Real discussion for real education: Shanghai

Here’s how they do it in the best education system in the world:
Shanghai’s education system is distinctive and superior—and not just globally, but also nationally. Hong Kong, Beijing, and ten Chinese provinces participated in the 2009 PISA, but their results reflected education systems that were still the same-old knowledge acquisition models, whereas Shanghai had progressed to equipping students with the ability to interpret and extrapolate information from text and apply it to real world situations—what we would normally refer to as ‘creativity.’ Twenty-six percent of Shanghai 15 year-olds could demonstrate advanced problem-solving skills, whereas the OECD average is 3 percent.
I do mean that literally, the best in the world:
Every three years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) administers its worldwide Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to measure how well a nation’s education system has been preparing its students for the global knowledge economy. Nations such as South Korea, Finland, and Singapore have traditionally topped the rankings, but, apparently, even they are no match for Shanghai, which shoved the others into lower positions in its very first year of participation in the programme, in 2009.
That’s according to Jiang Xueqin writing in the Diplomat 1 August 2011, How Shanghai Schools Beat Them All.

So, how did they do it?

First, the Shanghai municipal government believes that the most effective way to raise the human capital it needs for the global knowledge economy is by focusing on raising the overall quality of its education system rather than investing in elite schools. ‘Students of privilege will do well wherever they are, and more resources directed at them won’t improve them that much,’ Schleicher explained. ‘But more attention and investment will greatly improve disadvantaged students.’

Lacking adequate capital, Shanghai decided to rely on the expertise of its best principals and teachers to reform its failing schools. The Shanghai government promised career advancement opportunities and autonomy if educators could turn around such schools, and this policy has been stunningly successful. According to Schleicher, 70 percent of Shanghai students are ‘resilient,’ meaning that they have stronger math, reading, and science skills than their socio-economic background would suggest.

‘There’s real interest and engagement between teachers and students,’ Schleicher said. ‘Every Shanghai classroom has high demands yet offers extensive support.’ There’s an expectation and a demand that every student can succeed, and teachers regularly collaborate to improve student performance.

According to Schleicher, what’s truly impressive about Shanghai schools is how they focus on collaborative and creative learning.

You know, like an ongoing civil discussion. Like a debate.

And Shanghai is winning the global education debate.

You want education improvements here?

  1. Do something for the least successful students.
  2. Model what works by having a real discussion.
A real discussion: not parrotting talking points and ignoring what anybody else says.

You want knowledge-based jobs?

Today, the United States may be the leader in creativity and innovation, but that’s because it made university education universally available 40 years ago, Schleicher argued. Now that the United States is failing to invest properly in public education, its prospects are dim. Shanghai is in the reverse position. PISA reveals that Shanghai is creating for itself a skilled workforce, and that’s a ‘significant advantage,’ he told me.
You don’t agree?

Let’s have a debate about that.


PS: This post owed to Don Thieme.