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Comparing American, Chinese, and Indian Students

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My colleague Andrew Trotter has written a story about a documentary called 2 Million Minutes that compares 6 high school students from three different countries--India, China, and the United States. As you might imagine, the documentary examines the steadfast dedication of the Indian and Chinese students in contrast to the relaxed attitude of the American students. It's worth noting that all of the students the documentary follows are bright students who are at the top of their class.

According to the story, both the Indian and Chinese students emphasize their long-term career and education goals when talking about their education, while the American students "seem unfocused and unconcerned about their future prospects." The story also notes that the American students seem to have less parental involvement than the Indian and Chinese students.

The economic benefits of being highly educated and having a "safe" career seem to be major motivators for the students in India and China, but not for the Americans.

Watch the trailer:


6 Comments

In most other countries there are two choices, either you are on the high end of the social-economic spectrum or you are in poverty without minimal needs met. Those who have the opportunity to be in school and be part of that higher end are naturally motivated to never be on the other side. Fortunately here in the US we want all our people to have a chance even those without higher education. I have seen people have jobs that allow them to live and they don't know how to read or write or speak english. We go to great lengths for all our students to benefit from being in school, regardless of their social, economic or even learning abilities. This is the true measure of education and success, do we see our graduates lining up to get visas to make a better life for themselves in those countries? I know they line up to come to the land of the " unmotivated" and " lower scoring". Education and success cannot be measured so simplisticly by numbers or polls.We as educators who deal with children should know better! Education is making a "whole" individual which will later make a "whole" country and society. Why are we just worried about comparisons and scores and grades which reflect so little in reality?

In most other countries there are two choices, either you are on the high end of the social-economic spectrum or you are in poverty without minimal needs met. Those who have the opportunity to be in school and be part of that higher end are naturally motivated to never be on the other side. Fortunately here in the US we want all our people to have a chance even those without higher education. I have seen people have jobs that allow them to live and they don't know how to read or write or speak english. We go to great lengths for all our students to benefit from being in school, regardless of their social, economic or even learning abilities. This is the true measure of education and success, do we see our graduates lining up to get visas to make a better life for themselves in those countries? I know they line up to come to the land of the " unmotivated" and " lower scoring". Education and success cannot be measured so simplisticly by numbers or polls.We as educators who deal with children should know better! Education is making a "whole" individual which will later make a "whole" country and society. Why are we just worried about comparisons and scores and grades which reflect so little in reality?

I have met many unmotivated high schoolers who have gone on to be outstanding in later on in life and many high scoring honor students who have not done much after high school. And as always, "outstanding" or "underachievers" is in the eye of the beholder...it depends on our value system to deem those things in a person. Teen age years are more than just scores and subjects, it is a time for discovering the world, finding themselves and teens still need maturing. Most of these countries do not allow for the other aspects of the child to come through, sort of like performance machines. Lets measure these children's lives in 20 years, socially, emotionally and lets measure their overall happiness or contribution to their community, the world or others.
The human brain is an organ that is still growing at that stage and is not fully developed until around 21 years of age , again, one size fits all is never the case when dealing with the human factor. The more choices a person has in their lives, the more confusing it can be, but would we want to trade our freedom of choice for higher scores? When I was a child we were constantly being compared to the Russian model of excellence and performance....Where are these high performing machines now?

I have viewed this film and have also written a review of it on my blog. What I found most interesting about it was the contrast between the three groups of kids, that in each of their own cultures they fell into the same group. In other words, the three groups were actually in similar positions in their respective high schools (all of the 6 kids were at the top of their high achieving high schools - but not the very tippy top). Yet, if you compared them against each other, the American kids definitely were the least directed and least motivated. However, as I wrote in my post, I am not sure that we (Americans) want to necessarily aspire to either of the other two education models -- there is something to be said for creativity, freedom of choice, exploration and happiness -something that appeared lacking in both China and India. I am the first to say that our system is broken but we need to find a better solution than the Chinese and Indians have adopted.

Our american children are privileged, and when I say that I mean spoiled. We have, and allow them to have, so many gadgets in school that are a lot more attractive to play with then listen to the professors. Ban the video games and other personal devises from schools and you will get a more attentative student.

thewayweseeit.info

There is some common mythology attached to our denial of the success of school systems in other countries. One is that they don't serve all the kids, where ours do. In fact, the countries that are really surpassing us on international tests are doing so by educating ALL of their kids and typically to higher levels. They have a good deal to teach us about closing some of the gaps that we believe are inevitable.

It will require a culture change to get there--and the motivation that will need to change first is not our kids, but ourselves. We will have to say yes to believing in the education of all kids, and to paying what it takes not just for education but for the services in our communities that support the growth of mentally, socially and academically healthy children. It will mean accepting this as a social responsibility, not one that rests primarily on individual families.

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