中国的教育体制能培养出下一个乔布斯吗?

编辑:给力英语新闻 更新:2017年10月25日 作者:纽约时报中文网(By LENORA CHU )

学生们在北京大学的自习室里上学习
学生们在北京大学的自习室里上学习Students in a Peking University study hall.

中国传统的教育方式已经过时了。以前,专横的教师不鼓励公开质疑。对标准化考试的强调导致孩子是在学习而非探索。集体主义导致盲从。外部奖励优先于对学习的热爱。学业压力造成不必要的心理负担。

但中国领导层有意改善该体系。“在改革我们的教育体系方面,没什么是不能改变的,”2015年,教育部教育发展研究中心的研究室主任王烽对我说。政府的政策,加上乐意配合的管理者和教师,正开始产生积极的结果。

典型的中国式课堂通常以教师为中心,孩子们一排排坐在教室里,成绩好的坐在前面。早期的课程以数学和汉语为重点,以在初中阶段全面掌握读写能力为目标——全面读写能力的界定方式为记住3500个汉字。

后来几年,学生每天在学校度过8个小时,还要在家庭作业或课后备考上花费几个小时时间(美国学生通常每天在学校的时间比上海学生少90分钟,每周在家庭作业上花费的时间比上海学生少8个小时)。

该体系竞争激烈。在参加高考的900万名学生中,约有两三百万人考不上大学。对通过考试的关注可能会扼杀学生天生的兴趣以及进行探索和创新的机会。

不过,2010年发布的十年教育改革计划宣布,学校必须营造“独立思考的良好环境”。华东师范大学教授杨小微表示,政府已经开始允许某些学校自行决定高达20%的课程内容。某些校长选择推出以科学和数学为基础的创意课程或体验式学习项目,而上海的一名学校管理者则干脆让每周有一天早放学,鼓励孩子们去“探索”。

“学生必须发展出个性,”北京教师戴冲说。在20年前,对这个痴迷数学、进行填鸭式教育的国家来说,将发展个性作为优先考虑事项是不可想像的。

戴冲带我走过北京十一学校的走廊,我注意到那里的有些做法似乎更像是在美国,而非中国的:不公布名次。课本留在学校里,而不是带回家学习。班级人数减少至最多25人。一个精神健康俱乐部被宣传为学术压力的释放阀。课程选择也有一定的自由度——学生们可以选择游泳、攀岩和飞盘等选修课。

“我们发现,中国传统的威权式教学有很多不良后果,偏离了教育的本质,那就是,为个体服务,”戴冲说。“我们的教师就像朋友一样。”

事实上,对这所曾经认为冷水能增强“意志力和耐力”、因而不提供淋浴热水的学校来说,这是极大的转变。

改革者也在放松对高考的限制。上海的一些学生将有两次参加大学入学考试的机会,而一些大学也开始考虑将志愿服务、面试和常规高中考试作为录取流程的一部分。

尽管存在种种缺陷,但中国的教育体系也有一些往往被批评者忽视的好处。它在早期打下了知识基础,为他们一生的成功做好准备。认知科学家们表示,真正的学习是将知识转变为长期记忆。一旦孩子们记住了关键信息,他们就可以释放活跃的记忆,进行深度思考和创新。

这个系统产生了一些成功的故事。在经济合作与发展组织2012年的问题解决测试中,作为试点改革区的上海的学生获得了第六名,远远高于平均水平。在鼓励创新和创业的环境中,很多技术娴熟的中国人大显身手。

这些掌握技术的中国人移民后,结果令人印象深刻:华裔移民在硅谷设立了很多初创企业,他们获得的美国专利比例超过了其人口比例。在人工智能、无人机制造和移动支付等行业,中国是全球领袖。今年以来,中国的初创行业产生的科技独角兽几乎与美国的一样多(超过了欧洲)。

改革也遇到了一些重大障碍。根深蒂固的威权主义和考试压力抑制了个人意志,再加上共产党在课堂上日益加重的政治思想灌输。中国的领导层怎么可能在推进政治教化的同时培养学生的批判性思维能力?

