Loosening the grip

China is making headlines for more than trafficking pirated Lost DVDs. Some U.S. educators and employers envy that nation's success in teaching math and science (at least in producing scads of engineers and suchlike) but now China seems to be showing greater curiosity about American schools. Specifically, it's interested in learning from the "American genius for innovation." Like other Asian nations, China has enjoyed good success in teaching its students basic skills and knowledge but has been less effective in fostering creative minds. Japan encountered similar problems in the 1980s; its lagging economy indicates that American innovation may not be easily replicated. That hasn't stopped China from trying, though. The country is reforming its curricula, training educators in more interactive teaching styles, and lauding give-and-take learning in the classroom. But don't be fooled--teachers aren't abdicating authority. Yang Guihong, who teaches math at the Changping No. 2 Middle School outside Beijing, explains the new strategy: "The point is, we make the students curious first, then we tell them what to do." Freedom still comes slowly in China.

"Chinese Hosts Turn Tables on Ed Week Reporter," by Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, April 9, 2007

"China, U.S. taking notes on education," by Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2007

"Re-education," by Ann Hulbert, New York Times Magazine, April 1, 2007