Since leading the ranking of the International Student Assessment Program (PISA) in 2009, Shanghai schools have been the envy of the world. Last week, I visited Shanghai to get an idea of how you are educating the smartest children in the world for 15 years.
Disciplined StudentsI found that all the school directors I met with were dedicated, their schools well funded, their students disciplined, and their teachers accountable (teachers only teach nine hours a week, but use the rest of their workday to prepare for the class, mark homework, attend training workshops and mentor their failed students). In other words, I found that the schools in Shanghai are like Shanghai: organized and efficient. But I also discovered that, although apparently open and progressive, the schools in Shanghai are charged with an impossible mission: they have to educate high-performance examiners who are happy and creative.
Example of Creative School in Shanghai Wellington
Education officials in Shanghai know that the emphasis on exams is killing children's curiosity and creativity, so they decree that elementary school children should have one hour of sports and no more than half an hour of homework each day, and that schools should not should not have weekend classes.
What you need to see about Teaching in Shanghai
Shanghai Primary School get top Score
But the directors will be promoted based on the test scores. Only the top 60 percent of students in Shanghai can go to high schools. As of the sixth grade, there are district-wide exams every year for four years, culminating in the high school entrance examination (the zhongkao). That means starting in sixth grade, every student and every school is publicly classified. Those schools that are simply not making the cut will face a parent revolt or a student exodus. In addition, the government, concerned about social opportunities, demands that all students achieve a minimum score in zhongkao (which forces schools to secretly transmit to students and secretly to those who fail). These contradictions are manifested in the classrooms of Shanghai in tragicomic forms.
At the first primary school I visited, my host, Miss Zhang, told me that she had to fight tooth and nail against the opposition of teachers and parents to ensure that her 600 students had 30 minutes of play in the morning and afternoon. His school is one of the laboratories of "creative education" of the city and he showed me his digital classroom where the students could design furniture and clothes. The classroom was equipped with a 3-D printer and a hologram projector, and there was another game room showing Transformers made with Lego parts. These rooms were clean and tidy, always with a teacher on hand to ensure that the children played creatively in an orderly and orderly manner.
In art class, the students made clay dolls, and Miss Zhang proudly showed me how creative her first-grade students were. Stacked neatly in the back of the room, the dolls were beautiful, although they all looked the same, and Miss Zhang told me that the parents had "helped."
The dolls were from "Lil 'Create", the official mascot of school creativity that encourages children to be open and curious explorers. "Lil 'Create" on posters around the school and in the comics given to the students exhorted the children to see creativity as "a pleasure, a habit and an ideal". (Only in China could they turn "creativity" into a political movement.)
elementary school in ChinaAt the next elementary school that I visited, the principal, Mr. Zhang, spoke eloquently about his "radiant education." I had televisions located around the school, screaming all day about how students should not do too much homework, or getting stressed out by tests. He showed me his digital classroom where his fourth graders painted images, while the surveillance cameras monitored every movement (a young boy who was sitting near one of the cameras stopped coloring, and he sat paralyzed by the big black eye that was looking back at him). In the adjoining room, there were monitors that showed the children coloring. Mr. Zhang explained that the goal of surveillance technology was for teachers to be able to monitor how full of sunlight the children had to be able to color without being disturbed.
When we visited an empty classroom, I picked up one of the backpacks for students and commented how heavy it was for a second grade student. Mr. Zhang opened the backpack, saw the ten neatly packed textbooks, took out the pen and started to blame the pen for making the backpack so heavy: "When I was young, our pens were much lighter." his assistant looked for a backpack that did not