Is the American education system really superior to the Chinese one as the popular saying goes? Chen Ning Yang, Nobel Laureate in Physics, holds a different view than that. It is too early, he says, to draw conclusions and as a matter of a fact, for most Chinese people, the Chinese education system works well.
"Two things are essential for those who want to be scientific researchers: one is to lay down a good academic base; the other is to grasp the latest information in the field," Chen Ning Yang, Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate in Physics, was quoted as saying when he delivered a speech in northeast China's Shenyang Normal University recently.
When he went to study physics in the US it happened to be a prime time for the development of ionic physics, Yang recalled. It was the right time for him to choose the field and he was lucky to be in the right place. Because scientific researchers are more likely to succeed when they throw themselves into a burgeoning field they often can have a brighter future rather than in fields without fresh impetus.
What's the difference between China and America in terms of educational concepts? The education attitude of China is totally different from that of the US, according to Yang, rooted as it is in Chinese traditional culture. Chinese education tends to focus on teaching, e.g., pouring knowledge as much as possible on students with little care on how much or in what way they receive it.
Right after they come into the world, Chinese children are taught to listen to their teachers and parents, to obey their elders, which certainly shapes their ideas and attitudes when they grow up.
Compared with their American counterparts, Yang went on, Chinese students have very strong basic knowledge which can turn out to be a shortcoming sometimes. American students can be more innovative; good at creative thinking, while Chinese students usually stop before creating new things.
In addition, in Yang's mind, it is too simple to say which is better: the American education system or the Chinese one. It depends. In the teaching process, Chinese students should be encouraged to be more innovative while American students should be urged to build a greater solid base. It is proper to combine the two together. In other words, for most Chinese students, the Chinese education system makes wise choices while for some who are gifted, the American style looks better.
"My conclusion is that it is unnecessary to change the Chinese traditional education system completely though we still have room for development. For college students, especially those who are very intelligent, schools should allow them or even encourage them to jump forward. Anyway, for my part, the wisest method is to let them develop bilaterally," Yang pointed out.
(China.org.cn by Zheng Guihong September 25, 2003)