Tag Archives: China

Educational Testing in China, France, and Singapore

Reports in news publications focusing on Singapore, China, and France, show that prominent educational researchers and politicians are raising questions about educational testing, and even introducing reforms that drastically alter the testing landscape.  * Links are embedded as hyperlinks below.

China

According to a new document released by China’s Ministry of Education, the efforts of various education reform efforts over the past few decades has had no impact on China’s “tendency to evaluate education quality based simply on student test scores and school admissions rates.” In order to address the problems brought about by high-stakes testing, the Ministry of Education is taking steps to implement more serious reforms to change how schools are evaluated. Their new evaluation framework, which is called “Green Evaluation,” will end the use of test scores as the only measure of education quality and focus on five new indicators: moral development, academic development, psychological and physical health, development of interests and unique talents, and academic burdens.

France

Ed Alcock for The New York Times

Ed Alcock for The New York Times

As The New York Times recently reported in their article, “Rite of Passage for French Students Receives Poor Grade,” criticism of the baccalauréat in France is building. The weeklong national test is “better known simply as the ‘bac,’ the exhaustive finishing exam that has racked the nerves of France’s students since the time of Napoleon.” It is the “sole element considered in the awarding of high school diplomas,” but many critics such as Emmanuel Davidenkoff, the editor of the education magazine L’Étudiant, say the test does not evaluate the most relevant of students’ capabilities. “In France,” he says, “we evaluate essentially only hard knowledge, not all abilities.” The center-left government wants to reform the national school system, but is focused on primary schools. Education Minister Vincent Peillon believes that the tests will evolve as the country continues to reflect on it.

Singapore

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond

The Sunday Times reported on a recent visit from Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, who was recently appointed a Visiting Professor to the National Institute of Education in Singapore. Darling-Hammond shared her impressions of the Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) on a visit to the country earlier this month. On the one hand, the examination system in general earned her praise as it places an emphasis on the testing of higher order thinking skills such as application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. On the other hand, Darling-Hammond has reservations on how the results of a examinations taken at a particular stage (12 year olds) are used to determine the academic future of the children. She is of the opinion that a broader range of modes of assessment be used, including, for example, interviews and portfolios. While the latter approach is “less tidy … more time consuming,” positive results could be yielded from such a broader approach to testing.

Scanning the world: Alternatives to Public Schools

cape20.v033.i01.coverReports in both academic journals and news publications from around the world show that alternatives to conventional public schools, including migrant schools, private vocational schools, and unaccredited schools, have been a recent topic in the news as many countries try to meet the diverse needs and demands of growing populations.

In the latest issue of The Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Sang Kook Lee examines “Migrant schools in the Thailand-Burma borderland: from the informal to the formal.”  The article explores the existence of migrant schools and how they enable children to “have their own education even in the absence of proper legal status.” The growth of these schools indicate the building up of migrant education institutions. For example, since the mid-2000s, Thailand has supported migrant schools in an attempt to “regularize them as learning centers” under the guidance of the government. The article argues that government interest in these unaccredited schools does not indicate a victory of the state over migrants, and migrant schools; instead, they believe it shows the impressive growth of migrant education, which has “achieved recognition from the state as a legitimate formal institution.”

As noted in an earlier post, China has also addressed the issue of migrant schools; however, China decided to shut down the schools and change policy to allow non-native students to attend public schools. While some of these schools were deemed unsafe, parents lamented the loss of the private institutions that they believed their children to be both happy, and learning.

Recently, an article in The New York Times  titled “Trade Schools Offer Hope for Rural Migrants in China,” highlighted the issue of funding for private-run vocational schools operating in China. According to the article,

“While China has long had state-run vocational schools, critics say that they are bogged down by bureaucracy and overwhelmed by the huge number of youths who need training. Private enterprises like BN Vocational School can fill that gap, but only with the outside funding needed to be able to train poor students for free.”

Schools like BN Vocational School operate with support from charities, corporations, and both the Chinese and foreign governments.

Meanwhile, as reported in The Hankyoreh, in “More unaccredited schools popping up to offer international-style education,” South Korean parents have been paying exorbitant tuition rates send their children to unaccredited alternative educational facilities that provide an education that is “not recognized as regular schooling by the Ministry of Education.” Since these schools do not have to report what they teach or register with the government, they are not subject to regulations. Many focus on international education and immersive English education, and charge such high tuition that they are not available for low-income families. While some have called for the government to regulate the excessively high cost of these schools, the government is searching for ways to satisfy the demand for alternative education through public schools, and “help unaccredited alternative schools become places that can serve the interests of the entire public.”

Scan of Ed News: Testing

Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Over the past month, a number of reports indicate a variety of concerns about testing around the world.  For example, Israel’s new Education Minister, Shai Pironhas decided to introduce reforms that would de-emphasize testing in order to “promote learning.” Similarly, China is taking small steps towards allowing educators to have input in test design (as opposed to government only). In contrast, the British government is acting in opposition to educators and parents to fight off an unprecedented alliance of hundreds of students, schools, local councils, and teaching unions, who brought a legal challenge over last year’s GCSE English exam grades. UK teachers are also protesting primary literacy exams, which they say leave little time for art, music, and books, and make children feel like failures. Chile has announced sweeping changes to the country’s university entrance exam, which has received criticism for flaws and bias; however, the concern in this case was not raised by educators and parents, but by Pearson, a company that describes itself as a leading provider of test development, processing and scoring services to educational institutions, corporations and professional bodies around the world. Pearson’s analysis revealed significant flaws and bias in the design of the exam.

