China, US education systems have own merits

By Jiang Zhaohui Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/27 20:13:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The Wall Street Journal recently published "Why American students need Chinese schools," written by an American mother. The Wall Street Journal noted that "after putting her son in an elite State-run school in Shanghai, Lenora Chu found that the US education system could learn a few things from China," especially the esteem and authority that a Chinese teacher enjoys.

When many Chinese parents who subscribe to a Western education philosophy or are preparing to send their children abroad hear praises for Chinese education from an American parent, the contrast will hit them hard and even raise doubts. Is Chinese education really as good as the American described? What on earth is Chinese education good at? At least an answer was given in this article: "teacher knows best."

In fact, basic education in China is good enough that not only American parents, but also education officials and researchers from the UK and the US sometimes come to China seeking valuable experiences. After students in Shanghai outscored the rest of the world on the Program for International Student Assessment, Marc Tucker, president and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, published Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World Leading System in 2013. Although Chinese education has good things to offer, there is still more criticism than applause.

In modern society, especially the information age, "teacher knows best" is untenable. Students and parents can acquire information through the Internet, making teachers no longer the sole source of knowledge. Thus it is easy to question or challenge a teacher. Some questioning is necessary in teaching. However, it can easily be taken to extremes by the so-called student-centered theory.

One can imagine the result of education when students and parents no longer believe in teachers, frequently challenging their authority instead of cooperating with them. The US and other Western countries have gone too far down the road of student individualism and freedom.

Western educational philosophy comes with strengths and advantages, but is not necessarily any more advanced than that of China. Advanced education should take advantage of all modes of education. It is not about denying the old while learning the new or overdoing one approach or the other.

With the opening and development of our society, Western education is becoming more preferred in China while the good things in our traditional education are neglected. We should absorb the essence of traditional Chinese education philosophy and pass it down from generation to generation, such as respect for the teacher and teaching mentioned by the American parent, teaching each student in accordance with their aptitude, proper education for all social classes and education as a two-way process. The achievements and experience of contemporary education should be summarized, refined and promoted.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the National Institute of Education Sciences.


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