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Failed international HS

Geezer (1895 posts) • 0

About 15 years ago I was invited to invest in a new "prep for study abroad" school in Beijing. The business model was simple; parents paid tuition and fees up front, roughly 100K RMB per student per year, essentially financing the school's operation.

Although the lead entrepreneur was a friend, I declined because, in addition to the business risk, of the visa issues and a reliance on the political guanxi of other investors. I did teach at the school, first part time and later on staff, for four years.

The school was a success and is still operating today. But my friend was forced out and even jailed for a time. He founded a third school which is also also successful but I had decamped to Kunming.

My thinking was, and still is, that the huge pile of cash on day one was far too much temptation and too easily pissed away for me to deal with. The discipline required to make that cash last is hard to find.

Geezer (1895 posts) • +2

Today, rote learning is pretty much dismissed as a valid technique of learning. Perhaps wrongly.

I can remember being drilled in multiplication and division tables relentlessly until arithmetic was performed automatically without much thought. Eventually, my first degree was a math degree. After getting degrees in Accounting and Economics, I found that rote learned base never failed me.

When studying Chinese, I asked how did Chinese kids learn to write all these characters correctly. Repetition, and by rote, I was told, and for years. I set a goal of writing 1,000 汉字 every day. I filled hundreds of 汉语拼音汉字 books in my quest for 汉语 literacy.

Given the proven need for rote learning just to write, it is understandable that rote learning became ingrained in Chinese education. It is a simple method that produces results with low teaching skills levels and low cost.

Arguing that rote learning is wrong is to ignore the realities of China in the context of the 1950's and 60's. A poor country with a lot of students and a need for teachers far exceeding the supply. I believe the Chinese solved their problem efficiently and economically.

cloudtrapezer (756 posts) • +1

Geezer we're not talking about basic literacy and numeracy anymore but a highly developed school system that, with the full complicity of parents, crushes the life out of kids once they get past the primary stage. I think the problem's well recognised and understood. How to solve it is another matter.b

Geezer (1895 posts) • 0

cloud: Things must have changed dramatically in the five years I have been gone. But then, not being a professional teacher, whatever that is, I simply strived to teach a non-intuitive subject as best I could to students that lacked sufficient English skills to understand what was going on.

You miss my point that if you train 6 year old kids that successful learning requires intense memorization and precision you get success measured in those skills. I don't see the Chinese school system becoming highly developed any time soon. At this point we would need to agree as to what "a highly developed" education system means. Effectively teaching the test is perpetuating the rote system no matter how well it is organized and managed.

I saw the Chinese education system as one of brute force. The huge number of kids being educated is a problem. The problem is partially solved by eliminating the vast majority to filter out lesser from the best. The parents know this and are aware there are few second chances so they pressure their kids.

A few times I asked what happens to the few Chinese kids that are unable to master the written language. No one seemed to know but I was once told I would never see one.

The brute force approach works because of the huge number of kids entering the system. The percentage of them that complete their education is small and the percentage that really learn is even smaller. So far, the number of good minds produced has been enough. With a declining birth rate, will it be enough in the future?

Once, doing a chalk & talk, I said "Okay, now we need 10 percent of 900 and that is...." I heard a lot of shuffling and turned around to see the students scrambling for their calculators.

It is worse in the US. I saw a Youtube video of a teacher explaining how to multiply 25 times 13: 25 is 20 + 5 and 13 is 10 + 3, so 20 times 1 is 20 and add a zero to get 200. 5 times 10 is 50, 3 times 2 is 6 and add a zero to get 60. 3 times 5 is 15. So 25 X13 is 200+50+60+15 or 325. Would you say the US has a highly developed education system? Maybe, but today US teachers are busy teaching how to pray to Allah, how there are 56 genders and the benefits of same sex marriage.

tigertiger - moderator (5022 posts) • +4

@Geezer. Your above post was on the money, I was going to give a thumbs up, until the last sentence.
US public education has been systematically underfunded for decades now. The teachers strikes in the US are predominantly about more resources to teach the kids, and much less about pay. When the kids fail the teachers are vilified, when it is the policy makers who are responsible. But picking easy targets and hyperbole are more sexy.

herenow (302 posts) • +2

Having done a fair amount of education-related work in the US, I think some of the criticism of the American system is overblown.

It should be acknowledged that the state of public education in many American inner cities is a national disgrace, and also that underfunding and other pathologies are gnawing around the edges of the system as a whole.

Having said that, there by and large remains a functional system that provides a decent education to most students. US students tend to score around the OECD average on international test rankings, which is not too bad when you consider the size and diversity of the country.

Contra tigertiger on the last page, I see nothing in cloudtrapezer's description of Chinese educational problems that applies to the US, apart from the pressure to buy homes in expensive areas to get kids into quality public schools. And while instances of political correctness and incompetent teaching are prone to show up in Youtube videos, they are not characteristic of the overall system based on my experience.

I agree with many of the critiques of the Chinese education system voiced above, but at the same time, some of those problems are mainly attributable to limited resources given that their GDP per capita is roughly 15% to 25% of the US figure (depending how one measures).

JanJal (952 posts) • +1

@herenow:

"at the same time, some of those problems are mainly attributable to limited resources given that their GDP per capita is roughly 15% to 25% of the US figure"

One can also consider the bigger picture, and the world that primary students in USA or China graduate to.

In comparison to USA, salary levels as whole in China are lower, "structural" differences in some industries (for example legal professions) are huge, while other industries (for example news media) are so tightly controlled that it is debatable whether they exist as industry as all.

Political systems in democractic countries create (indirectly if not otherwise) millions of jobs, that do not exist in China at all. That said, China also employs armies of censors and wumaos, that may not exist elsewhere.

China's education system simply does not aim to produce graduates for US job market, but their own which is quite different from USA.

They won't compete for same jobs, so comparing Chna to USA (or any other country) is quite pointless.

In past decades it was quite sufficient to train competent factory workers, now perhaps people for service industries.

The successes or failures of China's education should be considered against achieving these goals, not goals of western societies.

The ratio of high school graduates that will make a notable difference in development of nation (any nation, or humanity as whole) is quite small.

Of course China wants to have it's top high schools and universities shine in international comparison, but it is more about self-verification of the nation to justify it's chosen path.

Ishmael (462 posts) • -1

How does all of this fit in with an international school that serves the fairly well-off and is/was run by a crook?

Geezer (1895 posts) • +1

@tiger Thanks As for the last sentence, just a little rant. Just my reaction to Muslim prayer rooms and prayers in class rooms being in fad these days whilst anything Christian is expressly prohibited. Cross dressing and reverse gender role playing is quite rage. My concern is that these activities detract from useful learning.

Spending on students is one of those how you slice it issues. NY state spends the most, $22K, per student and Utah, $7K, the least. Yet Utah students test much higher than NY students. I guess I could deep dive into the numbers to try to find some kind of correlation. However, it is pretty clear that religious associated school produce

higher test scores at a lower cost.

@herenow: I completely agree that China's problem is largely due to a lack of resources, especially in rural areas.

JanJal (952 posts) • 0

@Ishmael: "How does all of this fit in with an international school that serves the fairly well-off and is/was run by a crook"

I'd continue from the thoughts in my prevous comment, and ask not how this fits in with the school, but how it fits in with us who comment about that on this forum.

Most online discussions are not relevant to the topics they deal with - only to the people that discuss them.

Quality of management, which I think fits in well with the topic of this partcular school, correlates with the quality of teaching in them, I assume - both ways.

If the quality of teaching in Chinese public schools (and history and role of education in the country overall) was different, there perhaps wouldn't be market for setups like this.

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