It is no secret that China has evolved immensely throughout the past 20 years, but is it possible they have surpassed the United States? YES, and by a lot. The news report clip below expands on how, “Chinese students left American teens in the dust,” in Reading, Math, and Science (Youtube).
The video notes that, “On average, Chinese students attend 41 more days of school every year,” which amounts to, “30% more instruction.” per year (Youtube). The video describes China as a nation that is striving to be a nation of skilled workers, and as the Senior Advisor for Education in Asia blatantly put it, “Nobody wants to be the shoe manufacturer of the world, everybody wants to be in the scientific and technical sector,” (Youtube).
More time in classes and the desire for a better life, however, is not the only reason Chinese students perform better than American students. The Asia Pacific Journal Education attributes the success of Chinese students to religious, cultural, and political factors.
An article released by the journal reveals that in China, children are “expected to comply with the requirements of adults without question,” and they observed that, “the respect for authority also extends to relationships between teachers in schools,” (APJE). This culturally engrained notion of unquestioned respect for authority allows teachers to worry less about disciplining children, which allows them focus solely on academic instruction. The journal article also states, the functional nature of socialist education is to achieve economic ends (APJE). They hold their youth to a higher standard because of the collectivist thought that they must eventually serve a purpose in their growing economy, as opposed to the US educational system that focuses much more on the individual. The article concludes that, “Many of his [Confucius’s] precepts, including respect for authority, patriarchy, worshipping traditions and collectivist rather than individual values, are still reflected in the structure of schools and the wider society,” and they attribute these as the reasons why Chinese students excel over American students: because they respect the classroom, are held to higher expectations, and have greater incentives to be competitive academically.
Do I believe that US schools currently lack those characteristics? YES. Do I think we should completely revolutionize our education system completely and adopt China’s educational structure, and collectivist principles? Not at all. An educational framework like that simply would not work within the context of our society, and being able to freely challenge authority respectfully is one of the cornerstones of higher learning because it has been proven to cultivate critical thought. The journal touches upon this fact when it says that although, ” regard respect for elders is a consistent virtue of the Chinese nation, complete submission is unfavourable to the spirit of democracy,” (AJPE).
Despite the fact we cannot implement China’s educational policies, can the United States catch up?
OF COURSE. It is just going to take a “Sputnik moment,” as the video calls it, where the US must prioritize Education, and allocate necessary funds into our school systems. The Stanford University study described in the video revealed that,“If American students were able to raise their performance on this international test by just about 5%, it would translate into 41 trillion dollars in the U.S economy of the next 20 years,” that is enough to pay our 17 trillion dollar debt, two and a half times over. So, you decide America, do you want to pay now, and reap a great return later? Or are we going to continue to settle for 30th best?
Asia Pacific Journal of Education (APJE)- http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02188791.2000.10600183