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美媒:中国中小学生批判性思维领先国外同龄人

本帖最后由 HJL 于 2016-8-26 14:35 编辑


这是“环球网”上根据《纽约时报》一篇报道节缩而成的“综合报道”:

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美媒:中国中小学生批判性思维领先国外同龄人
2016-07-31 12:48:00 环球网

  【环球网综合报道】美国《纽约时报》当地时间7月30日报道称,外界一直有声音指责中国中小学只会应试教育,这里培养出的学生只会死记硬背,缺乏深层推理能力,而现在斯坦福大学研究人员却“意外”发现,中国中小学生的批判性思维技巧在学校里得到了很好的塑造,而且处于世界一流水平。

  报道称,这项研究结果让外界重新认识了“中国学校好?还是美国学校优?”的老问题。此前研究结果只是证明,中国学生在阅读、数学和科学方面的表现超越外国的同龄人,而现在这项将于明年正式公布结果的研究却对此前研究作出了进一步补充。

  研究结果显示,考入计算机科学和工程专业的中国高中毕业生的批判性思维技巧要比美国和俄罗斯同龄人领先两年或三年的水平。这些技巧包括识别假设、测试假设和发现变量间关系的能力。

  本项研究的一名研究人员Prashant Loyalka称,这一发现令人吃惊。“中国(中学)为大学输送的学生远远领先于国外”,他说。

  为本项研究提供资金的上海风险投资者Eric X. Li说,中国中学校在培养学生批判性思维能力方面具有优势,这就意味着他们可以培养出更多具有创新能力的年轻人,从而为中国的经济注入活力。

《纽约时报》的原文

Study Finds Chinese Students Excel in Critical Thinking. Until College.

BEIJING — Chinese primary and secondary schools are often derided as grueling, test-driven institutions that churn out students who can recite basic facts but have little capacity for deep reasoning.

A new study, though, suggests that China is producing students with some of the strongest critical thinking skills in the world.

The unexpected finding could recast the debate over whether Chinese schools are doing a better job than American ones, complementing previous studies showing Chinese students outperforming their global peers in reading, math and science.

But the new study, by researchers at Stanford University, also found that Chinese students lose their advantage in critical thinking in college. That is a sign of trouble inside China’s rapidly expanding university system, which the government is betting on to promote growth as the economy weakens.

The study, to be published next year, found that Chinese freshmen in computer science and engineering programs began college with critical thinking skills about two to three years ahead of their peers in the United States and Russia. Those skills included the ability to identify assumptions, test hypotheses and draw relationships between variables.

Yet Chinese students showed virtually no improvement in critical thinking after two years of college, even as their American and Russian counterparts made significant strides, according to the study.

“It’s astounding that China produces students that much further ahead at the start of college,” said Prashant Loyalka, an author of the study. “But they’re exhausted by the time they reach college, and they’re not incentivized to work hard.”

The findings are preliminary, but the weakness in China’s higher education system is especially striking because Chinese leaders are pressing universities to train a new generation of highly skilled workers and produce innovations in science and technology to serve as an antidote to slowing economic growth.

The government has built hundreds of universities in recent years to meet soaring demand for higher education, which many families consider a pathway into the growing middle class. Enrollment last year reached 26.2 million students, up from 3.4 million in 1998, with much of the increase in three-year polytechnic programs.

But many universities, mired in bureaucracy and lax academic standards, have struggled. Students say the energetic and demanding teaching they are accustomed to in primary and secondary schools all but disappears when they reach college.

“Teachers don’t know how to attract the attention of students,” said Wang Chunwei, 22, an electrical engineering student at Tianjin Chengjian University, not far from Beijing.
“Listening to their classes is like listening to someone reading out of a book.”

Others blame a lack of motivation among students. Chinese children spend years preparing for the gaokao, the all-powerful national exam that determines admission to universities in China. For many students, a few points on the test can mean the difference between a good and a bad university, and a life of wealth or poverty.

When students reach college, the pressure vanishes.

“You get a degree whether you study or not, so why bother studying?” said Wang Qi, 24, a graduate student in environmental engineering in Beijing.

The merits of the Chinese education system are a perennial subject of debate, in the United States as much as in China. The Obama administration has held up the stronger performance of Chinese high school students on international exams in math, science and reading as an example of stagnation in the United States.

Critics argue that Chinese teachers place an unhealthy emphasis on test preparation and rote memorization at the expense of critical thinking skills and creativity. They also say international exams overstate the strength of China’s system because they exclude students from poorer regions.

