Comparing Education Systems…

I’ve been watching Ted Koppel’s The People’s Republic of Capitalism on the Discovery Channel – a program that has been both informative and very fascinating. I would highly recommend that anyone watch this series.

As I watched the second episode (on my DVR – something I’ll post about another time), Ted Koppel was interviewing a young man (who now goes by Alan) who spent most of his life in China, save for one year in Washington state as an exchange student. Listening to him talk seemed to shed a different light on an issue that is a really big deal on this side of the Pacific: education. Since “A Nation at Risk,” the motivation for increased standards and testing has typically been global competition. It’s not hard to find articles and statistics touting the superiority of the Chinese education system – just look at all the jobs that have been outsourced to China (which was the main subject of the first episode).

During his interview with Koppel, Alan seems to disagree with the contention that American education is failing. “Everything is developing and the focus now, here, is economic development…I sometimes just feel that my imagination, my mind, is blocked and I feel it’s very terrible – my mind is empty; I cannot create anything…I think it’s a result of the Chinese education because the Chinese education does not encourage students to create or imagine. They just tell you 1 is 1, 2 is 2 and don’t forget it. 1 and 1 is 2. Yeah, so, no imagination.”

Are we so sure that our students are failing? Are we really at risk? If we truly believe in what we call the 21st century skills – most notably creative and critical thinking – doesn’t Alan’s statement suggest that we’re on the right track?

I’ll have more observations from this series over the weekend, but until then, I’d recommend watching it – it’s worth your time.

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