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MPR News

What can we learn from the Chinese education system?

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In "Little Soldiers," journalist Lenora Chu relays the experience of enrolling her son in a prestigious Shanghai kindergarten. The differences between Chinese and American education styles were immediately obvious, as Chu told MPR News host Kerri Miller. 

"The first week, my teacher forced my son to do something he didn't like: eat eggs," Chu said. "And I was upset, so I march off to confront her, and she basically says, 'Don't ever question my authority in front of a child again.' So in China, teacher knows best." 

Chu eventually developed a grudging appreciation for what the teacher had accomplished. "The Chinese feel that there are certain things that kids just have to do, no questions asked, and eggs and nutrition is one of them," she said. "As a parent, I hated the process, but a little part of me likes that [my son] eats eggs."

But there were other differences, as well. "In education in America, we expect to educate every child," Chu said. "In China, it's a sorting mechanism, so you have millions of students falling off at the high school entrance exam, another few million at the college entrance exam. And so there's a lot of anxiety around test scores, and that sort of drives behavior." 

What can Americans learn from the Chinese education system? And in which country's classrooms do students actually come out ahead? 

Chu spoke with Miller about her family's experience, and lessons learned from classrooms in both countries.

Use the audio player above to hear the full segment.