The Stanford study, based in part on exams given to 2,700 students at 11 mainland universities, has its own limitations. It does not account for people who are not enrolled in universities, a large swath of Chinese youth. It looks exclusively at students in computer science and engineering programs. And while it measures critical thinking, it does not offer insight into creativity, a topic often hotly debated in discussing the Chinese education system.

Still, the researchers found stark differences when they compared Chinese students with their overseas counterparts.

In addition to examining critical thinking skills, the study looked at how Chinese students compared in math and physics. While testing for the United States is not yet available, the researchers found that Chinese students arrived at college with skills far superior to their Russian counterparts.

After two years of college, though, the Chinese students showed virtually no improvement while the Russians made substantial progress, though not enough to catch up.

The Stanford researchers suspect the poor quality of teaching at many Chinese universities is one of the most important factors in the results. Chinese universities tend to reward professors for achievements in research, not their teaching abilities. In addition, almost all students graduate within four years, according to official statistics, reducing the incentive to work hard.

“They don’t really flunk anyone,” said Scott Rozelle, an economist who has studied Chinese education for three decades and a co-author of the study. “The contract is, if you got in here, you get out.”

The problems plaguing the higher education system have taken on new urgency as China’s ruling Communist Party tries to navigate a difficult transition from an economy fueled by manufacturing and assembly-line work to one led by growth in fields such as information technology and clean energy.

Eric X. Li, a venture capitalist in Shanghai who helped finance the Stanford study, said the success of Chinese secondary schools in teaching critical thinking could mean more innovation among younger Chinese that would help the economy.

“The common narrative that we hear is that Chinese educational system kills creativity and kills innovation,” he said. “But China is probably one of the most entrepreneurial societies in the world.”

The slowing economy has made it difficult for university graduates to find work, with about one-fifth remaining unemployed immediately after graduation and many settling into low-paying jobs.

Lu Jiawei, 22, who studies engineering management at Beijing Information Science and Technology University, said the gloomy job market was to blame for a lack of motivation among students.

“Some students just give up, because no matter how hard they work, they still will never get their dream jobs,” she said.

The shortcomings of the higher education system have left students struggling to find programs that match their aspirations.

Niu Fuzhi, an aspiring computer scientist at Harbin University of Commerce, had high hopes when she enrolled in 2014. But she was quickly disappointed. Professors focused on teaching high-level theories, she said, and classrooms were chaotic.

“I feel like the past two years were a waste,” said Ms. Niu, 20, who ranks near the top of her class.

But Ms. Niu is hoping to make up for the skills she failed to learn in college — by enrolling in graduate school.

《纽约时报》中文版

中国高等教育困局:大学生的批判性思维去哪儿了
《纽约时报》驻京记者 赫海威(Javier C. Hernández)
2016年8月1日

香港——中国的中小学常常被人批评,认为它们是使学生精疲力尽、以考试为主的机器,培养出来的学生只会死记硬背基本事实,几乎没有深度推理的能力。

但是,一项新的研究暗示,中国在培养世界上一些批判性思维能力最强的学生。

关于中国的学校是否比美国的学校做得更好,这一意外发现也许会改写这一争论,为以前显示中国学生在阅读、数学和科学等科目上的表现优于全球同龄人的研究作补充。

但是,这项斯坦福大学研究人员做的新研究还发现,中国学生的批判性思维能力在大学期间失去优势。这表明,中国迅速扩张的高等教育系统中存在问题。随着经济增长的放缓,中国政府正把促进增长的希望寄托于高等教育。

这项将在明年发表的研究发现,中国计算机科学和工程专业的新生入学时,其批判性思维能力比美国和俄罗斯的同类新生的水平高两到三年。这些能力包括识别假定、验证假设,以及找到变量之间的关系。

然而,据这项研究的结果,中国学生的批判性思维能力在读了两年大学后几乎没有改进,而他们在美国和俄罗斯的同龄人则取得了显著的进步。

研究报告的作者之一布拉什安特·洛雅尔卡(Prashant Loyalka)说,“这很令人震惊。中国培养的学生在进入大学时遥遥领先。但是,他们进大学的时候就已筋疲力尽,他们没有继续努力的动力。”

虽然研究结果是初步的,但其展示的中国高等教育体系的弱点尤其引人注目,因为中国领导人迫切需要大学培养出新一代的高技能工作者,来从事科学和技术上的创新,为经济增长的放慢提供解决方案。

