Yong Zhao is the brilliant scholar whose ideas challenge the orthodoxy of testing, accountability, ranking, metrics, data-based decision making, and competition.
He knows the secret of Chinese test scores, and he says that if we follow their lead, we will destroy entrepreneurial thinking.
Since I discovered his work, I have been dazzled by his fresh approach to educational issues.
He recently published a book called World Class Learners, explaining why our current education policies are doomed not only to fail but to injure our country.
Zhao argues that high test scores may actually hamper creativity. The nations with the highest test scores, he says, do not produce high levels of entrepreneurial activity. American policymakers were shocked and awed when Shanghai took the top place in the latest PISA ranking, and both President Obama and Secretary Duncan spoke about “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” But Zhao says we should not be impressed because the Chinese have mastered the art of test-taking, but not the mindset that promotes creativity.
China’s Shanghai took the No. 1 rank in all three areas of the 2009 PISA, but the scores do not have any bearing on China’s creativity capacity. In 2008, China had only 473 patent filings with or granted by leading patent offices outside China. The United States had 14,399 patent filings in the same year. Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang put those figures in a broader context, writing in The Wall Street Journal last year: “Starkly put, in 2010 China accounted for 20 percent of the world’s population and 9 percent of the world’s GDP, 12 percent of the world’s [research and development] expenditure, but only 1 percent of the patent filings with or patents granted by any of the leading patent offices outside China.” And 50 percent of the China-origin patents, the writers added, were granted to subsidiaries of foreign multinationals.