Primary Science Education in China and the USA

Posted on July 19, 2006  Comments (0)

Should the US Take a Page Out of China’s Schoolbook?

China consistently performs well on international benchmarks despite having to serve 20% of the world’s students with only 2% of its educational resources.

Pretty impressive.

But mimicking China’s system is by no means a blanket solution for American education woes.

Mimicking is almost never a successful strategy. What can be successful is learning from what others do well and adopting the good ideas in ways that makes sense in your system.

Seed Magazine’s article is based on a report by The Asia Society (“dedicated to strengthening relationships and deepening understanding among the peoples of Asia and the United States. Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd”) – Math/Science Education in a Global Age. From the introduction of the report:

The report, Math and Science Education in a Global Age: What the U.S. Can Learn from China, outlines key ways in which China, and East Asia more broadly, have been successful in producing higher student achievement in math and science. These include:

• Strong Core Curriculum. In China, biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as algebra and geometry are mandatory for completion of high school. In the United States, students are allowed to choose among different levels of learning and can opt out of more advanced courses.

• Time on Task. Chinese schools and learning after school are intensely academically focused. The Chinese school year is a full month longer at the secondary level than American schools and overall Chinese students spend twice as many hours studying as their U.S. peers.

Some things are not that complicated. If you choose not to put in the work to study and learn you are less likely to be equally prepared. The USA can make excuses for poor performance compared to other countries or can decide that we don’t really want to try and be as successful (say aim for about 40th place among counties for level of primary science education). It seems to me the more honest assessment right now is we don’t want to put in the effort that other countries do. That is a choice that seems to have been made, and while I think it is a mistake, that doesn’t mean the USA can’t still make it – I know that might surprise you that an option I disagree with might be chosen 🙂

Some good stuff: there are plenty of bright spots the problem is people see good ideas and think that means we are in fine. It is not that difficult to improve. The challenge is to improve as quickly as others do (or as quickly as is reasonable to expect – we should be able to build upon what has come before).

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