Friday, May 20, 2011

Keeping an Eye on China

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday returned from a recent trip to China with some thoughts on schooling.
China made a choice about teacher time. In China, teachers have about 12-15 hours of instruction time with students each week, compared to U.S. teachers with 24-30 hours. The Chinese teachers utilize between 15-18 hours each week for preparation, improving instruction, collaborative learning with other teachers and support services like grading papers, as compared to U.S. teachers with 0-6 hours. The choice made by China is class size. The average class size in China could be between 40-50 students per class as compared to the average U.S. class size of 16-25.

Another choice the Chinese have made is teacher specialization. In elementary/middle grades, teachers have specialization in Chinese, English, math, science and other subjects. In the U.S., our teachers -- especially in elementary school -- are asked to be ALL things to students and teach ALL subjects. Quite often, our elementary and even middle school teachers lack the math and science content knowledge that these specialized teachers in China have.
Check it out.

The other thing we are seeing from China, is that while they are building a new college per month, the Chinese are not happy with the overall performance of their schools. It's because the highly routinized and test-driven method, while producing solid test scores, is not producing creative thinking to any satisfactory degree. To develop the creative thinking necessary to produce innovation, they send their students to American colleges.

Still, if they continue to support the success of their teachers to a high degree, while shifting their curriculum toward more openness and creativity, it could be a whole new ballgame within a couple of decades.


Boy Genius said...

Who says we're not keeping up with science content knowledge? We have the Creation Museum and soon the Ark of the Dinosaur!

Skip Kifer said...


I have to stop reading this stuff; it's making me feel really old. Holliday's post contains stuff we wrote about 30 years ago in reference to Japan.

Perhaps he will discover that teachers are highly esteemed in China and that professionals do not go around bashing them.

My line is that when at UK and dealing with female Asian graduate students, we could never get out of Taylor Ed. building. My culture said open the door for a female; hers said one walks behind the PROFESSOR.

Those who cherry-pick international practices have to realize that they are deeply embedded in the culture. The question is if they are translated, what would they look like.