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Quick Update: China and 2 million minutes

27 August 2009 22,015 6 Comments

What is happening in China? and why I disagree with Bob Compton and his film 2 million minutes?

Just returned from a 10-day trip to China:

August 17, lecture at the training program for directors of Confucius Institutes in Beijing, flew to Kunming, Yunnan

18-19, meeting of the Board of Directors of the International Society for Chinese Language Teaching in Kunming, back to Beijing.

20, Presentation about Zon and trends of online language learning at Hanban, flew to Shanghai

21-22: Meetings with East China Normal University Press, Institute for Curriculum Research, Shanghai Municipal Education Commission’s Department of Teaching and Research, and Shanghai Distance Education Group, back to Beijing.

24-25: Meetings with Chinese Ministry of Education, China National Center of Educational Technology, Beijing Normal University’s newly established Faculty of Education, National Training Center for Primary School Principals, Beijing Institute of Education, and Beijing Institute for Educational Research.

Learned a lot:

  1. China is actively seeking effective ways to meet the needs of the growing population of Chinese language learners overseas. More qualified teachers, more effective methods, and more diverse materials have been identified as the areas that need most attention.
  2. China continues to battle its traditional “test-oriented education” that only focuses on producing good test scores in a number of limited academic subjects. The government is determined to move its education toward “quality-oriented education,” which essentially means focusing on the whole child and not judging students, teachers, and schools based on test scores or the rate of students admitted to colleges. Lots of initiatives are under way: de-link teacher performance pay with test scores, reform college admissions criteria and processes, devise authentic assessment tools, establish more comprehensive indicators of school effectiveness, forbid government schools from offering test-prep programs or extra tutoring sessions during the summer vacation, discontinue the use of scores in Math Olympiad for selecting students, etc..

While I was in China, I noticed that Mr. Robert Compton, producer of the documentary Two Million Minutes, was on two occasions associated with my recent discussions about education. First, Mr. Compton wrote a response to a blog post summarizing a video of me talking about education. Second, Mr. Compton was mentioned by Washington Post’s Jay Matthews, who wrote about my upcoming book: Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization.

Mr. Compton and I had exchanges about our different perspectives on education before and I present a very extensive discussion about my view of China and what kind of education we really need to be globally “competitive” in the new era in my book. I encourage you to explore the following links to understand why I disagree with what is presented in Two Million Minutes and Mr. Compton’s comments on the Ed Week blog post.

Public Debate with Mr. Compton at Indiana University:

Moderated discussion in the Journal of Comparative Education Review, which involved myself, Mr. Compton, and other scholars as well as one of the Indian students featured in the film:

A recent interview of me with Educational Leadership’s Lucy Robertson:

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  • Bob Compton said:

    Dr. Zhao is a highly educated, brilliant, articulate academician and scholar. I’m a modestly educated, reasonably successful entrepreneur, inventor, venture capitalist and philanthropist. We each approach the issue of global education from our respective life experiences.

    My perspective comes from 25 years of investing in high-tech, high-wage, high-growth start-up companies in the US, Europe and Asia.

    And from my own non-expert explorations of schools, mostly high schools, in India, China, Europe, South America and the US – explorations which resulted in my film “Two Million Minutes.” By training, I am neither an educator nor a film maker.

    I’m a businessman on the global field of competition and have helped build over 30 new technology companies in the past 25 years. As Chairman, CEO or President I have had to lead companies in global competition every day. I still am, as Chairman of ExactTarget and as Founder and CEO of Vontoo.

    In those 25 years, I have seen a marked decline in American’s education and capabilities to compete with highly educated, highly motivated employees in many other countries – China and India, in particular. Hence I have had to hire large numbers of well-educated employees outside the US to stay in business.

    My life experiences are not cerebral – they are visceral judgments in the daily battles that characterize global business. I don’t win or lose debates – I win or loss customers, litigation, companies or money — every day. Thousands of families – those of my employees – depend on my ability to make the right decisions and keep them employed.

    My need is to find the best talent in the world, then recruit, motivate and reward them or my companies fail and my investors (myself included) lose millions of dollars and thousands of husbands, wives and children are put in economic jeopardy. Daily that focuses my mind like the man to be hanged in the morning.

    So I would encourage every American to read Dr. Zhao’s books, articles and lectures and I would hope he would encourage people to see my film.

    Account for our unique perspectives and decide for one’s self – is American K-12 education, particularly high school, preparing our children to be globally competitive?

    Will America’s children be able to create the new technologies, new products and new companies that will produce the quality jobs of the 21st century?

    Are we educating our kids to be economically self-sufficient and to support a high quality standard of living?

    My daily experiences tell me – NO.

  • Yong Zhao and Bob Compton compete for the Mantle of Best approaches to 21st century schooling and the example of China « 21k12 said:

    […] when you look closely, you see the two are in a bit of a back and forth fight on their respective blogs.  Compton, understandably, fiercely resists Matthews and Zhao in […]

  • Mrs. Teacher said:

    Just purchased Two Million Minutes. Will give thoughts after we view.

  • The Finland Phenomenon: Learning from the new Tony Wagner film | Connected Principals said:

    […] and 2009, Compton engaged in several public debates about these contentious issues, including one with the Yong Zhao, author of Catching Up or Leading the Way and a renowned expert on and critic of the Chinese […]

  • The Finland Phenomenon « said:

    […] and 2009, Compton engaged in several public debates about these contentious issues, including one with the Yong Zhao, author of Catching Up or Leading the Way and a renowned expert on and critic of the Chinese […]

  • Huihua Liu said:

    It is fine with American boys and girls to spend their 2 million minutes as they wish and have as much fun as possible. Why? The thing is the majority of them will go to colleges where they have to work hard for decent grades and they have a lot of potential. But in the case of students from India and China, they lose most of the steam in college. That’s why most of the Chinese college students fail to do so well comparatively. Another thing is, the United States has been benefiting from the brain gain, which means the competitiveness of American business has a solid foundation. Have you guys heard that 90% of Chinese students who have gotten their PhD degrees in science and technology in the United States stay in the States? So just relax, India and China is producing good talents for the United States.

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