Chapter 7China

One of the best sellers in 2011, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Chua, 2011), tells the story of an extremely demanding Chinese American mother pushing her children academically. The story was not a surprising one in the United States, as Chinese students there are known to be very hard working and have excellent grades. In elite U.S. colleges, the ratio of ethnic Chinese students far exceeds their ethnic ratio. Why did this book create such a stir in the United States? I think it is because the release of the book coincided with the emergence of China as a real world power. Americans may well feel threatened that China will have access to the largest and best talent pool in the world if all Chinese moms are like the Tiger Mom in the book!

Recently, another piece of news underlined that concern. On the PISA test, which tested over 1 million students in 65 countries, Shanghai high-school students scored at the top, a notch better than students from the top-scoring Asian countries (i.e. Singapore, Japan, and Korea), and much better than students from European countries and the United States (Figure 7.1). Shanghai was the only city tested in China, but PISA believed other large Chinese cities would have similar scores. No doubt, China has the smartest high-school students in the world. Fifty years ago, American parents often used the “starving Chinese kid” to urge children to finish their food; these days, parents are more likely to say: “If you do not study hard, ...

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