(Not) Drilling our Way to China

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I like this title. As China seems poised to take over the United States economy, I pause to consider the fact that the Chinese may well be better fit to run this economy than we are. I don’t see that situation changing in the near future.  Certainly, much of the world is producing better educational results than we are.

One reason for this is that we don’t drill. We don’t drill our students and they don’t remember what we allegedly taught them. Our students do some fun activity or group project to learn a new concept. They maybe even take a quiz or test, though we often substitute projects for tests now, and then these students move on.

The next year many of them have to start over. People don’t retain information they seldom use. Phone numbers provide a perfect analogy. If I need to call the plumber a few times during a month, I’ll know his number for a few months. By next year, though, I’ll need to look that number up because the number did not quite make it’s way into long-term memory. I see this happening with so much academic material that is lightly glossed over as educators hurdle from topic to topic to try to fit in all the state/common core standards.

In contrast, according to Yalda T. Uhls http://www.parentinginthedigitalage.com/2011/03/china-education-and-parenting-how-does-it-differ-from-us) in her blog “In the Digital Age”:

On the weekends for example, Chinese children have eight times the amount of homework of American children.  Beginning in elementary school, the two countries greatly vary in amount of time performing academic tasks; in US classrooms 5th grade students spent 64.5% of their time on academics, while Chinese students spent 91.5% of their time on similar tasks.  Moreover in the US, children were found to spend 20% of their time at school outside of the classroom, while in China they were rarely observed in other non-mandatory tasks (Stevenson et al., 1986).”