Chinese Students’ High Scores in International Tests Come at a Cost

After news that students tested higher than U.S. students on a globally-administered exam, educators in the U.S. have been concerned by the results. But in China, the Los Angeles Times reports, policy makers and educators are also concerned about their own system and the need for reform:

But even as some parents in the West wrung their hands, fretting over an gap, Chinese commentators reacted to the results with a bout of soul-searching and even an undertone of embarrassment rarely seen in a country that generally delights in its victories on the international stage.

“I carry a strong feeling of bitterness,” Chen Weihua, an editor at the state-run China Daily, wrote in a first-person editorial. “The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood.”

In a sense, this is the underbelly of a rising China: the fear that schools are churning out generations of unimaginative worker bees who do well on tests. The government has laid out an ambitious set of plans for by 2020, but so far it’s not clear how complete or wide-ranging the changes will be — or whether they will ease the immense pressure on teens in families hungry for a place in the upper or middle class.

“We have seen the advantages and the disadvantages of our education system, and our students’ abilities are still weak,” said Xiong Bingqi, an education expert at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. “They do very well in those subjects the teacher assigns them. They have huge vocabularies and they do math well. However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low.

“In the long run, for us to become a strong country, we need talent and great creativity,” Xiong said. “And right now, our educational system cannot accomplish this.”

January 13, 2011 1:31 PM
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