Catching Up or Leading the Way Yong Zhao

More About China

  • Countries like China, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan are reforming as well. Unlike the United States, they are pushing for more flexibility and more choices for students. They see fostering creativity as an important goal. Instead of more national standards they are allowing more autonomy at the local level. These Asian countries who have scored high on international tests are advocating for more individualization and attending to emotions, creativity, and other skills.
  • China’s growth has been largely fueled by vast cheap labor, mostly making things invented or designed elsewhere. For China to import one Airbus 380 aircraft, it needs to export 800 million shirts. Indigenous innovation is still a dream for China. This stems from the fact that what schools value and measure may not be what is important in real life and it may even hurt.

China from AD 605 to Today

  • As early as AD 605, China’s central government began to use a national exam system to select government officials. (The other four inventions were the compass, gunpowder, paper, and movable type.) Tests seemed to discriminate against individuals who were talented in science and technology. The gaokao test given at the end of high school has a profound effect on all schooling and society. Studies have shown that students ranking in the top 10% are not as successful in life.
  • Many students in China attend school and study and do little else. Increased competition in getting into better colleges and an exclusive focus on test scores place unbearable pressure on students. Suicide is the number-one killer of Chinese between the ages of 15 and 34. Many cases of cheating are reported and are punished as criminal actions. Another casualty is creativity. To be creative is to be different. All schools work against creativity expecting children to conform.

Globalization Issues

  • Zhao does a good job of explaining what has led to globalization. If you don’t know the details I recommend this book. I also point you to the summary of Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, which can be found on this blog. Important questions for educators related to this issue are: Why would the world’s employers pay us more than they have to pay talented people from places like India to do their work? What can we do to help our children live, work, and interact with people from different cultures and countries? The ability to interact effectively with people who speak different languages, believe in different religions, and hold different values has become essential for all workers. NCLB has already squeezed out room for subjects other than those being tested.

Education In the Virtual World

  • A majority of our schools have done little more than offer courses on computer keyboarding and other simple computer skills, besides using the new technology to enhance the teaching of traditional subjects. (Doug: This was a general finding of my dissertation.) School use of technology has yet to recognize the transformation that it has brought about. The virtual world is becoming a significant source of jobs while schools teach skills and knowledge needed for an industrial economy. (Doug: This is not to mention that online education allows students to learn what they need, and possibly better, than they can learn in schools. The increase in home teaching is one result. Are schools so slow to change that they will be left in the virtual dust?)
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3 Responses to “Catching Up or Leading the Way Yong Zhao”

  1. As a teacher and parent continually being bombarded with the benefits of high stakes testing, this is a book I long to read. Thank you. I marvel at the foreign students that flood into our rural schools here and am always warmed by the notion that what they seem to looking for is balance… I continue to search for this in ePub format. Thanks for the review.

  2. […] Click here for Yong Zhao’s 10 minute video. Click here for my summary of Yong’s Book. […]

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