Friday, January 30, 2015

Chinese expert warns standardized testing 'destroys schools'


Chinese expert Yong Zhao warns standardized testing 'destroys schools'

Yong Zhao said the same harmful effect on Chinese students may be happening in British Columbia.

  Jan 30, 2015

 Rote learning destroys schools, warns Yong Shan, a top international education consultant based in Oregon who was invited by B.C.'s Education Ministry to spell out his vision for upgrading the provincial school system.
Schoolchildren in China drilling their tongues to pronounce English words correctly often find themselves picking up more ZZZs than ABCs.
Half a year can be spent practising rote verbal exercises, a mind-numbing method that can kill youngsters' enthusiasm for learning, said a former English teacher from China who's seen it firsthand.
Such a teaching style has evolved to meet institutions' needs for generating high scores in standardized testing, but Yong Zhao said the same harmful effect on Chinese students may be happening in British Columbia.
Zhao is now a top international education consultant based in Oregon who was invited by B.C.'s Education Ministry to spell out his vision for upgrading the provincial school system.
"My extreme advice, we should do away with all of (standardized testing)," Zhao said in an interview after addressing the forum that convened more than 150 educators and interested business and community leaders.
'The basics should come after we have a passion'- Yong Zhoa
"It's a waste of money, very little value, destroys parents, destroys schools too, and puts students and teachers in a bind for high-stakes testing."
The province should revolutionize the system by shifting the teaching emphasis to nurture every child's individual passion and talents. The concept is called personalized learning, and gives both students and teachers more space to explore their diverse abilities.
"To be creative, to be entrepreneurial, you cannot skip the basics," Zhou told the room.
"But the basics should come after we have a passion. Sometimes we do the basics and we have killed people's interest."
His call for innovation comes at the same time B.C. teachers are administering the standardized Foundation Skills Assessment tests to children in Grades 4 and 7, and as the province's education minister announced a new education strategy.

Pilot project underway in B.C.

Minister Peter Fassbender told the forum the government is partnering with educators to identify several schools throughout the province to pilot programs that swap the focus to individualized learning.
Peter Fassbender speaks with Andrew Chang at CBC News Vancouver
Education Minister Peter Fassbender says pilot projects for individualized learning programs are being set up in B.C. (CBC)
"We're not going to throw the baby out with the bath water," Fassbender said. "And as Dr. Zhou said, there are great ideas but if we try to go from here to here we're going to scare half the population."
The minister said development of the "K-12 Innovation Strategy" will be ongoing but avoids a top-down approach and instead encourages students to explore what's relevant to their own lives.
A working group will be formed to connect school districts, participating schools and interested organizations such as the B.C. Teachers' Federation and associations representing superintendents, principals and independent schools.
The ministry also released an updated B.C. Education Plan, which better articulates the concept of personalized learning and proposes to further examine a suite of student assessment tools.

'Breath of fresh air'

Forum participants sat at desks situated in concentric circles while peppering each other and several keynote speakers with questions.
Zhao, now a professor at the University of Oregon who studies global educational policy, told the crowd that the world's established education systems drive creativity down and discriminate against students with diverse abilities.
He said children already have a tremendous capacity to soak up foundational skills -- so long as the learning methods are engaging.
B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker - Sept. 18, 2014
B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker said Yong Zhoa's comment were a "breath of fresh air." (CBC)
He suggested teachers should provide less explicit instructions and instead give students broader ownership over their learning, placing more emphasis on developing individually-meaningful skills while making better use of global resources.
Teachers' federation President Jim Iker welcomed Zhou's vision as a "breath of fresh air."
The union has long argued general, cognitive-skills tests don't help students learn or teachers teach.
"Workplaces want young adults who are able to be creative, who are confident, who are self-reliant, who've got social skills," he said. "That's an important piece that's not part of a standardized test."
Grade 11 student Marnie Klassen from Abbotsford, B.C., said she's interested in the concept of personalized learning, but believes the current, test-based system already suits her needs.

