The Shanghai Secret
October 24, 2013
每次造訪中國，我總是驚嘆於外界對於中國未來的預測反差這 樣大。最近，一些國際投資人開始「做空」中國，認為不久之後的某天，隨着房地產泡沫的破滅，中國強勁的經濟引擎就會熄火。老實講，如果我今天也要做空中 國，那麼肯定不是出於地產泡沫的原因，而是因為環境污染方面的泡沫。在中國最大的那些城市裡，環境污染的泡沫正在迅速地膨脹。樂觀者則看法不同：你要有心 理準備，中國只是剛剛開始崛起，我們將要看到的是，中國過去三十年在基礎建設和教育領域的投資，終於要獲得回報了。我不是一個賭徒，所以我只會做一個旁觀 者。為什麼這些樂觀者並不完全是在說瘋話？如果你想要一些證據，那麼你或許應該去參觀一所上海的小學。
我的旅伴之一是溫蒂·柯普(Wendy Kopp)。柯普是為美國而教組織(Teach for America)的創始人。其他旅伴是美麗世界(Teach for All)項目的多位領導者。美麗世界項目構建在前者的基礎上，現在已經在全球32個國家運轉。我們造訪了中國表現最好和最差的一些學校，想要找到個中的秘 密——為什麼上海的公立小學能夠在2009年的國際學生測評項目(PISA, Program for International Student Assessment)考試中獨佔鰲頭。這個測評項目對65個國家的15歲學生的能力進行測評，考察他們對於數學、科學和閱讀能力的掌握。
當你坐進薔薇小學的教室，跟學校校長和老師見了面，你會發 現，他們無止境地強調那些造就優質學校的根本原則。這些根本原則我們都很清楚，但是想要在整個教育系統里持續地推廣則非常有難度。它們是：下大決心給教師 進行培訓，教師之間相互學習，在職業上不停進行發展，在小朋友的學習過程中提高家長的參與度，學校領導堅持以最高標準要求學校，並且營造出重視教育、尊重 老師的學校文化。
上海成功的秘訣很簡單，就在於有更多的學校在更多的時間裡執行這些基本原則。我們以教師職業發展為例。通過十年的努力，學校校長沈珺見證了學校由差變好的轉變——特別是考慮到40%的學生都是沒有受到過良好教育 的外來務工人員的子弟——沈校長說，她的老師每周有70%的時間用在教學上，30%的時間用在發展教學技能和備課上。而這個比例要比一所典型的美國學校要 高得多。
他說，「你會學到很多教學技能，可以用到自己的課堂上。」 教育專家會告訴你，提高學校教育質量的方法很多，控制班級規模，採用高科技，控制上學的時間；但是最重要的是給老師時間來相互評價，給出建設性意見，觀摩 最好的教學過程，並對所教授課程加深認識和理解；這比任何一項投資的回報都要大。
滕老師說，他的工作還包括了「家長培訓」。每個學期家長會 來學校三到五次，學習電腦技能，從而更好地幫助自己的子女完成作業，並在網上學習。29歲的克里斯蒂娜·鮑(Christina Bao)也是薔薇小學的英語老師，她說她每個禮拜都嘗試着跟所有學生的家長打電話或者網上聊天，溝通兩到三次，讓他們清楚小孩的學習情況。她說，「我會告 訴家長，學生在學校的表現如何。」 然後，鮑老師還鄭重地提到，「我會告訴家長，如果學生表現不太好，千萬不要打小孩。」這算是中美之間很大的一個文化差異吧。
安德里亞斯·施雷徹(Andreas Schleicher)是國際學生測評項目的負責人。他告訴我們，2003年，上海的教育系統還是非常「普通」的。「但是十年之後，上海的教育系統已經在 世界領先，同時極大程度上縮小了學校之間的差別。」他也認為，進步背後的原因是，在中國最好的學校里，老師很大的一部分時間用來在同事之間相互學習，進行 個人職業發展。而在美國，老師在學校的大部分時間都是用來教學。他說，結果就是，像在上海這樣的地方，「整個教育系統有本事把原來一般的老師，變成非常有 工作效率的老師」，與此同時，「教育系統再把最好的老師派往最具有挑戰性的課堂上去。」
中國也有很多一般的學校，有很多問題亟待解決。不過好消息 是，通過堅持那些中美教育者都明白，且肯定會奏效的基本原則，上海用十年時間，提高了學校的教育質量，一些學生已經在閱讀，科學和數學技能方面處於世界領 先地位。當然，他們在堅持基本原則方面相當系統，義無反顧。對了，沈珺校長還跟我說，「這只是一個開始。」
Whenever I visit China, I am struck by the sharply divergent predictions of its future one hears. Lately, a number of global investors have been “shorting” China, betting that someday soon its powerful economic engine will sputter, as the real estate boom here turns to a bust. Frankly, if I were shorting China today, it would not be because of the real estate bubble, but because of the pollution bubble that is increasingly enveloping some of its biggest cities. Optimists take another view: that, buckle in, China is just getting started, and that what we’re now about to see is the payoff from China’s 30 years of investment in infrastructure and education. I’m not a gambler, so I’ll just watch this from the sidelines. But if you’re looking for evidence as to why the optimistic bet isn’t totally crazy, you might want to visit a Shanghai elementary school.
I’ve traveled here with Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, and the leaders of the Teach for All programs modeled on Teach for America that are operating in 32 countries. We’re visiting some of the highest- and lowest-performing schools in China to try to uncover The Secret — how is it that Shanghai’s public secondary schools topped the world charts in the 2009 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exams that measure the ability of 15-year-olds in 65 countries to apply what they’ve learned in math, science and reading.
After visiting Shanghai’s Qiangwei Primary School, with 754 students — grades one through five — and 59 teachers, I think I found The Secret:
There is no secret.
When you sit in on a class here and meet with the principal and teachers, what you find is a relentless focus on all the basics that we know make for high-performing schools but that are difficult to pull off consistently across an entire school system. These are: a deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development, a deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning, an insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers.
Shanghai’s secret is simply its ability to execute more of these fundamentals in more of its schools more of the time. Take teacher development. Shen Jun, Qiangwei’s principal, who has overseen its transformation in a decade from a low-performing to a high-performing school — even though 40 percent of her students are children of poorly educated migrant workers — says her teachers spend about 70 percent of each week teaching and 30 percent developing teaching skills and lesson planning. That is far higher than in a typical American school.
Teng Jiao, 26, an English teacher here, said school begins at 8:35 a.m. and runs to 4:30 p.m., during which he typically teaches three 35-minute lessons. I sat in on one third-grade English class. The English lesson was meticulously planned, with no time wasted. The rest of his day, he said, is spent on lesson planning, training online or with his team, having other teachers watch his class and tell him how to improve and observing the classrooms of master teachers.
“You see so many teaching techniques that you can apply to your own classroom,” he remarks. Education experts will tell you that of all the things that go into improving a school, nothing — not class size, not technology, not length of the school day — pays off more than giving teachers the time for peer review and constructive feedback, exposure to the best teaching and time to deepen their knowledge of what they’re teaching.
Teng said his job also includes “parent training.” Parents come to the school three to five times a semester to develop computer skills so they can better help their kids with homework and follow lessons online. Christina Bao, 29, who also teaches English, said she tries to chat either by phone or online with the parents of each student two or three times a week to keep them abreast of their child’s progress. “I will talk to them about what the students are doing at school.” She then alluded matter-of-factly to a big cultural difference here, “I tell them not to beat them if they are not doing well.”
In 2003, Shanghai had a very “average” school system, said Andreas Schleicher, who runs the PISA exams. “A decade later, it’s leading the world and has dramatically decreased variability between schools.” He, too, attributes this to the fact that, while in America a majority of a teacher’s time in school is spent teaching, in China’s best schools, a big chunk is spent learning from peers and personal development. As a result, he said, in places like Shanghai, “the system is good at attracting average people and getting enormous productivity out of them,” while also, “getting the best teachers in front of the most difficult classrooms.”
China still has many mediocre schools that need fixing. But the good news is that in just doing the things that American and Chinese educators know work — but doing them systematically and relentlessly — Shanghai has in a decade lifted some of its schools to the global heights in reading, science and math skills. Oh, and Shen Jun, the principal, wanted me to know: “This is just the start.”