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观点:上海学生考高分 美国应警醒

发布者: smile* | 发布时间: 2010-12-30 12:07| 查看数: 985| 评论数: 2|

Fifty-three years after Sputnik caused an earthquake in American education by giving us reason to believe that the Soviet Union had surpassed us, China has delivered another shock. On math, reading and science tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries last year, Shanghai's teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects. Hong Kong also ranked in the top four on all three assessments.

Though Hong Kong took part in earlier rounds of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the 2009 test marked the first time that youngsters in mainland China participated. It was only Shanghai─the country's flagship city, on which Beijing has lavished much investment and attention, many favorable policies, and (for China) a relatively high degree of freedom. But Americans would be making a big mistake to suppose that Shanghai's result is some sort of aberration.

If China can produce top PISA scorers in one city in 2009─Shanghai's population of 20 million is larger than that of many whole countries─it can do this in 10 cities in 2019 and 50 in 2029. Or maybe faster.

I have misgivings about PISA─about how it defines knowledge, what it tests, and how it tries to divorce itself from school curriculum. But its international rankings are widely trusted as a reliable barometer of how young people in different countries compare on core academic subjects.

How did Shanghai accomplish this? The OECD folks offer some explanations, terming Shanghai a 'leader in reform.' They specifically cite the city's near universal education system, its competitiveness (measured by student admissions to universities and to the best secondary schools), a very high level of student engagement, a modern assessment system, an ambitious curriculum, and a program to intervene in weak schools.

Today most cities and towns in China don't have these resources. But tomorrow is apt to be a very different story.

Also near the top on PISA were five countries that should come as no surprise: Singapore, Taipei, Finland, South Korea and Japan. In reading, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands also did well. The United States was, once again, in the middle of the pack in reading and science and a bit below the international average in math. So we're not getting worse. But we're mostly flat, and our very modest gains were trumped by many other countries.

Plenty of experts have been pointing out this trend for a long time. But until this week we could at least pretend that China wasn't one of those countries that was a threat. We could treat Hong Kong as a special case─the British legacy, combined with prosperity. We could allow ourselves to believe that China was only interested in building dams, buying our bonds, making fake Prada bags, underselling everybody else, and coating our kids' toys with toxic paint, while neglecting its education system.

Yes, we knew they were exporting Chinese teachers to teach Mandarin in our schools while importing native English speakers to instruct their children in our language. But we could comfort ourselves that their curriculum emphasized discipline and rote learning, not analysis or creativity.

Today that comfort has been stripped away. We must face the fact that China is bent on surpassing us, and everyone else, in education.

Will this news be the wake-up call that America needs to get serious about educational achievement? Will it get us beyond excuse-making, bickering over who should do what, and prioritizing adults over children?

I sure hope so.

(Mr. Finn is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He is a former assistant secretary at the Department of Education. )

最新评论

smile* 发表于 2010-12-30 12:08:25
当年“旅行者号”(Sputnik)人造卫星的发射在美国教育界引起了一场地震,因为它让我们有理由相信苏联已经跑在前面。53年过后,中国又给我们带来新的震动。去年来自65个国家的15岁学生参加一轮数学、阅读和科学考试,结果上海少年在三个科目中均超过其他任何地区。香港这三个科目也都排在前四。

AFP/Getty Images如果说2009年中国可以有一座城市出现PISA最高分获得者,那么在2019年就可以有10座城市出现最高分获得者。这是经济合作与发展组织(OECD)组织的“学生能力国际评估计划”(Programme for International Student Assessment,简称PISA)考试,香港已经参加前几轮,但2009年这轮还是中国内地少年第一次参加。参加的只是上海这座中国首屈一指的城市,中央政府给了它大量投资与关注、诸多优惠政策,以及在中国来说相对较高的自由度。但美国人如果想当然地以为上海学生的成绩属于某种形式的反常,那就是大错特错了。

如果说2009年中国可以有一座城市出现PISA最高分获得者──上海2,000万的人口比很多国家的人口总数还多──那么在2019年就可以有10座城市、2029年可以有50座城市出现最高分获得者。或许还会更快。

我对PISA有所保留,对它怎样界定知识、测试什么、怎样摆脱学校课程不敢苟同。但其国际排名获得了普遍信任,人们认为这个排名能够可靠地反映不同国家年轻人在核心学术科目中的高下。

上海是怎样拿到第一名的?经合组织方面的人士把上海称为“改革先锋”,给出了一定的解释。具体来说就是它接近普及的教育体系,激烈的竞争(按学生进入大学、最佳中学的人数衡量),非常高的学生参与度,现代化的评估体系,充满雄心的课程设置,以及一个干预薄弱学校的计划。

今天中国多数城镇都没有这些资源。但明天的情形很可能大为不同。

在PISA考试中接近第一的另外五个国家和地区应该不会让人意外,它们分别是新加坡、台北、芬兰、韩国和日本。在阅读方面,加拿大、新西兰、澳大利亚和荷兰也表现不错。美国在阅读和科学科目中又一次排在中间,数学略低于国际平均水平。所以我们并没有越来越差。但我们多数时候是与过去相当,而非常微小的进步又被其他很多国家甩在了后面。

很多专家长期以来都在指出这个趋势。但在本周以前,我们至少可以假装认为中国不属于那些构成威胁的国家之列。我们可以将香港视为特例,它有英国遗留的影响,并享有经济的繁荣。我们可以让自己相信中国的兴趣只是建设大坝、购买我们国债、制造假冒普拉达(Prada)手包、跟其他所有人打价格战,并给我们孩子的玩具涂上有毒涂料,同时忽略了它的教育体系。

是的,我们知道他们在输出中文教师在我们的学校教授普通话,同时引进母语为英语的人士去教他们的孩子学我们的语言。但我们可以安慰自己说,他们的课程设置强调的是纪律约束和死记硬背,而不是分析与创造。

今天这种安慰已经被一扫而光。我们必须直面事实,中国已经下定决心要在教育方面超过我们和其他所有人。

这条消息会不会敲响警钟,让我们知道美国需要认真对待教育成绩?它是否会让我们不再找借口,不再相互推诿,不再只重视大人而忽略孩子?

但愿如此。

(作者为斯坦福大学胡佛研究所(Hoover Institution)高级研究员,福特汉姆研究所(Thomas B. Fordham Institute)所长,曾任美国教育部助理部长。)
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