High Test Scores, but China Education Flawed

China's education system prepares students for tests, but not much else.

ByABC News
December 8, 2010, 7:13 PM

Dec. 9, 2010— -- Chinese students made international headlines this week when Shanghai high school kids outscored their counterparts on PISA, an international standardized test. China came out on top and the U.S. was buried somewhere in the middle -- but it was no surprise to education experts or even to people familiar with China's progress as a global presence.

"The entire system is geared toward that one goal -- taking [a] test," said Yasheng Huang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It would be the equivalent of American students spending four or five years preparing for the GRE or SAT, he said. So when it comes to exams, Chinese students are stellar performers. But when it comes to other barometers of success, they fall short.

"In terms of imaginative talking, coming up with good ideas, taking risks, those are actually very weak," said Huang.

Such weaknesses are closely linked to an education system that effectively shortchanges Chinese students.

"When you spend all your time as a student at school going after high scores, you lose opportunity to develop anything else," said Yong Zhao, an education professor at Michigan State University.

Zhao said the Chinese system spends too much time focused on instruction, and not enough on education. Instruction, he explained, is imparting knowledge. Education is something entirely different.

"It's a long-term process of developing human beings, and well-rounded human beings who are curious, passionate and creative," said Zhao.