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Asia vs. America – some facts

February 6, 2009

In the documentary, 2 Million Minutes – which CGA screened last fall at our Speaker Series – there was a Chinese classroom scene where the students recited answers in unison.  My reaction was that I wasn’t sure I wanted my children to “learn” in that kind of environment because they weren’t learning to think.  Now Science magazine provides some facts…and the U.S. isn’t doing any better:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2009) — A study of college freshmen in the United States and in China found that Chinese students know more science facts than their American counterparts — but both groups are nearly identical when it comes to their ability to do scientific reasoning.  Neither group is especially skilled at reasoning, however, and the study suggests that educators must go beyond teaching science facts if they hope to boost students’ reasoning ability.

Researchers tested nearly 6,000 students majoring in science and engineering at seven universities — four in the United States and three in China. Chinese students greatly outperformed American students on factual knowledge of physics — averaging 90 percent on one test, versus the American students’ 50 percent, for example. But in a test of science reasoning, both groups averaged around 75 percent — not a very high score, especially for students hoping to major in science or engineering.

The research appears in the January 30, 2009 issue of the journal Science.

At least the Texas Board of Education is doing something right – requiring a physics course for graduation.

In the United States, only one-third of students take a year-long physics course before they graduate from high school…In China, however, every student in every school follows exactly the same curriculum, which includes five years of continuous physics classes from grades 8 through 12.

Five years of physics compared to one year (if that) in the U.S., but Chinese students only have (less than) 2 times as much factual knowledge.  Hmm.  So at least the Americans get more out of what time they do spend in class.

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