There are, I think, four reasons why Chinese students do so well.
First, Chinese students are hungry for education and advancement and work harder. In contrast, U.S. children average 900 hours a year in class and 1,023 hours in front of a television.
Here in Sheryl’s ancestral village, the students show up at school at about 6:30 a.m. to get extra tutoring before classes start at 7:30. They go home for a lunch break at 11:20 and then are back at school from 2 p.m. until 5. They do homework every night and weekend, and an hour or two of homework each day during their eight-week summer vacation.
The second reason is that China has an enormous cultural respect for education, part of its Confucian legacy, so governments and families alike pour resources into education.
A third reason is that Chinese believe that those who get the best grades are the hardest workers.
Chinese education has its own problems, including bribes and fees to get into good schools, huge classes of 50 or 60 students, second-rate equipment and lousy universities. But the progress in the last quarter-century is breathtaking.
It’s also encouraging that so many Chinese will shake their heads over this column and say it really isn’t so. They will complain that Chinese schools teach rote memorization but not creativity or love of learning. That kind of debate is good for the schools and has already led to improvements in English instruction, so that urban Chinese students can communicate better in English than Japanese or South Koreans. [Full Text]