Friday, February 21, 2014

Chinese educational achievement

Some of it is due to hard work but there are slackers too. Those who think that achievement in China is due to cramming only might like to reflect that Chinese students in Western schools also do outstandingly well

Consider this January 2011 Los Angeles Times article in which the celebration of China's ability to master the standardized test is lost in Shanghai:

Reporting from Shanghai -- Chinese adolescence is known as a time of scant whimsy: Students rise at dawn, disappear into school until dinnertime and toil into the late night over homework in preparation for university entrance exams that can make or break their future.

So it came as little surprise when international education assessors announced last month that students in Shanghai had outperformed the rest of the industrialized world in standardized exams in math, reading and science.

But even as some parents in the West wrung their hands, fretting over an education gap, Chinese commentators reacted to the results with a bout of soul-searching and even an undertone of embarrassment rarely seen in a country that generally delights in its victories on the international stage.

"I carry a strong feeling of bitterness," Chen Weihua, an editor at the state-run China Daily, wrote in a first-person editorial. "The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood."

In a sense, this is the underbelly of a rising China: the fear that schools are churning out generations of unimaginative worker bees who do well on tests.

This semester, I happen to have a Chinese exchange student in one of my sophomore English classes. His name is Cheng, and he is 18 years old -- which allows me to use his name in this post. I asked Cheng if he would consider writing an essay comparing his American school experience with what he is accustomed to as a Chinese student. He readily agreed, noting that writing the essay would give him the opportunity to practice his English.

I have reproduced Cheng's essay below.  Here is Cheng's perspective on the American and Chinese education systems:

"Study in China is very hard. For most high school, students must wake up about 6 o'clock and arrive school at 7 o'clock. There is no school buses in my small city (Hubei). So I have to ride my bike to school even in the winter (temperature below zero degrees C). And I spend 13 hours in school, 11 hours for class and 2 hours for lunch block. There are 40 mins per class but I have 10 class everyday. The last class is a long class started at 6 p.m. and end at 10 p.m. We had two types of class you can choose in high school, One is more scientific, like biology, chemical, and physical; One is more about literature -- history, government, and geography. But there are three subjects people must take, Chinese, math and ENGLISH. In my class, my friends all don't like English because all of them will never had chance to go aboard. And maybe they will stay in the small city rest of their life. So they didn't study at all. Same thing happened in all the subjects. So they hated school.

The test in China is not very good. The teacher didn't care about do you learn in class or at home. The teachers just want to see your grades in the exam. So, as everyone know, some people cheat, and some people did very good job on cheating. Some teachers didn't even notice that during the test! So the student who never study got very high grade better than other students who study very hard. So people won't study hard any more. And the student's life is depended on the final exam, the Entrance exam for college. No matter if you study befor, once you got a very high scored, you can go to the best college. That means your salary is two or three times than normal students after graduate. But Chinese people can't change these. If the Chinese education is like the American's there must be some new troubles. Because the population of China is very huge, for now is about 1,400,000,000, people in China. There are 60 students in my class in my school, and it's hard for my teachers, too, because they can't care too many people at the same time. American education is special. I prefer American education.

The ways to have class is different between America and China. In [our American high school], we have to walk in the classroom and only 5 minutes, in China, students stay in the same classroom everyday and the teacher came into classroom, and we have different classes everyday! That's the most different and important things. Like in [our American high school], if you don't have P.E. a year, so you won't have it the whole year. That's the only thing I don't like here [in America].

I don't think American education should change to like China, because they are two different countries, East and West, socialist and capitalism. Chinese education is depend on the population of China. American doesn't have that huge population. The conditions of the country is different. So the education should not be the same.

Test is important to students. Because it's important, many people try to cheat in the test to get high scored. That's the thing we don't want to see. But test is necessary. Student need something to make them want to study, some students make a goal that they will pass the next test. So they will study. If there is no test, people will never study at home. I think it's better to have test. If the teacher can make the student learn without test, that is fine. And the test would be not valuable if people cheat in the test."

I asked Cheng if he preferred American public school, and his face immediately lit up. With an eager nod of the head, he replied, "Oh, yes!" In the United States, Cheng does not attend school from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. He has transportation readily available to and from school. He has time for a life outside of the classroom. In short, he has opportunity for that "joy of childhood," even as he now enters young adulthood.


