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Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World
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Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  154 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The secrets behind China's extraordinary educational system - good, bad, and ugly Chinese students' consistently stunning performance on the international PISA exams-- where they outscore students of all other nations in math, reading, and science--have positioned China as a world education leader. American educators and pundits have declared this a "Sputnik Moment," saying th ...more
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published September 15th 2014 by Jossey-Bass (first published January 1st 2014)
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Jun 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not a fan of standardized testing and I know that China scores well on tests. I know the United States does not score as high and we have implemented standardized testing in our schools. (I am so glad I'm not in school anymore and so glad I don't have kids in school right now.)

With that limited bit of knowledge, I read this book. The author - Yong Zhao - definitely has an agenda. Throughout this book, over and over again, he reiterates that standardized testing is the result of a
Ellie Dottie
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was super interesting, it changed my mind on education and the ways to cultivate creativity!
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An interesting consideration of how history, culture, economic growth, politics and policy impact education, education systems and student learning and skill acquisition. Definitely an insight into the thoughts and approaches to education in a China, which is very helpful and useful for international school teachers teaching here.

I'd be interested in reading alternative view points and extensions of these views on Chinese education systems. Any recommendations?
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
If I could select the reading material for President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Ed Arne Duncan, and our new governor-elect Rauner, I would surely have them read this book. Zhao argues that Americans have become obsessed with matching or outperforming China's superior PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores. PISA has become a sort of global measuring stick; indeed, the creators of the test claim that this assessment can determine the "best education system in the world" based on ...more
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic read and it really affirmed my beliefs as a teacher and our approach to learning in the IB.
Zhao does a really good job at explaining why the PISA scores are meaningless in determining the effectiveness of an education system.

I was shocked to realise that with China's huge population, they have never, not even once received a Nobel prize!

I was also surprised to learn that The Chinese government has tried to reform the education system. Apparently it is
T.l. Harris
Zhao provides an at times compelling, at times simplistic, analysis of the Chinese education system and the lessons it provides for the west. In short, Zhao argues that the incentive structure of the Chinese education system dis-incentivizes the sort of innovative thinking needed for a 21st century society and economy while incentivizing cheating, corruption, and submission to authority. It's a thesis that goes against the grain of modern American thinking about education, and one I have a lot o ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
While the book is too short to really prove it's point, the point is a good one. Actually, two points: testing is fraught with peril, and China's history has a strong grip on the present culture.

High-stakes testing seems to mesmerize the public, many governments, and consequently many people who manage educational systems. I agree with Zhao on the deficiencies of the PISA testing. It only evaluates a few areas, and seems to not include the same questions for each group of students te
Jonna Higgins-Freese
This was an interesting case study about what happens when you use standardized testing as a gatekeeper for access to power and privilege: not much good. The books helps to reframe the often-adulatory tone of writing about China's educational system: "The belief that the Chinese attach high values to education is widespread in the United States . . . [this is] an illusion at best and a cruel glorification of authoritarianism at worst. The Chinese people were deprived of any other means to succee ...more
Frank Calberg
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
At location 2400, I read that due to the hierarchically organized society, that has developed in China over many years, government officials hoping to be promoted work hard to please their superiors. In addition, the Confucian tradition of piety and loyalty deeply rooted in Chinese culture dictates absolute obedience to authority - be it the emperor, father, or government official. When a higher level official expresses a desire, lower level officials adopt it as an order and pass it on to their ...more
Isaiah Ledesma
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book follows China's authoritarian culture and how it affects the education system and its values. It explores government and education starting from 600 AD to modern day. This book closely follows the government because government reforms also lead to education reforms. The book discusses how the top school in China functions and how it affects the area around the school. The book explores various problems with the education system including homogenization, fraud and westernization. I real ...more
Lifelong Reader - Lifelong Learner
Though this book is a bit redundant with the main argument ("standardized testing is bad"), the historical overview of Chinese education and political systems provides fascinating insights for someone who is interested in understanding a bit more of how Chinese culture and history impact current educational norms and trends. Of particular interest was the history of the "keju" test over 1300 years as well as the chapter (3?) on the economy.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Fine thesis, but kind of disappointing because I didn't see much that was new to me. It would have been fine as just an article. The middle section is a superficial history of China, with a detour about China's bad patent system.

I actually agree with everything that's here, but since I didn't learn anything new, and I can't think of how this book would convince anyone who is encountering the material for the first time, it's hard to recommend.
Jackie Becher
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book that outlines the history of education in China and explains the culture surrounding the importance of education. Provides insight and recommendations for Western, English speaking countries to carefully reflect before adopting ideals and practices of China, as to how they fit into world views and the future of the education.
Highly recommend for anyone living and working in China!
Yury Lyandres
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world, misc
Интересно читать сравнение китайской и "западной" моделей образования, имея представление о модели российской.
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
I really enjoyed this book. I'm currently coaching debate to high schoolers in Shanghai. In addition to critical thinking, logic, and speaking skills, I stress creativity and let the students decide what arguments they want to run and try not to stifle their imagination.

The jist of this book is: Authoritarianism stifles creativity and diversity. This seems self-evident but the implications in American education and Chinese education are really important though.

The two thousand year
Another important book my Goodreads friends should try.

China and especially Shanghai are being lauded as a model for US education. The test scores of select Chinese schools are awesome, but their education system still sucks. The author gives a brief rundown of Chinese politics for 2000 years and how those philosophies led to their current education system.

The single person doing the most damage to education in Utah, State Senator Howard Stephenson, visited Shanghai in recent months
Dec 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's unfortunate that the people that should be reading this book are our politicians and policy makers and they will most likely never even see a reference to its existence. Why would anyone in the position of power want to acknowledge the content of the real facts that are laid out in this work when they can align themselves with the corporate interests that are destroying the U.S. Educational system. The points that are made in this book are spot on, but they are going to reverberate through ...more
Sean Kottke
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional, 2014
Zhao provides good historical context for understanding why the Chinese education system is the way it is, as well as an overview of efforts to reform it. The book lays out an ironic international shift: Western nations romanticizing and emulating core elements of an authoritarian educational system while China struggles (mostly unsuccessfully) to rid itself of some of those very elements by emulating Western education ideals. There are some ivory tower generalizations of American education that ...more
Jerry M
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, education
This is a short and easy to read book. I felt title and the description were misleading. This book is more about China and the Chinese people than Chinese education. I don't know if we really needed to know as much about the Chinese emperors and the imperial system. The author seems to blame the problems with Chinese education on the old system of tests. Still to an American reader who reads all sorts of praises about Shanghai, this books gives a good counter-argument. We cannot judge Chinese ed ...more
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very important read for any educator! It should be required. As an international educator in China I have been very interested in the PISA results, not because Chinese people talk about them, but because the Western education seems use it as an indicator to change. Which is such an odd statement for a country with no Nobel prizes in math or chemistry, and no world changing Steve Jobs(s). They have FANTASTIC test takers. That's about it right now. Zhao does an excellent job of telling us why, a ...more
Phil Morgan
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fascinating insight into the history of the Chinese educational system. Zhao warns the West against the idolization of China's perceived educational successes, and illustrates the paradox of a nation that understands the need for change, but is unable or unwilling enact it.
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good overview of China's educational system, and why the US should not look it it as a model.
David Robb
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Sep 01, 2015
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Oct 10, 2017
Amanda Harrison
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Oct 08, 2016
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Jan 26, 2016
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Mar 05, 2016
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Nov 28, 2018
rated it it was amazing
Mar 08, 2017
Rui Feng
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Mar 26, 2015
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