许多家庭认为高等教育是步入日益壮大的中产阶层的途径,为了满足人们对高等教育的极大需求,政府近年来兴建了数百所大学。与1998年的340万高校在校生人数相比,去年高等学校在校生人数已达到2620万,增长的大部分来自三年制的专科高校。

中国的许多大学在官僚体制和宽松的学术标准的泥潭中挣扎。学生们说,他们在小学和中学已经习惯了的那种充满活力且要求严格的教学,到上大学时已基本上看不到了。

“老师们不知道如何吸引学生们的注意,”在离北京不远的天津城建大学攻读电气工程专业的22岁学生王春伟说。“听他们讲课和听他们朗读课本差不多。”

也有人把问题归咎于学生缺乏积极性。中国的孩子们花多年的时间准备高考,这个权力极大的国家考试决定了学生能上哪所中国大学。对许多学生来说,高考成绩的几分之差可以意味着好大学和坏大学的区别,意味着未来的生活是富有、还是贫穷的区别。

但学生一旦进入大学,压力就消失了。

“学习不学习都能拿到学位,那为什么还学习呢?”在北京攻读环境工程的24岁研究生王琦说。

中国教育体制的优越性是人们常年争论不休的问题,不论是在美国、还是在中国。奥巴马政府把中国高中生在国际考试上展示出的数学、科学和阅读的高水平,当作美国教育停滞不前的反例。

批评者指出,中国教师过分强调应试教育和死记硬背的学习方法,这是以批判性思维能力和创造性为代价的。他们还说,国际考试夸大了中国教育体制的实力,因为这些考试把贫困地区的学生排除在外。

斯坦福大学的研究,部分基于对中国大陆11所大学2700名学生的测试,有其自身的局限性。研究不包括没上大学的人,而这些人在中国青年人中占一大部分。研究对象只包括攻读计算机科学及工程专业的学生。而且,研究比较的是批判性思维能力,并未考虑创造性,而在讨论中国教育体制问题时,创造性往往是一个激烈的话题。

尽管如此,研究人员在比较中国学生与海外同龄人时,找到了明显的差异。

除了检视批判性思维技巧,这项研究还比较了中国学生在数学和物理学科上的差异。尽管还没有针对美国学生的测试可供对比,但研究人员发现,中国学生进入大学时所具备的技巧,比同时期的俄罗斯学生要强得多。

不过,上大学两年之后,中国学生在这方面几乎没什么提升,而俄罗斯同龄人则取得了相当大的进步,尽管还不足以赶上中国学生的水平。

斯坦福大学的研究人员推测,许多中国大学低质量的教学是出现这种结果的一个最重要的因素。中国大学倾向于奖励教授在研究领域取得的成绩,而非其教学能力。此外,官方统计数据显示,几乎所有的大学生都可以在四年后顺利毕业,这降低了他们努力学习的动力。

“他们不会真的淘汰谁,”这项研究的共同作者、研究中国教育三十年的经济学家罗思高(Scott Rozelle)说。“只要考进大学,就能毕业,这是一种约定。”

随着执政的中国共产党试图实现一项艰难的转型——从由制造和装配工作推动的经济增长,向由信息技术和清洁能源等行业带动的经济增长转变——困扰高等教育制度的问题呈现出新的紧迫性。

为斯坦福这项研究提供资助的上海风险投资人李世默表示,中国的中学在培养批判性思维方面取得成功,意味着中国更年轻一代会拥有更多创造力,这有助于中国的经济。

“我们在这里经常听到的是,中国教育制度扼杀创造力,扼杀创意,”他说。“但中国可能是世界上最具创业精神的社会之一。”

经济放缓令大学毕业生比较难找到工作,其中有大约五分之一在毕业之后随即进入失业状态,还有不少勉强做着薪资不高的工作。

22岁的吕佳玮在北京信息科技大学学工程管理,她说低迷的就业市场是学生们缺乏动力的原因。

“有些学生不得不放弃了,因为再努力学习也不可能拿到梦想的工作,”她说。

高等教育制度的缺陷使学生难以找到与志向相符的课程。

牛付芝就读于哈尔滨商业大学计算机科学专业,她渴望成为一名计算机科学家。2014年入学时,她怀着很高的期待,很快就陷入失望。她说教授们只教授高层次的理论,教室里混乱无序。

“我感觉过去的两年都荒废了,”20岁的牛付芝说。她的成绩在班里名列前茅。

但牛付芝希望可以通过读研究生弥补自己在大学里没学到的技能。
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