A Virginia Reader Reports On The Obama Administration’s Loosened Visa Policy For Chinese Nationals

A Virginia Reader Reports On The Obama Administration’s Loosened Visa Policy For Chinese Nationals

 President Obama and Xi Jinping--one is an anti-American Marxist, the other is...President of China.
 President Obama and Xi Jinping
While the nation is waiting pensively for the Obama administration’s traitorous amnesty executive orders they have slipped through dangerous changes to the visa policy for Chinese nationals. Specifically, these changes are:
“On Monday in Beijing, President Obama announced an agreement with China that builds on that progress by extending the validity of tourist and business visas to 10 years and student visas to five years — both for Chinese citizens traveling to the United States and for Americans traveling to China.
Prior to this agreement, Chinese citizens had to renew their American business, tourist, and student visas annually and the same applied to American travelers visiting China.”
White House explains why its visa reforms are a big deal for the U.S. economy, By Penny Pritzker and Jeffrey Zients, @CNNMoney, November 10, 2014
Well, I suppose this is one way to limit the problem with Chinese visa overstayers as they can go back and forth for five or ten years without much constraint, besides the time limits for each discrete stay depending on the visa type. Of course, they could just fly back to China and promptly return to comply with the regulations. But this will never occur. [New visa policy elevates U.S.-China relations,By Jeremy Diamond, CNN, November 10, 2014]
The mind boggles when one contemplates how much more in the way of espionage, anchor babies, diploma mills, sham marriages,illegal labor, and general illicit activities will be generated by this new wave of Chinese visitors (colonizers?).
Just in case there was a concern about the proper vetting of ournew neighbors rest assured that our government is thoroughly reviewing the applicants:
“Thanks to reforms in visa processing, average waiting periods for visas in important markets like Brazil and China have dropped from as high as several months to less than five days, all while maintaining the same rigor in legal and security reviews.”
The potential impact of 1.3 billion Chinese finding expedited, long term access to the United States could be staggering. These changes to the visa policy take place on November 12, 2014.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

