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Wed Jan 1, 2014, 01:24 AM


Chinese Education System: Not Great

Wow -- kind of an eye opener.

It’s that time, again. Pisa released its notorious ranking of international education systems and yet again it’s bad news for the Swedes. I spent a long time scrolling down until the word “Sweden” appeared at a depressing 38th place...

When you notice "Shanghai" at the top of the Pisa list, it might look to you like the only beacon of hope. Sweden is desperate and learning from the Chinese educational system seems like the salvation. But let me tell you that this is not at all true. I know. For two years, I attended a local Shanghainese high school and this is the truth: the teaching is terrible.

In fact, in my view the Chinese education model is not just bad. It’s archaic. Believe me -- adopting the Shanghainese educational model would be a step backwards, not forwards.

Chinese children are masters at test-taking. This is because China has over 199 million students studying at elementary to high-school level and the best way to organize these masses is by testing, grading and categorizing them. Sans cesse.

Students in China are not treated like humans, they are treated like development statistics. The Chinese method is to totally abandon struggling students and to focus merely on the elite. Already in elementary school, there is a strict hierarchical system where some children are assigned the role of "class monitor" and are allowed to punish the students that do badly in class. My little sister was a victim of this...My nine-year-old sister left Shanghai in a state of near-depression. Today, in Sweden, she comes home excited to tell us about her day in school. It’s evident, Jan Björklund, that the Chinese system is beyond challenging, it leaves scars on a child's self-confidence.

Another weapon of Chinese education is humiliation. For several of my Shanghainese teachers it was OK to judge a student by their answers or by their appearance. My history teacher would not hesitate to mock you in front of your friends if you gave a stupid answer. In my sister’s grade, a boy who was struggling in class was given the nickname “fatty” by the teacher. In Sweden though, it’s different....

It’s ridiculously obvious that Shanghai’s Pisa result has nothing to do with the quality of Chinese education... The system breeds Pisa champions, but it ruins young lives. Should Sweden copy China? No. Should we feel threatened by China? No. It would harm us more to copy China than to continue as we are. Of course Swedish education needs improvement, but the truth of the matter is: all countries do...


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Reply Chinese Education System: Not Great (Original post)
El_Johns Jan 2014 OP
kelliekat44 Jan 2014 #1
El_Johns Jan 2014 #2
bhikkhu Jan 2014 #3
SheilaT Jan 2014 #4

Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Wed Jan 1, 2014, 02:07 AM

1. The system is not better. You just have to be a genius to learn to write the language.


Korea has a better system.

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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 1, 2014, 02:09 AM

2. Everyone in China is a genius? (Cause I hear they have 95% literacy...)


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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 1, 2014, 03:26 AM

3. Learning to write Korean is easier, but proficiency is about the same

...or, whether one reads and writes in Korean, English or Chinese, the brain treats the operation about the same, and the level of complexity is about the same. When we read English, for instance, we don't sound out the words or even read the individual letters; rather, we recognize the letters as distinct groups, and in many cases we recognize phrases as distinct units, rather than as individual letters and words. The same process goes for Chinese, Korean or any other written language. Regardless of the simplicity of the script, the brain finds it more efficient to work with them in large, complex chunks.

Chinese has the steepest learning curve because of the large number of signs, but after the 5th grade level or so that no longer matters; proficiency among equivalent learners (and there have been many good studies) is about on par with anywhere else.

btw - I read Korean quite well myself, and certainly is a better system than we have here where we have to essentially memorize the spelling of every word. But people of any intelligence can be quite good at memorizing.

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Wed Jan 1, 2014, 05:59 AM

4. It is my understanding that despite the many


shortcomings of our system, we do tend to produce people who think independently.

That's wonderful.

We also need to make sure we educate all, which is a difficult and complex problem.

I have a friend, a retired elementary school teacher who works as a reading tutor for grades 1-3 at a local (Santa Fe, NM) elementary school. She is very distressed by many of her students. Many of them come from families where the home language is not English. The worst thing is that they come to school with almost no preparation to learn to read. No matter what she does, they do not retain the basics of letters or sounds.

No one ever reads to them. No one seems to think that learning to read matters at all.

In the past, when my mother, who was born in 1916 in Long Island, NY to Irish immigrant parents in a community where most of her age mates were also children of immigrants, those children understood clearly that they needed to learn English, to learn to read and write and make a better life for themselves. It feels as if more recent immigrants have totally lost sight of the goal of improving themselves. And it's scary. The vast majority of us are descendants of immigrants who learned English, whose children and then grandchildren did better. It feels as if that sense of upward mobility is totally lost.

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