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U.S. Education in Chinese Lock Step? Bad Move. Chronicle of Higher Ed Commentary (B. Coppola & Y. Zhao)

8 February 2012 12,217 2 Comments

Just in case you have not seen this, the Chronicle of Higher Education just published a commentary co-authored by Brian Coppola of University of Michigan and me.

Read the whole article on the site of the Chronicle site: http://chronicle.com/article/US-Education-in-Chinese/130669/

Here are some of the main points:

The education systems in China and the United States not only are headed in opposite directions, but are aiming at exactly what the other system is trying to give up.

In the United States, through programs such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, as well as calls for more standardization and accountability in higher education, we are embracing the sort of regimented, uniform, standards-based, and test-driven education that has dominated Asian education systems for thousands of years.

What seems to be under appreciated in this country is how actively the Asian systems are trying to embrace the values and outcomes that we appear to be so willing to abandon: specifically, the American penchant for promoting creativity, individualism, innovation, and nonconformity. In other words, for developing and nurturing the diverse talent that can result from an ethos of coloring outside the lines.

Fundamentally, the education system in the United States may be no more capable of actively teaching creativity and innovation than the education system in China is; it may well simply be that the system in China has been more systemically effective at suppressing it. Success may be tied as much to what is not done­—avoiding the smothering uniformity of standardization—than to what is done.

An appeal to reject standards and standards-based instruction and testing may seem like an invitation to embrace feel-good mediocrity, yet nothing could be further from the truth. By recognizing and finding value in the core principles of a true liberal-arts education, China is seeking to avoid the inherent problems that have accompanied its historic approach to education—problems that the United States is already in danger of adopting.

Resist any temptation to standardize and overly regulate higher education in the name of accountability. For various reasons, including the low employment rate of college graduates, the fraudulent practices of some for-profit higher-education institutions, and reports of low-quality graduates, there is an increasing effort to impose government regulations and external standards upon colleges. These seemingly responsible actions will inevitably bring more regimentation, standardization, and testing, ruining what has made American higher education the envy of the world—and what Asian countries are eager to emulate.

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2 Comments »

  • Walking the Art Show Wallpaper: Musings in 3 Parts | Connected Superintendent said:

    [...] Yong Zhao also caught my attention recently when he wrote that perhaps it’s not so much that America’s schools have encouraged creativity as much as that they haven’t suppressed it, as in China. In America’s schools of recent decades, we’ve mostly ignored the potential for kids to make, create, design, build, and engineer unless it’s in art, CTE, or gifted classes – or those magnet academies and schools that cater to a specialized, by application, cohort who obtain access by lottery or overt talent. [...]

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