China Clamps Down Still Harder on Internet Access

China Clamps Down Still Harder on Internet Access

BEIJING — Jing Yuechen, the founder of an Internet start-up here in the Chinese capital, has no interest in overthrowing the Communist Party. But these days she finds herself cursing the nation’s smothering cyberpolice as she tries — and fails — to browse photo-sharing websites like Flickr and struggles to stay in touch with the Facebook friends she has made during trips to France, India and Singapore.
Gmail has become almost impossible to use here, and in recent weeks the authorities have gummed up Astrill, the software Ms. Jing and countless others depended on to circumvent the Internet restrictions that Western security analysts refer to as the Great Firewall.
By interfering with Astrill and several other popular virtual private networks, or V.P.N.s, the government has complicated the lives of Chinese astronomers seeking the latest scientific data from abroad, graphic designers shopping for clip art on Shutterstock and students submitting online applications to American universities.
“If it was legal to protest and throw rotten eggs on the street, I’d definitely be up for that,” Ms. Jing, 25, said.
China has long had some of the world’s most onerous Internet restrictions. But until now, the authorities had effectively tolerated the proliferation of V.P.N.’s as a lifeline for millions of people, from archaeologists to foreign investors, who rely heavily on less-fettered access to the Internet.
But earlier this week, after a number of V.P.N. companies, including StrongVPN and Golden Frog, complained that the Chinese government had disrupted their services with unprecedented sophistication, a senior official for the first time acknowledged its hand in the attacks and implicitly promised more of the same.
The move to disable some of the most widely used V.P.N.s has provoked a torrent of outrage among video artists, tech entrepreneurs and university professors who complain that in its quest for so-called “Internet sovereignty” — Beijing’s euphemism for online filtering — the Communist Party is stifling the innovation and productivity needed to revive the Chinese economy at a time of slowing growth.
“I need to stay tuned into the rest of the world,” said Henry Yang, 25, the international news editor of a state-owned media company who uses Facebook to follow broadcasters like Diane Sawyer, Ann Curry and Anderson Cooper. “I feel like we’re like frogs being slowly boiled in a pot.”
Multinational companies are also alarmed by the growing online constraints. Especially worrisome, they say, are new regulations that would force foreign tech and telecom companies to give the government “back doors” to their hardware and software and require them to store data within China’s borders.
Like their Chinese counterparts, Western business owners have been complaining about their inability to gain access to many Google services since the summer. A few weeks ago, the government cut off the ability to receive Gmail on smartphones through third-party email services like Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook.
The recent disabling of several widely used V.P.N.’s has made it difficult for company employees to use collaborative programs like Google Docs, although some people have found workarounds — for the time being.
“One unfortunate result of excessive control over email and Internet traffic is the slowing down of legitimate commerce, and that is not something in China’s best interest,” said James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. “In order to attract and promote world-class commercial enterprises, the government needs to encourage the use of the Internet as a crucial medium for the sharing of information and ideas to promote economic growth and development.”
Chinese authorities have long had the ability to interfere with V.P.N.s, but their interest in disrupting such programs has mounted alongside the government’s drive for so-called cyber-sovereignty, especially since President Xi Jinping came to power two years ago. Lu Wei, the propaganda official Mr. Xi appointed as Internet czar, has been unapologetic in promoting the notion that China has the right to block a wide array of online content.
A co-founder of, which tracks online censorship in China, suggested the government had decided that soaring V.P.N. use among ordinary Chinese warranted a more aggressive attack on such tunneling software.
“This is just a further, logical step,” said the co-founder, who requested anonymity to avoid government scrutiny. “The authorities are hellbent on establishing cyber-sovereignty in China. If you look at what has taken place since last summer it is quite astounding.”
Government officials have denied any role in blocking Google and they have dismissed accusations that Chinese authorities were behind a “man-in-the-middle” attack on Outlook two weeks ago as well as earlier hacking incidentshere involving Yahoo and Apple.
But such claims have by and large fallen on deaf ears, especially given Beijing’s strident campaign against the “hostile foreign forces” it says are seeking to undermine the country though the Internet.
On Tuesday, however, a senior official at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology acknowledged that the government was targeting V.P.N.’s to foster the “healthy development” of the nation’s Internet and he announced that such software was essentially illegal in China. “The country needs new methods to tackle new problems,” Wen Ku, a director at the ministry, told a news conference, according to People’s Daily.
In recent weeks, a number of Chinese academics have gone online to express their frustrations, particularly over their inability to reach Google Scholar, a search engine that provides links to millions of scholarly papers from around the world.
‘It’s like we’re living in the Middle Ages,” Zhang Qian, a naval historian, complained on the microblog service Sina Weibo.
In an essay that has been circulating on social media, one biologist described how the unending scramble to find ways around website blockages was sapping colleagues’ energy.
“It’s completely ridiculous,” he wrote of the wasted hours spent researching and downloading V.P.N. software that works. “For a nation that professes to respect science, and wants to promote scientific learning, such barriers suggest little respect for the people actually engaged in science.”
It is not just scientists who have come to depend on an unabridged Internet for their work. Cheng Qingsong, a prominent film critic, complained that it was more and more difficult to stream foreign movies. Andrew Wang, a professor of translation at Beijing Language and Culture University, worried that his students would be unable carry out assignments that require them to watch English-language videos on YouTube, which has long been blocked here.
“It’s hurting everyone,” he said. “I can afford to spend $10 a month on a V.P.N. that works but for my students, that’s a lot of money.”
The vast majority of Chinese Internet users, especially those not fluent in English and other foreign languages, have little interest in vaulting the digital firewall. But those who require access to an unfiltered Internet are the very people Beijing has been counting on to transform the nation’s low-end manufacturing economy into one fueled by entrepreneurial innovation.
Illustrating of such contradictions, the central government this week announced a series of programs that seek to lure more international business talent by easing visa requirements and through other incentives.
“We have to focus on the nation’s strategic goals and attract high-level talent to start innovative businesses in China,” said Zhang Jianguo, director of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, who bemoaned the nation’s shortage of scientists and tech entrepreneurs.
Those goals, however, will not be helped by the latest assaults on Internet access, critics say. Avery Goldstein, a professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said the growing online constraints would not only dissuade expatriates from relocating here, but could also compel ambitious young Chinese studying abroad to seek job opportunities elsewhere.
“If they aren’t able to get the information to do their jobs, the best of the best might simply decide not to go home,” he said.
For those who have already returned to China and who crave membership in an increasingly globalized world, the prospect of making do with a circumscribed Internet is dispiriting. Coupled with the unrelenting air pollution and the crackdown on political dissent, a number of Chinese said the government’s effort to block V.P.N.’s could push them over the edge.
“It’s as if we’re shutting down half our brains,” said Chin-Chin Wu, an artist who spent almost a decade in Paris and who relies on the Internet to promote her work overseas. “I think that the day that information from the outside world becomes completely inaccessible in China, a lot of people will choose to leave.”

