Education In China v. America: The Question Of Standardized Tests

Are Chinese and American education models heading for a role reversal?

As leaders work in China to move the country away from its notoriously rigorous focus on standardized testing, Americans seem to be heading in the opposite direction.

In China, all students must prepare for the country's massive, multi-day test known as the "gaokao". Each student's score on the test determines whether or not they will go on to college.

Unlike the American college application process, where each applicant's SAT score is considered amidst several other factors, the "gaokao" is the only factor that determines a young person's future.

According to ABC World News, Chinese students spend their entire young lives preparing for the tests.

Yet, as China continues to develop at an astounding pace, many wonder if the inflexible education system is able to produce the sort of innovators the country will need to succeed in the future.

At a time when many are pushing the United States toward an education system focused on test scores, what lessons can be learned from China's system, its shortcomings and the changes that are being made?

ABC's Diane Sawyer traveled to China to take a look inside the country's rigid testing system.


According to Newsweek, Chinese leaders are responding by moving education policies increasingly to focus on developing creative thinkers.

And they aren't the only ones, Newsweek says,

Around the world...other countries are making creativity development a national priority.

Meanwhile, in the American education system, reformers are pushing the country toward a more test score-based model, with scores dictating how funds are doled out, how teachers are evaluated and more.

Reformers in Los Angeles, New York City and other American cities have pressed for the "valued-added" system, ranking teachers based on their students' achievements on tests. These plans are similar to the ones proposed by the Obama Administration.

Teachers unions are among the groups spearheading the fight against boosting the role of test scores in grading teachers.

Newsweek reports,

When faculty of a major Chinese university asked [Professor Jonathan] Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. "After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud," Plucker says. "They said, 'You're racing toward our old model. But we're racing toward your model, as fast as we can.' "