此外,改革大多局限在中国城市的学校里,他们有进行实验的意愿、特殊地位或影响力,而农村学生更可能在一个延续不平等情况的体系中沉沦。与此同时,有财力的家庭继续选择让孩子在国外接受中学和大学教育。

然而,在教育方面,中国人正在有意识地朝着正确的方向快速前进。在全球大学录取和就业市场趋紧的情况下,中国人正变得更有竞争力。

Lenora Chu是《小战士:一个美国男孩、一所中国学校和一场全球竞赛》(“Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School and the Global Race to Achieve.”)一书的作者。

翻译:纽约时报中文网

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The traditional Chinese approach to education is outdated. Domineering teachers discourage open questioning. An emphasis on standardized testing keeps children studying rather than exploring. Collectivism promotes conformity. External rewards are prioritized over a love of learning. Academic pressure creates undue psychological burdens.

But the Chinese leadership is intent on improving the system. “There is nothing that should remain unchanged when it comes to reform of our educational institutions,” Wang Feng, a director in the Ministry of Education’s National Research Center, told me in 2015. Government policy, along with willing administrators and teachers, is beginning to produce positive results.

The typical Chinese classroom is generally centered around the teacher, with children sitting in rows, the higher performers at the front of the classroom. The curriculums in the early years focus on math and the Chinese language, with full literacy — defined as the memorization of 3,500 distinct characters — expected in middle school.

In later years, students spend eight hours a day in school, and hours on homework or after-school test prep. (American students generally spend 90 minutes fewer in school each day and tackle eight fewer hours of homework a week than students in Shanghai, for example.)

The system is highly competitive. Of the nine million students who take the national college entrance exam, about two to three million will fail to advance into college. A focus on passing tests can kill a student’s natural interests and prevent opportunities to explore and be creative.

But the 10-year education reform plan released in 2010 declared that schools must foster a “fine environment for independent thinking.” The government is beginning to allow some schools to dictate up to 20 percent of their curriculum, according to Yang Xiaowei, a professor at East China Normal University. Some principals have chosen to introduce science- and math-based creativity classes or experiential learning projects, while one Shanghai administrator simply lets out school early a day a week to encourage kids to “explore.”

“Students must develop a personality,” Dai Chong, a Beijing schoolteacher, said, uttering a priority unthinkable two decades ago for a nation of rote-learning math fanatics.

As Mr. Dai ushered me through the hallways of Beijing National Day School, I noted practices that seemed more American than Chinese: Rankings were not be posted. Textbooks were left at school instead of toted home for study. Class sizes had been whittled down to a maximum of 25. A mental health club was advertised as a release valve for academic pressure. Choice was also on the menu — students could pick electives such as swimming, rock climbing and Frisbee.

“We have found traditional authoritarian Chinese teaching has many ill effects and deviates from the essence of education, which is to serve individuals,” Mr. Dai said. “Our teachers are like friends.”

An abrupt reversal, indeed, for a school that at one time didn’t provide hot water for showers because cold water would enhance “willpower and endurance.”

Reformers are also loosening the shackles of entrance-exam testing. Some students in Shanghai will have two chances at the college entrance exam, while universities are beginning to consider volunteering, interviews and regular high school tests as part of the admissions process.

For all its faults, the Chinese system provides some benefits that critics tend to dismiss. It imparts an early foundation of knowledge that can prepare a child for lifelong success. Cognitive scientists say that real learning doesn’t happen unless knowledge is imprinted on long-term memory. Once children lock away key information, they can free up the active memory for thinking deeply — and for being creative.

And the system produces success stories. On the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2012 problem-solving test, students in Shanghai — a pilot district where reforms are tested — finished sixth, well above the O.E.C.D. average. And highly skilled Chinese can thrive in environments that encourage originality and entrepreneurship.

When such skilled Chinese emigrate, the results are impressive: Ethnic Chinese immigrants are founding Silicon Valley start-ups and are securing American patents at a disproportionate rate. China is a global leader in industries like artificial intelligence, drone manufacturing and mobile payments. China’s start-up sector has produced nearly as many tech unicorns as the United States (and surpassed Europe) so far this year.

Significant obstacles stand in the way of reform. Deeply rooted authoritarianism and exam pressure dampen individual will, as does the Communist Party’s increasingly heavy political agenda in the classroom. How can China’s leadership cultivate critical-thinking skills while also pushing political indoctrination?

Further, change is largely confined to urban Chinese schools with the will, special designation or clout to experiment, while rural students are more likely to founder in a system that perpetuates inequality. Meanwhile, families with the financial means continue to prefer secondary and university education abroad.

Yet in education, the Chinese are hopscotching with intent, and in the right direction. In a tightening global marketplace for college spots and jobs, the Chinese are growing more competitive.

Lenora Chu is the author of “Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School and the Global Race to Achieve.”