A Great Irony

A great irony is now taking place in education.  While leaders of the education reform movement in our country are trying to model our education system after countries whose students have historically outperformed America’s students on high-stakes tests, some of those very same countries are trying to make their education system more like ours.  Take, for example, China.  Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar who studies the impact of globalization and technology on education. He is also author of the book Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the World’s Best and Worst Education.  Dr. Zhao explains that China has an effective system to prepare students to pass exams.  It is a system that includes devoted parents and diligent students who are convinced that the only path to a worthy life is passing the exam and who are punished or rewarded according to their exam results.  However, unless the Chinese only want obedient, compliant, and homogeneous workers, they know they have to shift the emphasis of their educational system.  The West, according to Dr. Zhao, is where China is working to find the inspiration it desperately needs for this new educational focus because, as the Chinese Ministry of Education pointed out a decade ago, its exam-oriented education system does not work for the new world:  “The exams-oriented education refers to the factual existence in our nation’s education of the tendency to simply prepare for tests, aim for high test scores, and blindly pursue admission rates (to colleges or higher-level schools) while ignoring the real needs of the student and societal development.  It pays attention to only a minority of the student population and neglects the majority; it emphasizes knowledge transmission but neglects moral, physical, aesthetic and labor education, as well as the cultivation of applied abilities and psychological and emotional development; it relies on rote memorization and mechanical drills as the primary approach, which makes learning uninteresting, hinders students from learning actively, prevents them from taking initiatives and heavily burdens them with excessive amounts of course work; it uses test scores as the primary or only criterion to evaluate students, hurting their motivation and enthusiasm, squelching their creativity and impeding their overall development.”


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