Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World by Young Zhao

7. The Witch That Cannot Be Killed: Educational Reforms and Setbacks

  • Even the centralized authorities in China realize that most Chinese schools, students, and parents go way overboard with the amount of time they study, but they have not been able to do much about it. Schools and parents aren’t willing to back off on study time as they don’t trust other schools and parents to do the same thing. College admissions are tightly controlled by the government, and when they realized that the test-only admissions process didn’t allow for students with skills and talents not tested, they made some exceptions. Unfortunately, this has only caused rampant corruption including forged certificates and bribery.
  • As of 2013, admissions to local schools were to be based only on residence, tracking was forbidden, teaching was to assume that all students start at zero proficiency, no written homework is allowed for primary students, and standard testing was greatly reduced. Schools were not allowed to organize extra classes, and regular inspections enforce the new rules. The results have been token compliance by schools, and students’ burdens have not decreased. Even though parents have demanded these changes, they refuse to cooperate. They fear that if they reduce the workload that their children will lose the game.
  • The Communist Party has replaced the emperor. Education prepares workers for the party and the state. Creative talents are rewarded only when their creativity happens to be desired by the government. Parents contribute half of their child’s education costs, and the government dictates the curriculum. (Sound like our Common Core Standards?)
  • Yong’s plan: China has to abandon education as a tool for social control and begin to accept individual values. It’s time to give up college entrance exams and to let individual institutions decide which students to admit. The same autonomy needs to be extended to locally elected school boards, and the curriculum should no longer be centrally dictated. If China doesn’t give up its authoritarian regime, the hope to produce a truly creative citizenry is very faint.
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