Saturday, June 20, 2015

Five Edu Lessons from China 6 months later

It's been six months since we came back from China. I have blogged about it right after we came back, but I thought it would be good to go back and see what lessons stuck.

1. Competition can be prominent in the public sector. All the schools we visited and many we are still in contact with have a strong competitive spirit. Despite the fact that they are public they compete for a name, local and national awareness and for results. While there are private school in China, the high-value Chinese families put on education makes schools compete for being known as the best to serve their students.

2. The drive for excellence is pushing schools to try out new approaches, technologies, and ideas. Our work started with school leaders admitting that they know things need to change, but they are less sure of how to balance the old and the new. With every change, they worry that it may impact immediate indicators even when it is clear that the change is useful for long-term success. In essence, this is the same problem school administrators face in the US.

3. Teachers are empowered by leading innovative learning ideas (with and without technology). The teachers we met with were young and motivated. The work with us gave them a direction and a sense of efficacy that allowed them to act and evolve as teachers.

4. Class size increases parental pressures. Large classrooms make it close to impossible for teachers to attend to the needs of their struggling learners. As a result whenever a student is struggling parents are left to meet the extra needs.

5. Teacher Evaluation. In contrast with the US, Chinese school systems evaluate teachers based on classroom observations and not student outcomes. The fascinating thing is individual school achievement is extremely important, yet teachers are not evaluated based on it. I believe that the phenomenon has two sources (a) the understanding that individual achievement is rooted in motivation and home practices and (b) the understanding that current measurement systems are not valid enough for comparison across classrooms and schools.

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