In Singapore, surveys recently revealed that many educators and parents feel that students experience too much testing and a report on a recent visit by Dr. Dennis Shirley highlighted his suggestion that  the task of student assessment be handed over to the teachers, so that they can design their own modes of testing.  While the Singapore government has proposed several initiatives aimed at strengthening efforts to help every student succeed, none yet include substantial modifications to testing. While it might seem that the decision made by five schools in the town of Alesund, Norway, to change the date of the midterm exams so that students could attend a Justin Bieber concert in Olso, was an effort to modify testing to meet the needs of the students, it was also one for which officials saw no alternative. As one principal explained, they expected Mr. Bieber’s show would lead to sparse classroom attendance. “We considered that this was a battle that we could not win this time,” he said.

Reforms in China in the International Review of Education

International Review of Education

International Review of Education

The latest issue of the International Review of Education includes an examination of what some may see as the surprising failure of many private institutions of higher education in China. In “Turning around low-performing private universities in China,” Xiaofan Li explains that while most private colleges and universities in China disappeared after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China’s marketization and privatization efforts included the re-opening of higher education to the private sector in the 1990’s. By 2009, statistics published by the Ministry of Education showed that there were 3,101 public universities in China as well as 812 private universities; however, Li reports that many of these “people-run” institutions are struggling, with approximately 500 of them shut down between 2000 and 2009 for financial, legal or other reasons. Of those private universities that have survived, the quality varies substantially, and they are not viewed as being on par with most public universities. Yet, in a country of more than a billion people, these institutions have opened up many new options for those who have been unable to get a place in public universities either because of their age, lack of qualifications, or the limited number of places. At the same time, quality assurance has been and will continue to be the most pronounced and crucial issue that private universities wrestle with. As Stephen Roche explains in the introduction to the issue, Li “considers several factors that contributed to poor performance, including insufficient resources, heavy government control, insufficient enrollments, lack of qualified teachers, limited programme breadth, and problems of scale,” and goes on to examine strategies for turning around low-performing private institutions and helping the government achieve its target of a 40% participation rate in higher education by 2020.

For more information:

2012 China Private University Rankings Announced (link in Chinese)

Boosting Migrants’ Education

Scan of Ed News: Quality and Access

International-Travel-Agency-262545-262545-1so(links to articles are embedded as hyperlinks)

Recent news reports reveal the ways in which countries all over the world are taking steps to make quality P-12 education more accessible for students.

In Chinathe government is closing privately operated schools and will allow the children of migrant workers to attend public schools. In addition to paying tuition fees for vocational students in southern rural areas, the Chinese government is also looking for ways to increase high school enrollment in areas such as the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. In contrast, the government has announced that, in their effort to increase the quality of tertiary institutions, postgraduate education will no longer be free. As noted in The New York Times, the cost of education is felt sharply by those in rural areas, where families are suffering from “high education costs coincid[ing] with slower growth of the Chinese economy and surging unemployment among recent college graduates.”   Meanwhile, state universities in Indonesia will receive government funding to eliminate initial fees for new students and lower tuition rates overall.

In addition to the issue of access to education, many countries are reporting on efforts to improve the quality of education, resulting in conflicts between government officials, union leadership, and teachers. In Denmark, teachers are pushing back against the government’s reform measures, which include increasing the number of hours teachers spend in the classroom. In France, schools have had to shut their doors due to a teacher strike in protest of President Hollande’s reform agenda, which aims to increase classroom time. Guatemalan teachers and students have also been protesting the country’s education reform goals, which include university-level training for all teachers, a measure many believe will have a negative impact on education in rural areas. South Africa has long provided rural teachers with incentive stipends; however, teachers are in the midst of planning a strike to protest the government’s recent decision to terminate the allowances.

China

Boosting migrants’ education

By Cheng Yingqi, China Daily (January 14, 2013)

Xue Jun/For China Daily

Xue Jun/For China Daily

In an effort to improve the quality of education for migrant workers in China, the education authority in Beijing’s Chaoyang district will shut down non-government run schools and guarantee that migrant workers’ children will attend public schools. Private schools for the children of migrant workers have sprung up in Beijing, Shanghai and other large cities where the public schools do not accept children who do not have residence permits; however, many of these schools have been deemed unsafe for schooling and have not been officially authorized to operate.

According to this article, “Over the past six years the Chaoyang education commission cut the number of schools for migrant workers’ children from 135 schools teaching more than 50,000 students, to 25 schools teaching 11,000 students.” These closures worry parents who fear their children will have trouble adapting to the public school environment.

For more information:

Migrant Education in China (OECD Report)

Chinese cities to relax school entry for rural migrants

More regions to reform migrant education system

China

The Education System That Pulled China Up May Now Be Holding It Back
Gao, H.  The Atlantic (25 June 2012)

Although gaokao, the annual nationwide college entrance exam in China that seated 9.33 million students in early June, “has been great at imparting math and engineering, as well as the rigorous work ethic that has been so integral to China’s rise so far…state economists know they need to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity, neither of which is tested for on this life-determining exam.”  Students have mixed feelings about the test, although many seem acclimated to the concreteness that a test result provides.  A problem arises, though, with extracurricular activities as well as fostering innovative thinking.  Instead of being seen as intangibles that help students with college acceptances, as in the U.S., many Chinese students see extracurricular activities, which have little-to-no value for the Chinese college admissions process, as “distractions.”  As for innovation and creativity: “Whatever your formula for innovation — diversity of thought, collaboration, risk-taking — you’re not likely to find it in abundance in Chinese schools, where high-stake tests pit students against one [another] in a zero-sum competition that can feel a little more Hunger Games than think tank.”

The following video highlights the stress involved in taking the high-stakes examination: