A study of the academic performance of engineering undergraduates in Russia, China, India and the United States, published March 1 in Nature, a subjournal of the journal Nature Human Behavior, found that Chinese students experienced a decline in critical thinking skills and academic skills after university study.
The study, co-sponsored by Stanford University, HSE University Moscow, Educational Testing Service (ETS) and partner universities in Beijing University, Tsinghua University and India, tracked for the first Time computer science and electrical engineering students in the four countries The study tracked, for the first time, changes in physics, mathematics and critical thinking skills among computer science and electrical engineering students in four countries.
Cheng Fangping, an Education expert at Renmin University of China, told the station that the findings are nothing new, “The conclusion has been known for a long time, and we know it even if it doesn’t run this test, it’s at best a corroboration. China has massed higher education since the 1990s, and now it says that higher education is universal. Between quantity and quality, quality must be the priority. Also we have to reform the teaching of higher education.”
In terms of physics and math scores, Chinese students are ahead of Indian and Russian students when they first enter university and at the end of their second year, but after university study, there is a huge regression in both scores.
When it comes to critical thinking, when they first enter college, Chinese students are not far behind American students and are higher than Indian and Russian students. However, at the end of college, critical thinking skills drop significantly and are overtaken by Russian students, while American students graduate with a leap in critical thinking skills, ahead of students from other countries.
This phenomenon is not very different in elite Chinese universities from ordinary institutions. Students at elite schools rated their critical thinking skills at entry at 1.612, while students at regular universities scored 0.741, much higher than in India and Russia. Four years later, Chinese students at elite institutions scored 1.339, a 17 percent drop in ability, and students at regular universities scored 0.234, a 68 percent drop in ability.
Screenshot of a study of academic performance of engineering undergraduates in Russia, China, India and the U.S. published in Nature, a subjournal of Nature Human Behavior (Nature Human Behavior)
Chinese Universities Produce Pragmatic Artisans, Critical Thinking Is a Luxury
The researchers concluded that one of the reasons for the decline in critical thinking among Chinese, Indian and Russian undergraduates in science and engineering is that they take fewer humanities and social science courses than U.S. students; in addition, Chinese junior and senior year course schedules are minimal and students mostly focus on finding jobs and internships; and Chinese university faculty tend to be lenient in their requirements and students are less motivated to learn.
Zhou Xiaozheng, a retired professor from Renmin University of China who has taught in China for fifty years, said to this station, “China’s broken totalitarianism, set in one respect, violates the right to information, participation, supervision, and expression of all citizens, in this atmosphere creativity is understandably declining; and everything to money worship is prevalent, ideal, creative, and critical thinking is certainly not. “
Ji Jiabao, a member of the Chinese Youth Constitution Society who studied in the United States, has taken courses in statistics and advanced mathematics at Jilin University, and he believes that East Asia places more emphasis on craftsmanship and the Western scientific tradition places more emphasis on critical authority, “American universities emphasize breaking the rules, the so-called Silicon Valley thinking ‘move fast, break things ‘. Overturn the previously perceived limits of engineering and reconstruct. For example, SpaceX overturned the engineering definitions and re-implemented the reuse of the rocket. And the most profound Chinese influence is the Confucian and Mencian way, which cultivates artisanal intellectuals as enforcers of the imperial system.”
In addition, Marxism-Leninism and materialism are held as unbreakable truths by colleges and universities, and Jiabao noted that “philosophical methodology extends to the sciences. Other engineering research such as physics will have a theoretical structure that cannot be moved, and this philosophical system will subconsciously have a suppression of creativity.”
Education reform, the word “party” comes first
“The 14th Five-Year Plan and the 2035 Visionary Goals propose to build a high-quality education system. During the two sessions, education has also become a hotly debated vocabulary, a number of college presidents, NPC deputies write articles about teaching and educating people, not forgetting to party management of talent, table loyalty as the first, rarely talk about critical thinking.
Wuhan University president, Chinese Academy of Sciences academician Dou Xiankang in the Study Times article stressed that “college talent must first be politically tough, loyal to the party, listen to the party command.” In February this year, Tsinghua University introduced the Tsinghua version of the education reform program, “serve the Party and the country”, “red and professional” is listed, no “self-improvement, strong virtue”. The school motto of “independent spirit and free thinking” is nowhere to be seen.
“The Emperor himself knows that he is not wearing clothes, he also knows that the people know that he is not wearing clothes, the people also know that the emperor knows: we know that he is not wearing clothes. Chinese college students can’t be serious, or they’ll be schizophrenic. How can you think critically? Critical thinking is to seek truth from facts. And China is full of lies, the village lies to the township, the township lies to the county, all the way to the general secretary.” Zhou Xiaozheng said.
In October 2020, China released the General Plan for Deepening Education Evaluation Reform in the New Era, which proposes to overcome the persistent miasma of grade, promotion, diploma, thesis and hat, and to basically form an education evaluation system that highlights Chinese characteristics and reflects world standards by 2035.
“Great efforts have been made in terms of optimizing conditions and financial support, but many places do not implement specific education and teaching reforms.” Cheng Fangping complained, “The management is too rigid, and schools should be given more autonomy. The president of the university should put in some effort. Now the students are managed to death and the teachers are managed to death, how can we ask them to innovate?”
Tough situation for International Students in engineering
With the recent deterioration in U.S.-China relations, a March 4 report by pollster Pew Research Center showed that 55 percent of Americans believe the number of Chinese students studying in the United States should be limited.
The U.S. attracts about 370,000 Chinese students each year, nearly half of whom are in STEM (science and technology) fields. Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton has said, “Chinese students who want to come should take Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, and that’s what they should learn from the United States, not quantum computing and artificial intelligence.”
Cheng Fangping, who has visited the U.S. and benefited a lot, said that the U.S.-China private exchange channel should be kept open, “You can restrict the official ones, but why do you restrict the private ones? China has been studying the Western system since Yan Fu. Chinese people are actually very superstitious about the United States, almost 90% of our education students studied in the United States, political science, law, psychology, all to learn from the United States, not all engineering. Education and politics are tied together, there will be a lot of chaos.”