Monday, May 28, 2007

The Educated Giant

http://select.nytimes.com/2007/05/28/opinion/28kristof.html?th&emc=th

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: May 28, 2007
Taishan, China

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.

This area in southern Guangdong Province is my wife’s ancestral hometown. Sheryl’s grandparents left villages here because they thought they could find better opportunities for their children in “Meiguo” — “Beautiful Country,” as the U.S. is called in Chinese. And they did. At Sheryl’s family reunions, you feel inadequate without a doctorate.

But that educational gap between China and America is shrinking rapidly. 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.”

There are, I think, four reasons why Chinese students do so well.

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 Sheryl’s ancestral village, 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.

In my last column, I wrote about the boomtown of Dongguan, which had no colleges when I first visited it 20 years ago. The town devotes 21 percent of its budget to education, and it now has four universities. An astonishing 58 percent of the residents age 18 to 22 are enrolled in a university.

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.

It’s also encouraging that so many Chinese will shake their heads over this column and say it really isn’t so. They will complain that Chinese schools teach rote memorization but not creativity or love of learning. That kind of debate is good for the schools and has already led to improvements in English instruction, so that urban Chinese students can communicate better in English than Japanese or South Koreans.

After I visited Sheryl’s ancestral village, I posted a video of it on the Times Web site. Soon I was astonished to see an excited posting on my blog from a woman who used to live in that village.

Litao Mai, probably one of my distant in-laws, grew up in a house she could see on my video. Her parents had only a third grade education, but she became the first person in the village to go to college. She now works for Merrill Lynch in New York and describes herself as “a little peasant girl” transformed into “a capitalist on Wall Street.”

That is the magic of education, and there are 1.3 billion more behind Ms. Mai.

So let’s not respond to China’s surpluses by putting up trade barriers. Rather, let’s do as we did after the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957: raise our own education standards to meet the competition.

You are invited to comment on this column at Mr. Kristof’s blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground.

3 comments:

cheng said...

Comments on my China Education Column
By Nicholas D. Kristof
Monday’s column is about the lessons we can learn from the education system in China. Please post your comments here, and in particular I’d love to hear practical suggestions for improvements in the U.S. system.

http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/05/27/your-comments-on-my-china-education-column/#comments

Ellen said...

国外的孩子更独立、自信,知道自己想要的是什么。中国孩子一般不想,也没有时间想,好多都在为“别人”活啊。

Ellen said...

学校不选模范生 更没有排名
商业周刊第 1001 期 作者:贺先蕙

丹麦人为什么快乐?也许答案之一,在童年教育。

想象你是一位丹麦家长,学期末你会收到孩子怎么样的成绩单?

答案是:你会收到一份没有「成绩」的成绩单。这是《商业周刊》采访团队,实地走访丹麦小学的一项有趣发现。

丹麦的孩子交给父母的是一份「四格成绩单」,上面没有国语、数学、社会、自然的分数,也没有老师的评语,更没有排名。事实上,这份成绩单是由孩子自己或写、或画完成的,上面只有四个格子,分别是「最喜欢的事情」、「最讨厌的事情」、「最擅长的事情」以及「最希望学习的事情」。

许多还不会写字的孩子,在四个格子里甚至只用图画表达。这份四格成绩单是每学期末,老师与家长面谈的根据。重点不是成绩,而是孩子的发展、个性以及与同学的相处。

丹麦儿童教育从「人」出发,每个阶段都有清楚的重点。幼儿时期,重点在孩子适应力和社群能力的培养;年纪稍长,重心逐渐转移到好奇心的激发,训练孩子跨领域的知识运用,探索兴趣,多元认识自己。

一位丹麦受访者告诉我们:「丹麦的孩子,有作为孩子的自由,他们被允许有时间、空间玩耍,接近大自然、爬树、跌倒等等,而不是从小就逼迫他们学习技巧。」

一份丹麦政府与OECD(经济合作暨发展组织)合作的〈丹麦的幼年教育及照护政策〉报告中也强调,为了学习良好的社会能力,幼稚园必须确保孩子能与其它人互动,「先决条件是孩子能有开放、包容和尊重他人的心。」

养成解决问题能力,因自信而快乐 
不追求高分,却有六成学生热爱数学

到了年纪大一点的小学生,教育的重点则转移到团队合作和主动探索知识。

在哥本哈根市郊的Hellerup初等学校,一群五、六年级的学生在老师帮助下,正聚精会神研究他们的「创新」计画。他们决定用「火箭」来表现创新主题,用纸张、少许金属片和氢气球做成火箭,并且发射成功。在这个六百人的学校里,学生有一半的时间坐在课堂里听讲,另一半时间利用这种计画的方式学习。

