May 1, 2013

Local school principal learns in China


“Our education focuses too much on exams. Our studies of American education have shown us our shortcomings. We have never had a Nobel Prize winner from China. 

“That is why we want to change.” 


Last fall, my exchange partner Li Jingkao spent two weeks visiting schools in the United States, among them Peru High School, CV-TEC in Plattsburgh and all the schools in the Northeastern Clinton Central School District, where I am the High School principal.

His written summary of what he saw here is consistent with the observations of Zeng Chaomin.

“American basic education is based on the idea that students are masters, not slaves,” he wrote. “Teachers are not like those in China. They give students not only knowledge but also how to develop their ability. 

“Students are encouraged to think for themselves, to explore mysteries and to cooperate with others.  

“We have to use them for a reference.”


Yes, you heard it right. The Chinese want their students to be more like American students in the areas of critical thinking, cooperation and innovation. 

If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be paying for this program. 

Although I am biased, I believe this is proof that the American education system has much to be proud of.

If this were the end of the story, I probably would not have taken part in this program. 

The other half of the reason I am here is because I think there is much we can learn from the Chinese education system. 

While I am not advocating that we start sending our students to school 10 hours per day, six or seven days a week, as the Chinese are purported to do, I do believe that this nation can teach us much about efficiency, work ethic and rigor in education. 

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