Friday, June 1, 2007

No Chinese Left Behind

The United States still retains the world's best universities, but after reading Nick Kristof's non-hysterical report from China, I fear for our current kindergarteners:

First, Chinese students are hungry for education and advancement and work harder. In contrast, U.S. children average 900 hours a year in class and 1,023 hours in front of a television.

Here in [Taishan], the students show up at school at about 6:30 a.m. to get extra tutoring before classes start at 7:30. They go home for a lunch break at 11:20 and then are back at school from 2 p.m. until 5. They do homework every night and weekend, and an hour or two of homework each day during their eight-week summer vacation.

The second reason is that China has an enormous cultural respect for education, part of its Confucian legacy, so governments and families alike pour resources into education. Teachers are respected and compensated far better, financially and emotionally, in China than in America. . . .

A third reason is that Chinese believe that those who get the best grades are the hardest workers. In contrast, Americans say in polls that the best students are the ones who are innately the smartest. The upshot is that Chinese kids never have an excuse for mediocrity.

Chinese education has its own problems, including bribes and fees to get into good schools, huge classes of 50 or 60 students, second-rate equipment and lousy universities. But the progress in the last quarter-century is breathtaking.