Education Talking Points | 10/08/2016

EducationTPBIn today’s Talking Points: Less cramming, more creativity as alternative education emerges in China; Tech in the classroom – Virtual reality is coming to a classroom near you; Sex education not keeping up with China’s sexual revolution; and, China lays out massive R&D spending plan to boost innovation and foster scientific advancement.

Less cramming, more creativity as alternative education emerges in China

In Cold Water Well Middle School in southwest Sichuan, during a game of tag students wear nametags on their backs ‘Nitrate’, ‘Sulfate’, ‘Phosphate’, chasing the classmates they need to start the specified chemical reaction. At this alternative education school pioneered by former journalist Zhang Liang, students use statistics in a combined maths and history class to discern patterns in the rise and fall of nations. Vice Principal Wu Ge relays, “When these kids entered the school, we ranked near the bottom of our district in terms of test scores. Three years later, they’re graduating, and we now rank first.” Although the government retains nominal control over curricula and teaching plans, Zhang says they are tacitly allowing experimentation, or at least not interfering with it.

Source: NPR

Virtual reality coming to a classroom near you

NetDragon Websoft Holdings Ltd., a hack-and-slash videogame maker, paid 77 million pounds ($100 million) for British online education provider Promethean World Plc in 2015, now serving 2.2 million teachers with 40 million pupils. NetDragon is presently field-testing VR lessons in Chinese schools, handing out headsets and tablets en masse so that teachers can try out tailored VR curricula. For example, lessons shift swiftly when software picks up that a student’s mind is wandering by spotting an upward tilt of the head.  “Not only do we want to track it when they’re in the classroom, we want to track it when they’re on the go, or when they’re at home so we can have a 360-view of how kids learn,” NetDragon vice chairman and former Microsoft executive Simon Leung said, adding that the technology might be ready by 2017. “Once we can monitor their likes and dislikes, for example, you can recommend different services to them, very targeted advertising to them.”

Source: Bloomberg

Sex education not keeping up with China’s sexual revolution

Booming rates of premarital sex in China have not been met with improved sexual education, leaving the country’s youth woefully unprepared and uninformed about safe practices. According to Professor Fang Gang, a ‘sexologist’ and associate professor at Beijing Forestry University, China’s sex education curriculum, “remains, on the whole, a blank”, despite sex rates among young people exploding.  In 2006, just 35 percent of the unmarried Chinese population had premarital sex. Six years later, in 2012, that figure had doubled to 71 per cent. Today that number is undoubtedly higher, yet little has been done in the classroom to prepare teenagers to practice safe sex and use contraception.

Source: The Telegraph

China lays out massive R&D spending plan

China will invest 2.5 percent of gross domestic product on research and development by 2020 as it seeks to lead the world in innovation and drive continued growth. China already spends more than 2 percent of GDP on R&D, having invested 1.4 trillion yuan or 2.1 percent of GDP into R&D in 2015, but plans to increase spending in the recently released 13th Five Year Plan for R&D show China is serious when it says it wants to become a world leader in science and technology. Chinese policy makers have made fostering innovation a major priority as they look for new growth engines as China’s traditional economic drivers slow. High-tech manufacturing currently accounts for 15 percent of China’s GDP, but the state council expects this to rise to 20 percent by 2020. Chinese scientists have already made considerable progress in areas like high-speed rail, global positioning technology and fourth generation telecommunications.

Source: Caixin