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Karen Quinn the Testing Mom Visits Asia

Karen Quinn the Testing Mom Visits Asia

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - March 21st, 2012

I’ve just spent a week in China – Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Dalian so far.  We’re going to Beijing tomorrow.  During this time, I’ve gotten to speak to parents of young children about the education system here, and I’ve visited an elementary school.  I wanted to share some of the things I’ve observed with you. Don’t worry, there are no OLSAT tests or CogAT tests in China (at least not yet!).

  •  Talking to parents, I’ve learned that children here are very, very busy!  School starts early in the morning and go until 3. Then, kids go to tutors to get help with academics and extra-curricular lessons such as dancing, music and art. This is followed by homework until (often) 10:00 p.m.!  Parents are very involved in their children’s education here.  As one father told me proudly, “in Shanghai, all the mothers are Tiger Moms.”
  • In America, we often say that our education system would be so much better if parents were more involved, but that isn’t a problem here.  The parents all seem to be involved.  Maybe it is because they value education so highly.  Maybe it is because with all the other parents pushing their children so hard, parents feel they must push their children even harder in order for them to compete.  I’m not sure of the reason, but the result is hardworking children with parents doing everything they can to help them succeed. 
  • I visited a large elementary school in Dalian.  Early childhood education is part of the system.  Children from3-years-old to 6-years-old were in “kindergarten” classes.  Older children were in primary school.  Everyone wore uniforms.  
  • The class sizes were fairly large, but all the children were listening and behaving well. We learned that they also pull children out of the large groups and do small group work on basic skills. 
  • The curriculum includes academics, art, music,and physical education.  We saw the children doing calisthenics in unison on the playground.  There was also a well-equipped playground.  That’s right – PE, free play, and the arts are supported!
  • We saw children playing instruments, singing,and dancing for us.  When the school sees a non-academic talent in a child, they foster it and help the child develop expertise in that area.  Personally, I love that and wish American schools would value non-academic talent in a similar way!
  • The children were all learning English. 
  • All children are expected to keep up.  If they don’t, they are said to not be working hard enough.  This must also be why parents stay so involved in their children’s education.  No parent wants the “shame” of a child that can’t keep up.  This must put a lot of pressure on the children as well.
  • We learned that the “one child” policy is no longer in effect.  Parents can have more than one child, but the state will only educate one child.  Parents must pay for the education of additional children and it is expensive. For this reason, most people still have very small families.  With only one or two children, it is certainly easier for parents to put everything they can into their children’s education!

I’ve been very impressed with the education system I’ve seen in China.  It helps me understand why Chinese children are so hardworking and successful in school.  While I don’t advocate mothers turning into “Tiger Moms” in America, I think we can learn something from the Chinese.  Education is so important and we must instill that value in our kids.  As parents, we must stay involved in our children’s schooling. We should set the bar high for our kids, expecting them to work hard and do their best.   This is the only way our children will stay competitive in this new world economy.

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