
It could be argued that both countries see virtues in the other’s educational system and are working towards a middle ground.
Assistant Professor Zhang Baohui, from the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore, said, ‘You cannot erect a tall building without laying a strong foundation first. That foundation necessarily comes from knowledge-based learning. Usually, people have the impression that western education places an emphasis on self expression, while in China, it’s about how much you know. It’s actually difficult to generalise, because both countries are big, and you can find a range in both.’
He also said, ‘Not all students welcome open-ended learning, especially the high achievers who are used to listening and following. These students are not willing to take the risk because they are afraid to lose their advantage.
‘Problem-solving tests understanding and creativity, which cannot always be learned using conventional techniques that high achievers are used to.’