Chinese Educators, Leaders Questioning Focus on Tests

By Anthony Rebora — January 14, 2011 1 min read
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Somewhat ironically, the success of Chinese students on recent international tests has been met with a mixture of embarrassment and soul-searching back home, according to a Los Angeles Times story.

Education and business leaders in China, the story says, are increasingly concerned that the country’s heavily test-focused education system, while driving up academic knowledge and international rankings, is limiting students’ potential and perhaps even their humanity.

“They do very well in those subjects the teacher assigns them,” an education expert at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai told the Times. “They have huge vocabularies and they do math well. However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low.”

There are number of other telling and poignant quotes in the story. In response to the international test results, an editor for the China Daily wrote: “I carry a strong feeling of bitterness. ... The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood.”

“We are fully aware of the situation,” a school vice principal in Shanghai told the Times. "[The students’] creativity is lacking. They suffer poor health, they are not strong and they get injured easily. We are calling on all relevant parties to reduce the burden on our students.”

According to the story, the Chinese government is undertaking a series of education reform plans that are expected to attempt to broaden students’ learning goals, but the exact nature and extent of the changes is still unclear.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.