"China wants inventors and entrepreneurs, but its schools, built around the notorious gaokao exam, are still designed to produce cookie-cutter engineers and accountants."
"Students with ideas that deviate from the official orthodoxy often seem to struggle in China's education system, as do students whose pursuits differ from the system's rigidly defined standards for talent and success. Most students are required to take the same classes regardless of their talents or interests. Their achievement is measured solely by their scores in gaokao, and hobbies not convertible into gaokao points are deemed distractions. Why play soccer or take part in the student council, after all, if it leaves less time for cracking chemistry problems? You live and die by your numbers, starting with your gaokao score, a value system that is reinforced by employers and families alike. Many people in China know and even venerate the stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropping out of college to start their own businesses. But when I told Chinese friends that a college classmate was taking a gap year to do mountaineering, they responded with baffled looks.
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 other in a zero-sum competition that can feel a little more Hunger Games than think tank. "[When] you feel that the guy sitting beside you is your potential enemy who may rob you of a lifetime of happiness, altruism is not going to be your guide," gaokao veteran Eric Mu wrote in an essay on Danwei titled, "Confessions of a Chinese Graduate." If you find a question you can't answer you certainly don't ask a classmate for help, Mu explained, because "[to] offer your knowledge or even your questions for free is not only time consuming but an aid to your enemies." Students whose unsatisfactory test scores lower their class's average often become social outcasts, as do the students who make everyone else toss in their sleep by working just a little too hard. Teachers and headmasters, whose reputations and salaries are tied to their students' exam scores, have more of an interest in maintaining a good average than in, say, dedicating extra time to a struggling student.
China needs a generation of entrepreneurs to develop a more innovative economy, its national leaders know, but a recent report found that only 1.6 percent of Chinese college graduates started businesses last year, the same as the year before. Opening up local e-commerce stores or restaurants is great, but it's nothing yet on the scale of a Chinese Apple or a Chinese Facebook. The nation's high-profile entrepreneurs, such as Pan Shiyi and Zhang Lan, are worshipped by young, middle class Chinese. But these business megastars are largely perceived as distant celebrities, rather than as role models who should -- and can -- be emulated."
via Rob Ackerman