Education in the U.S. and China

Cultural Insights — By on May 31, 2007 at 12:03 pm

Nicholas Kristof had an interesting column earlier this week, comparing the educational systems in the U.S. and China. Here are some of the relevant passages:

With China’s trade surplus with the United States soaring, the tendency in the U.S. will be to react with tariffs and other barriers. But instead we should take a page from the Chinese book and respond by boosting education.

One reason China is likely to overtake the U.S. as the world’s most important country in this century is that China puts more effort into building human capital than we do…

I visited several elementary and middle schools accompanied by two of my children. And in general, the level of math taught even in peasant schools is similar to that in my kids’ own excellent schools in the New York area.

My kids’ school system doesn’t offer foreign languages until the seventh grade. These Chinese peasants begin English studies in either first grade or third grade, depending on the school. Frankly, my daughter got tired of being dragged around schools and having teachers look patronizingly at her schoolbooks and say, “Oh, we do that two grades younger.”

Kristof goes on to provide several suggestions as to why “Chinese students do so well.” Some of his reasons include:

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…

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.

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