November 10, 2017

Force-feeding eggs to students isn’t quite what parents would expect to happen in the classroom. But, Lenora Chu's son, who attended preschool in Shanghai, returned home one day to tell her that that’s exactly what happened to him. We talk with Chu, author of “Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve,” about what this experience tells us about the differences between education in the U.S. and in China, and what we can learn about the Chinese approach.

Three Takeaways 

  • “Teacher knows best” in China, and teachers can make students do things they don’t want to do - like eat eggs. But, by suppressing individual will and emphasizing respect for authority, the Chinese are able to make progress. Chu’s son now loves to eat eggs - so the outcome might be desirable, even when the methods aren't.
  • In China, a student’s scores on their college entrance exam can have a monumental impact on their future. If they pass, they can go to college. If they don’t, they might be destined for a job in manufacturing. But, in a slowing economy, the manufacturing jobs are disappearing (and moving to countries with lower wages). With fewer options available, parents are going to great lengths to make sure their children get the education they need to pass the exams.
  • Chinese educators don’t link achievement in the classroom with self-esteem - they connect it with hard work. The message is that, “every kid can get this with enough effort,” Chu says. And it translates to the belief that every student can master difficult subjects - regardless of innate talent.

More reading 

Test Scores, China, Education, Chinese Education, Lenora Chu, innovation hub, pri, WGBH, Kara Miller

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