From the readers

Channel students' innovativeness

Updated: 2011-02-09 08:11

(China Daily)

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Comment on Li Xing's column, "Learn different ways of thinking" (China Daily, Jan 28)

One of the most common complaints of foreign teachers in China is: Chinese students are generally passive and quiet; they are reluctant to answer questions when called upon to do so in the classroom.

The most rational response of students and administrators to this is: One must realize that many Chinese are shy. It is in their nature to be silent, not to lose face. The same generally quiet, respectful students are constantly pressured to be top-scoring and successful, yet there is a consensus that "creativity" and the "spirit" of innovativeness is lacking among them.

I agree with Li Xing's observation that the new Chinese generation must be motivated to "learn different ways of thinking". But in my view this is an institutional and community issue. Some Chinese scientists educated in other countries have brought great honors to China through their remarkable research, and China is raising more funds to motivate young people in the field of science. This means Chinese people need more innovativeness to become globally competitive in the scientific field.

What about competitiveness in other academic fields? And what about making the rest of the society competitive too? Wu Di, an economics lecturer in Beijing, says the role for public diplomacy is growing. We need to tell the world what we really are. Clearly, this challenges the status quo in a society of 56 ethnic groups, and how they are valued and encouraged to share their ideas. More creative thinking is needed on all fronts.

My 30-plus years' teaching experience in US colleges and universities, and six more years of teaching in two Chinese provinces, compel me to conclude: (1) Many Chinese students can be very innovative when it comes to taking short-cuts to securing high test scores; (2) Chinese students, not just those in science, can and do respond with confidence and enthusiasm if they are part of traditional Chinese institutions, and (3) parents, teachers, and educational institutions (not just for science) must encourage the younger generation to "learn to think differently".

Recently, I have seen Chinese students literally jumping out of their seats in enthusiasm to answer questions. There are ways to tap and encourage a new, positive spirit of adventurism and creativeness among students. A keen understanding of the cultural elements, context and normative behaviors affecting Eastern and Western students are vital places to start this process.

Aaron A. Vessup, via e-mail

Readers' comments are welcome. Please send your e-mail to opinion@chinadaily.com.cn or letters@chinadaily.com.cn or to the individual columnists. China Daily reserves the right to edit all letters. Thank you.

(China Daily 02/09/2011 page9)


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