Learning from Other Countries

Following up on my earlier post about the duty we should feel toward educating the next generation, New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, had an interesting op-ed last month about his travels through China to better understand how that country’s education system has developed over the last decade to become a true powerhouse. In the piece, Friedman draws particular attention to the teachers in Shanghai’s schools that exert so much effort not only to instruct young minds, but also to continually try to improve that instruction.
In the course of his argument, Friedman highlights one school, Qiangwei Primary School, and the ways in which teachers are constantly collaborating and learning from each other in order to make real the promise of providing quality instruction. He notes that this school is in session for almost eight hours every day (8:35 – 4:30) and, for teachers, many of those hours are spent in activities that will serve to maximize their impact on students. Though Friedman does not specifically mention it, NCTL’s president, Jennifer Davis, does in this blog post: the time available for teacher collaboration and professional development is possible only because of having a longer day at their disposal.
As I’ve written before, of course educators have to be intentional about the time they have. Time, like money, can be wasted just as easily as it can be put to good use. And Chinese educators—not to mention countless teachers in this country, too—do seem singularly focused on using their time well. But there is also a limit to what can be accomplished with more limited time. Having more time expands the possibilities and the impact. To me, that is one of the key lessons we need to be drawing from the Chinese example.