Chinese universities hamper the critical thinking's development

It is typical to think that Chinese schools are extremely exacting and students are only oriented toward test results, not toward knowledges. These students, as it is widely thought, are very good at math, but are not prone to deep reasoning.

However, as recent research conducted by Stanford Universty shows, Chinese students are among the best in the world in terms of critical thinking skills. This finding is really surprising and may be an important argument in the discussion about the effectiveness of different education systems. It is possible that Chinese schools are simply better than American or European ones, because Chinese students usually outperform their peers also in math, reading and science.

Nevertheless, Chinese university students lose their positions in critical thinking. Chinese first-year students enter computer science programs with critical thinking skills that are much better that those of their counterparts in the USA or Russia. They are much better in testing hypotheses and draw relationships between different variables. However, during college years, Chinese students show no progress in these skills, while their peers in Russia and United States demonstrate serious improvements.

Prashant Loyalks, who is the author of the study suggests that Chinese students may be exhausted by hard work in school and have no incentives to study in college. It is a sign of serious troubles which exist in Chinese university system which is now expanding very fast, with dozens of new universities opening every year. Last year, there were more than 26.2 million students, which is a significant growth from 3.4 million in 1998.

However, Chinese students complain that teaching in universities is much less demanding and interesting that in schools. It is also the lack of the motivation that may be the reason for poor results: after gaokao (state exam in China), there are no incentives for students to work really hard – they will obtain their degree anyway. Moreover, for many university graduates it is very hard to find a job: one-fifth remain unemployed after graduation and many of them will finally find a low-paying job. This is typical for new local universities which are not as good as old ones, like Peking or Fudan University.

The study also found that Russian students demonstrated more progress in math skills than their Chinese peers, but didn't catch up them. The research shows that, while school education in China may be exceptional, there are many problems on the university level. At the same time, good universities are indispensable for economic growth, especially in modern-days China, when extensive growth reached its limits. As a result, China has to find a way to improve its higher-education system in order to keep its economic growth rates. It is necessary not only to support the best universities for the most talented students, but also to deal with local ones, which give education to the majority of Chinese university graduates. 

09/03/16

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