丹麦许多初等学校都用这种计画式教学,让学生主动学习跨领域知识。以创新计画为例,它长达四个礼拜,这群孩子每天从早上八点到下午两点,或者在教室里、或者在图书馆研讨这项计画,每组都有一个四年级、一个五年级和一个六年级的学生,他们不是被动的听课,而是主动做实验或上网查资料。

特别的是,包括丹麦文、数学、英文、IT(信息科技)和科学等八个不同领域的老师,也打破各自授课的框架,在一旁随时协助,刺激孩子们在他们探索的主题上,可以同时吸取丹麦文、英文、数学和科学等跨领域的知识。

除了创新计画,学校也设计了「怪兽」计画和「如何活出好生活」的科学计画,也有例如「友情」等,加强学生的社会化能力。「这样的方法让他们有解决问题的能力,养成他们的自信,我想这解释了为什么他们可以很快乐。」Hellerup的校长克鲁.诺特福(Knud Nordentoft)说。

从中国移民到丹麦的孙少波、梁琴夫妇告诉我们,他们七岁的女儿在学校玩整天,但这些遊戏设计的目的是让孩子自然而然的学习。例如某个星期的主题是非洲,老师便带著孩子们玩各种非洲遊戏,讨论非洲有什么动物、有什么语言、跳什么舞、睡什么床。

丹麦的教学方式让孩子养成主动、好奇的精神,并且喜爱学习。在OECD针对十五岁学生所做的国际学生评监计画(PISA)中,丹麦孩子的绝对分数表现也许不是非常出色,但当被问到「我做数学因为我喜欢它」这样的问题时,有五九%的丹麦学生表示赞同,高于OECD平均的三八%。

「扎实的知识只是孩子们在学校学的基本,更重要的是学生必须兼具社会能力,擅长合作、能适应快速改变的世界,更必须是独立思考、自信的孩子。」克鲁说。

我们很好奇,在丹麦,学校是如何选举模范生的?当记者询问克鲁时,他无法想象的说:「我们没有这样的措施。我们也绝不会这么做!」原来,丹麦学校没有模范生这回事,这又是我们另一发现。

不跟别人比较,只追求自己的天赋 
丹麦孩子懂得倾听心里的声音

哥本哈根大学历史学家彦斯(Jens Fabricuius Mller)认为,表扬模范生是一种「非常不丹麦」的做法,「我们反对这种做法,我们希望关心那些落后的人。因为那些已经很棒的孩子,不管在什么环境里,都可以有很好的表现。」

没有模范生,只有快乐学习的教育理念,造就了小孩子不必跟别人比较,只要追求自己天赋的文化。丹麦孩子在这样的环境长大,有安全感又自信,懂得倾听自己心里的声音。

一天下午,采访团队到了丹麦第二大城欧胡斯(Aarhus)旁的小镇。坐落在一望无际草原中的是几栋古老的米色建筑,一株三层楼高的栗子树悠然竖立在入口,散发著一种静谧的力量,这是建立于一八六六年的Testrup民众高等学校。

在这里,我们碰到了十九岁的安妮.汤姆森(Anne-Sofie Hartvig Thomsen),她高中刚毕业,来此参加四个月的长期课程,学习戏剧、绘画、宗教和说故事。「这个经验让我更准备好面对人生。」安妮告诉我们。

这里的课程分为哲学、戏剧、创意写作、音乐和公民教育五类,不考试,没有成绩。这里关心的,不是「你可以做什么?」的能力问题,而是「你是谁?」这样的大哉问。

高中毕业不急著进大学 花一年旅遊或当义工来思考人生

「葛隆维启蒙的思想对我们有深远的影响。增加知识固然重要,但若一个人无法体认人生的重要,那么所有的知识都没有力量。」Testrup校长岳恒.卡尔森(Jrgen Carlsen)说。许多丹麦年轻人到了高中毕业,都像安妮一样,不急著立刻进大学,而是用一年时间,透过各种方式来思考人生,可能是旅遊、也可能是做义工。

银饰公司乔治杰生的银匠麦克.伯克佛(Michael Birkefeldt)有三个女儿,他告诉我们,大女儿的志向是做演员。我们反问他会支持女儿这样的志愿吗?他说:「当然。她们必须倾听自己心里的声音,找到自己的人生!快乐很重要的因素,就是你必须要能选择自己的人生!」难道不会担心女儿浪费时间吗?「不会担心浪费时间!我只担心她们能不能得到好的教育、能不能快乐。」

这就是典型的丹麦思维。在这个不求快的社会,孩子有时间、空间、被鼓励去探索世界。如果人们问:「为什么丹麦人可以快乐?」也许答案就在丹麦人的童年教育。

http://gb.businessweekly.com.tw/gate/gb/www.businessweekly.com.tw/webarticle.php?id=24219&p=1