Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reflection: Catching Up or Leading the Way?

#edfocus recently finished up reading Catching Up or Leading the Way, by Yong Zhao.  Zhao voices his concern with the direction of educational reform in the United States.  He brings a unique perspective in that he was born in China,  and went through their educational system.  He now lives in America and has children that attend American schools.

We often hear quotes by very important people that bash our system and our current state of affairs.
"America's high schools are obsolete." - Bill Gates  
"Our schools have been underperforming for 25 years.  America is slipping farther and farther behind the rest of the world academically because we have been unable to enact meaningful reforms or substantially improve student in learning in the last quarter century." - Strong American Schools, 2008
Zhao makes an argument that questions if the system is broken.

Why is it that Americans still receive over two-thirds of the patents issued per year?

Zhao labels China as the "Worlds Factory." They manufacture goods that have been thought of in America.  Very little innovation occurs in China, even with the large amount of college graduates.

Is it the American education system that is the strength?  Lack of standardization in the past may have attributed to the creativity and individuality that allows innovation to bloom.
"Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play.  Every individual makes a difference" - Jane Goodall
Zhao explains that China operates under a rigid standardized system, and leaders realize that even though they may score high on international testing, they fail to produce innovators.  Due to this understanding they are making the shift away from standardization and beginning to mimic the educational system in the United States.

As I finish up, Zhao poses an interesting question, is there a correlation between high international test scores and a nations' overall success?  Anyone read any research supporting this belief?

By the way, I am not saying we don't have our problems in our schools by any means.  Zhao does provide some good points though.  


  1. Mike,
    Last week I was fortunate to be able to hear Zhao speak at the NAESP national conference in Seattle. He made the point that Asian countries are trying to become more Americanized because their students,although high achieving academically, generally lack the skills to be creative or innovative. Conversely, the powers that be in America are trying to make our schools more standardized and rigid, which is likely to hinder those very skills in our students. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing.
    Gail Wold
    Beulah Middle School

    1. I am sure it was a great presentation. I would love to hear him speak. He provides some very practical information regarding our present and future challenges. Congratulations and good luck in your new position!