Next week, Chinese students take the national college entrance exam. It’s the soul-destroying culmination of years of study. And as good as it gets.
June 7 and 8 are the two days that China’s senior three students (twelfth graders) have lived the first 18 years of their lives for, and whatever anxiety, neurosis, and insanity that has simmered beneath the surface among students, parents, and teachers this past year will now reach its climax.
Everyone’s in agreement: the national college entrance examination (gaokao) robs Chinese students of their curiosity, creativity, and childhood. So as gaokao students, with their thick textbooks and memory pills, sequester themselves in four-star hotels while their parents prowl the neighbourhood for construction noise and rambunctious restaurant patrons, now might be a good time to devise an alternative to the gaokao.
In his book A Theory of Justice, the political philosopher John Rawls conducted a thought experiment in which people, shrouded under a ‘veil of ignorance,’ were asked to devise a new social structure to live under. Unsure of their lot in this new society, people would be risk-averse, John Rawls assumed, and would agree to a society that ‘maximised the minimum,’ which is to say a society that aimed for equality, fairness, and social mobility.
So let us return to John Rawls’ ‘original position’ and ‘veil of ignorance,’ gather 1.3 billion Chinese into a nice conference room, and see if we can all work together to negotiate an alternative to the gaokao.
Because everyone in the room has Chinese cultural values and lives in the not too pleasant realities of modern China, there’ll be certain constraints that this new education system must consider. First, every Chinese can agree that this new education system ought to be a meritocracy and that the most diligent and brightest students ought to reach the top.
Read more at The Diplomat
After you read the above piece, and you're are feeling really smug, superior, lucky to be living in America where Education is the best in the world... Let me drop this little bomb on you.
The Failure of American Schools
Who better to lead an educational revolution than Joel Klein, the prosecutor who took on the software giant Microsoft? But in his eight years as chancellor of New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, Klein learned a few painful lessons of his own—about feckless politicians, recalcitrant unions, mediocre teachers, and other enduring obstacles to school reform.
Three years ago, in a New York Times article detailing her bid to become head of the American Federation of Teachers union, Randi Weingarten boasted that despite my calls for “radical reform” to New York City’s school system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and I had achieved only “incremental” change. It seemed like a strange thing to crow about, but she did have something of a point. New York over the past nine years has experienced what Robert Schwartz, the academic dean of Harvard’s education school, has described as “the most dramatic and thoughtful set of large-scale reforms going on anywhere in the country,” resulting in gains such as a nearly 20-point jump in graduation rates. But the city’s school system is still not remotely where it needs to be.
That story holds more than true for the country at large. Nearly three decades after A Nation at Risk, the groundbreaking report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, warned of “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people,” the gains we have made in improving our schools are negligible—even though we have doubled our spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) on K–12 public education. On America’s latest exams (the National Assessment of Educational Progress), one-third or fewer of eighth-grade students were proficient in math, science, or reading. Our high-school graduation rate continues to hover just shy of 70 percent, according to a 2010 report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, and many of those students who do graduate aren’t prepared for college. ACT, the respected national organization that administers college-admissions tests, recently found that 76 percent of our high-school graduates “were not adequately prepared academically for first-year college courses.”
Read more at The Atlantic