China – what will remain when the dust around economic expansion has settled?

by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director for Education and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD’s Secretary General

I recently met Vice Mayor Fu Yonglin of Chengdu, one of the key drivers behind the rapid educational transformation that his municipality has seen over the last years. I was struck by his take on how China’s power and role in the World would – when all the dust about economic expansion will have settled – not be primarily determined by what and how many goods China produces, but by what China will be able to contribute to the global knowledge pool and to global culture.

In a country where the average graduate takes home a salary of RMB 2900, roughly what a maid in the main metropolitan areas gets after three meals, money is clearly not the only motivator for the immense value which society places on education, and it seems China’s political and social leaders continue to be able to persuade their citizens to value education, their future, more than consumption today. Interesting were also the ways in which he consolidated the need to preserve and build on the past (‘nothing comes from nothing, everything has a history and evolves from there’) with the need to embrace change and prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, to use technologies that have not yet been invented, and to solve problems that we don’t yet know will arise. He was well aware of the learning curve the Chinese have in front of themselves here, the essential need for China to play an active role in globalization processes, and the importance of capitalizing on the potential of education as the key enabler to engage with different cultures, fields of knowledge and languages. He had seen the impact which PISA has had on educational reform and internationalization in Shanghai and was keen to get his province involved. His province is making big investments in other aspects of internationalization too (if you get yourself accepted as a foreign student in Chengdu and stay for more than 5 months, the municipality will take care of your expenses).

Read the related blog by Andreas Schleicher on Implementing educational reform in China

OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
Video Series: Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education 
OECD Department for Education
Follow Andreas Schleicher on twitter: @SchleicherEDU
Photo credit: Chinese schoolboy /Shutterstock

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