Pisa tests – the Programme for International Student Assessment have just released their latest league tables for the best educated students and it comes as no surprise to me that the Chinese are well out in front of both the USA and Europe.
Barack Obama said that the nation which “out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow”. That is very true and with 9 out 10 Chinese students realising that if they study hard they will succeed, they are setting an example to the rest of the world. Chinese high school children chant slogans such as “I must go to college” before they take an exam. It’s the same as a football team getting themselves ready for a big game.
The Chinese know that they are responsible for their own success because if they don’t succeed there is no welfare state to help them. This creates a situation where Chinese students are committed to education with an energy like no other nation.
We all know what poverty means, but I believe that many people in the UK and Europe have a “Poverty of Ambition”. This means that we don’t have the same hunger for success as they do in China and India. There is a very good report written by Forbes Magazine about this subject which I highly recommend you read, and you can read it here.
Poverty of ambition is the real poverty because without ambition and a hunger to improve ourselves we will never truly have all that we desire. Eventually this will affect the fabric of our culture and society and it won’t be easy to turn things around. It’s not as though we are doing badly, it’s just that western countries including the USA are slipping behind in education of their populations and this needs to be reversed.
We need, somehow, to reverse the trend of education not being “cool” especially with many teenage boys and instill the belief in all students that if they work hard and have the right attitude they can succeed. In China the emphasis is on ALL students doing well, not just the bright ones. This means that we must have the best teachers in the more deprived areas of the country. It’s easy to create an education system where the ones at the top succeed but there are bigger challenges to overcome in cities that don’t believe education is the key to success.
As Forbes magazine says, we need to recover the animal spirits that once drove this country to the heights that it once had. This needs teachers to be driving their students forward using the latest technology and teaching methods but it also needs parents to want their children to do better than they did and to have an enthusiasm for education. There is too much of “My dad is a plumber so I will be one as well” attitude.
Whilst knowledge and skills are hugely important, effort, commitment and enthusiasm are more important in my opinion.
We face an uphill battle that we must win !