I had a chance to go to a local city in China to do a survey with public school (there are very few schools in China) teachers, instructional researchers (people who had been outstanding teachers and now more involved in providing teaching guidelines to other teachers), school principles, and some students. I think school problems are fundamentally the same everywhere around the world. I think what I found out in China should also applies to the states.
* Everyone surveyed has a somewhat clear understanding of what school is. Especially the principles are very clear about it. Everyone knows test based teaching is the root of all evils. But only a few have the knowledge and courage to make some change. Here let me share with you what the school principles said of school. One school principle said to his teachers: “No one of you can survive if you get out of the school and get into society. None of you have the skills to survive.” He also said that school is a prison. Another school said that the wall of the school would be torn down in the future, and the that school would disappear too.
* students had a big outcry over the testing. When asked what kind of online system they would like for education, one student answered that if the system has anything to do with testing it will have no future.
* When visiting the classrooms, I learned that the coldness people have towards each other and towards public issues in society is developed when they are in school. Since they are forced to receive education passively and have no any means to change the way of education, they developed coldness and hypocrisy very early on.
* The current system is a huge system that people play various roles. Everyone tries to fit into the roles. There are fixed routines to follow. People have a shared understanding of the system. There are various activities organized routinely to guide teaching. Within the existing framework, pretty what can be done have already been done.
* Information technology has already had a big impact on schooling. Schools need the support of information technology. There are no arguments on this anymore. Teachers already had the habit of searching for course material online. Some schools are quite will equipped with technology, having IT covering various aspects of schooling.
* Within the current education system, people have come up with various ways to improve teaching. They did a lot of work. But only a few teachers had the idea that students should learn more by themselves and that the teachers should teach less. Only a few teachers contemplated what the students should really learn.
* With all the efforts put in, the current situation is still that the teachers are not happy, and that the students are not happy, according to a school principle. This is also shared by many others.
* There are some right efforts within the system that I can recognize. For example, putting more emphasis on library, on reading, especially giving students more time to read during class time. Mentorship is implemented in some schools. There are also more emphasis on self-reflection. All these are good efforts. But it is far from enough.
It is interesting to see that even within the education system itself there is a widely shared view that standard testing is the root of all evils, and to see that right efforts are put more on ability instead of testing score, while in US so many people think standard testing is the way to save American education.