Educational Trends in China and the United States: Proverbial Pendulum or Potential for Balance?

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Educational Trends in China and the United States: Proverbial Pendulum or Potential for Balance? Deidra D. Ray
Concordia University Texas Austin

Over the last two decades, educators, business leaders, and elected officials all agree that there are new skills that students must have to be successful in the 21st century. To meet the demands of economic competitiveness and educational equity, it should be no surprise that what students learn, as well as how they learn is changing. What is surprising is the approach that two global powerhouses, China and the United States, are taking. This article outlines how the Chinese educational system is becoming more decentralized and learner-centered and how the United States is becoming more centralized and teacher-centered. In her article, Ms. Preus analyzes trends in each educational system and addresses implications for policy. The author begins the article by providing a comparison between the most recent reforms in each educational system. In China, the current educational reform began in the late 1990’s. Not only was the curriculum guidelines reevaluated and published, one also observed a decentralization of elementary and secondary education, emphasis on a “quality-oriented” rather than a “test-oriented” system, and an increase in the amount of pre service and in-service education for teachers. In response to governmental policies, must importantly No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the United States appears to be on the opposite end of the continuum. The author uses the following reforms: centralization of elementary and secondary education, a more test-oriented system, with greater emphasis on direct instruction, and a decrease in the amount of professional preparation for teachers to illustrate the differences. Ms. Preus uses information that she collected while attending meetings in China in 2005, as a professional education delegate, to analyze these two converse approaches.

Educational Trends in China and the United States: Proverbial Pendulum or Potential for Balance? If students are to succeed in today’s complex economy, they need to know more than just English, math, science and history. They also need a range of analytic and work place skills. In the past, it was not considered essential for every student to learn rigorous content. Many jobs were available for students with minimal academic skills. In today’s information age, jobs that once required only low levels of reading and mathematical skills now require high level skills. Schools that do not infuse 21st century skills into the traditional curriculum are not meeting these children’s expectations and needs. For the article, Educational Trends in China and the United States: Proverbial Pendulum or Potential for Balance?”, Betty Preus (2008) examined how two of the world’s proverbial powerhouses are reforming their educational systems so that their students are prepared to compete globally. In the article, the author mentions that China has reformed their curriculum (what they teach) and their methods (how they teach). Even though the author does not define “quality education”, it is suggested that they have created a curriculum that now teaches students in a 21st century context. While reading this article, the impression was given that China’s emergence as a global economy (Preus, 2008, ¶ 1), is largely due to their shift from just teaching content to placing emphasis on analysis, critical thinking, and cooperative learning skills. China’s current success could be accredited to the realization that content under grids critical thinking, analysis, and innovation. To critically analyze a situation requires engagement with content and a framework within which to place the information. (Rotherham, 2008, ¶ 7) Since students now have a basic skills foundation, they are now prepared to apply what they know....
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