Academy run by top university attacked over poor results

A school run by one of Britain’s leading universities has been threatened with take-over because education standards are “unacceptably low”, it has emerged.

The Department for Education has reprimanded an academy sponsored by Nottingham University following concerns over poor exam results, inadequate teaching and misbehaviour by pupils.

It is the 40th time that ministers have been forced to issue a “pre-warning letter” to an academy – a flagship independent state school run free of local council control – in the last two years.

The Government has the power to appoint new directors onto the governing body and ultimately place the school in the hands of a new sponsor to address chronic underperformance.

In the latest letter, Nottingham University Samworth Academy is told the school must boost its performance or face further action.

The letter from Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, raises concerns that just 32 per cent of pupils gained good GCSEs last summer, down from 35 per cent a year earlier and below the Government's minimum threshold of 40 per cent.

At the same time, the school was judged to be "inadequate" by Ofsted following an inspection at the end of last year, with the watchdog concluding that teaching was poor, marking and planning of work was inadequate, expectations were too low, pupils had a bad attitude in lessons and the expulsion rate was too high.

The school was opened in 2009 – replacing a community comprehensive on the site.

It had been rated as "good" by inspectors in July 2012 but this was downgraded following another probe last November.

Prof Alan Ford, pro-vice-chancellor for teaching and learning at Nottingham University, which is a member of the elite Russell Group, said: “As soon as it became clear that this year's GCSE results were not where they should be, we put a plan of action in place to improve teaching and learning, strengthen management and leadership, and improve results for pupils at NUSA.

"This represents a new phase for NUSA. It will mean a focus on improving learning outcomes for the school, strengthening leadership and providing the right environment for pupils to succeed."

The school said it was teaming up with the Torch Academy Gateway Trust in an attempt to raise standards.

A pre-warning letter gives schools two weeks to come up with an action plan before being issued with a formal warning notice. This can lead to the Government appointing additional directors and – ultimately – replacing the sponsor altogether.


Schools 'must go back to basics to raise maths standards'

Children are falling behind in maths because of “strong resistance” to traditional teaching methods in the classroom, according to the former Schools Minister.

Pupils struggle to understand basic mathematical concepts following a decline in the use of mental arithmetic and rote learning at a young age, it was claimed.

Nick Gibb said that pupils had to learn maths in the same way that they would attempt to play the piano – with repeated practise and committing methods to their long-term memory.

The comments follow the publication of a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that found a significant gap in performance between British pupils and their peers in parts of the Far East.

Researchers found that the children of factory workers, labourers and cleaners in China were now more than a year ahead of the offspring of British doctors and lawyers.

A delegation of head teachers and education experts will visit Shanghai next week as part of a fact-finding mission to discover why Chinese pupils are so far ahead of their British counterparts.

Mr Gibb, who left the Department for Education last year, said that part of the difference was down to a stronger work ethic in China and a commitment to old-fashioned rote learning.

He said: “With a lot of practise, children not only become fluent and confident in calculation they also develop an understanding of the concepts underlying those calculations as familiar patterns emerge”.

Writing for, he said large numbers of schools rejected the approach in favour of “chunking” – where pupils are encouraged to break sums down into numerous component stages before an answer is reached.

“These methods are now universal in our primary schools, with strong resistance to the teaching and practise of traditional algorithms amongst many in the educational establishment,” he said.

From this September, a new maths curriculum will be introduced that will place a greater emphasis on times tables and mental arithmetic at a young age. This includes mastering multiplication tables up to 12 by the age of nine.

But Mr Gibb said: “Believe it or not, these are controversial proposals amongst many in the education establishment.

“There is, however, a determination to see these reforms through and the reward will be a transformation in the ability and confidence in maths of the next generation, a generation that I hope will be on a par with their peers in the Far East.”

Dame Rachel de Souza, who leads the Inspiration Trust, a group of seven academies in Norfolk, will be part of the China delegation.

She said her schools already adopted one technique from the Far East – encouraging teachers to timetable maths lessons at the start of each day to ensure “children’s brains are at their freshest” when they tackle sums.

“Teachers are able to mark the work and get it back to the pupils on the same day so that children get speedy feedback,” she said. “Teachers and children go home knowing whether the topic is understood, or where pupils might have gone wrong.

“This is what they do in Shanghai and it is having a very positive effect in our schools too. I would urge others to follow suit.

“I’m looking forward to visiting to see what other methods they employ.”


No comments: