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

The Naked Emperor: Chinese Lessons for What Not to Do

  • The illusion of Chinese excellence comes almost entirely from scores on the PISA exams. Many doubt the validity of these tests, but even if they are valid, all they do is tell us who are the best test takers. Such education assumes that it is possible to identify the body of knowledge and skills that will meet the exact needs of society’s existing jobs going forward. Such employee-oriented education gives us standardization and competition, with emphasis on outcomes. This is the opposite of entrepreneur-oriented education that emphasizes developing the potential of each individual and the creation of jobs. Rather than creating standardized students, we need to maximize individual differences by allowing teachers to facilitate students’ pursuit of their interests and passions. Personalized education promotes diversity and creativity, and can engage students in global interactions. As such, Chinese education is the exact opposite of what we need for the new era.The Chinese realize the damages of their system but have had little success doing anything about it. The belief that everyone can succeed the same way as long as they work hard has also lead to compete negligence of children with disabilities and special needs. As evidence of China’s failure, note that only 10% of their college graduates have been found to be employable by multinational businesses. China’s model cannot serve as a model for the future. This means that we will have to invent a very different one.

Follow Up by Dr. Doug

  • This book is a follow up to Yong’s 2009 Catching Up or Leading the Way Yong Zhao. I suggest that you read my summary next. In it, Yong explains how China would like a more American system, while America with its Common Core Standards and testing culture is copying the worst of the Chinese system. With many current innovations like flipped classes, badges in place of grades, self-paced learning, and variations of Google’s 20% time, I see hope for a new system that can take us where we should be going rather than copying the Chinese Illusion.
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