China Trumps U.S. for Foreign Investment

China Trumps U.S. for Foreign Investment

Move is Part of Longer-Term Switch Toward Investment in Developing Economies

China became the world’s top destination for foreign direct investment in 2014, edging the U.S. out of that position for the first time since 2003, according to figures released Thursday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Foreign businesses invested $127.6 billion in China, up from $123.9 billion in 2013, while their investments in the U.S. fell to $86 billion from $230.8 billion, Unctad said. The decline contributed to the U.S. slipping to third among all recipients of such investment, behind also Hong Kong.
China became the world’s top destination for foreign direct investment in 2014, edging the U.S. out of that position for the first time since 2003, according to figures released Thursday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Foreign businesses invested $127.6 billion in China, up from $123.9 billion in 2013, while their investments in the U.S. fell to $86 billion from $230.8 billion, Unctad said. The decline contributed to the U.S. slipping to third among all recipients of such investment, behind also Hong Kong.
McDonald's and Starbucks signs in Shenzhen, China, in August 2014. China became the world’s top destination for foreign investment last year.ENLARGE
McDonald's and Starbucks signs in Shenzhen, China, in August 2014. China became the world’s top destination for foreign investment last year. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS
China’s elevation is part of a longer-term trend in foreign investment away from developed and toward developing economies, which last year attracted 56% of all overseas investments by businesses, up from 52% in 2013 and double their share before the financial crisis of 2008.
The change comes after years in which the country has been gaining ground as an FDI destination, as its economy has expanded to become the world’s second largest.
“China has been steady with modest growth over the past few years, and it is expected to continue,” said James Zhan, director for investment and enterprise at Unctad. “There have been structural changes in inflows to China, from manufacturing toward services, and from labor-intensive to tech-intensive.”
But China might not have displaced the U.S. in 2014 were it not for Verizon’s purchase of $130 billion worth of shares in a joint venture from Vodafone of the U.K. The transaction counted as a reduction in foreign investment in the U.S. And with its economy set to grow more rapidly than most other developed economies, the U.S. once again could become the leading destination.
The U.S. was the only developed economy among the top five recipients of foreign investment.
Overall, overseas investments by businesses fell 8% from 2013 to $1.26 trillion, the lowest level since 2009, when the global economy was in recession following the onset of the financial crisis.
The continued weakness in foreign investment underscores the long-lasting nature of the economic damage caused by the financial crisis, as well as rising geopolitical tensions. Foreign investment in Russia collapsed in 2014 following the country’s March annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
“Companies are still not yet in the mood and mode for expansion,” said Mr. Zhan.
Unctad said it doesn’t expect a significant recovery in foreign investment this year.
“The fragility of the world economy, with growth tempered by hesitant consumer demand, volatility in currency markets and geopolitical instability will act as a deterrent for investors,” Unctad said. “The decline in commodity prices will also lower investments in the oil and gas and other commodity industries.”
The U.S. wasn't alone among developed economies in suffering a decline in foreign investment during 2014. With the eurozone economy trapped in a long slump, businesses cut their investments in Germany by $2.1 billion and their investments in France by $6.9 billion. As the U.K. returned to rapid economic growth, foreign investment rose to $61 billion, making it the largest European destination for foreign investment.
While developing countries as a whole attracted an increased share of total investment, some regions fared better than others. Asia led the way, with a 15% rise in foreign investment to an all-time high of $492 billion. By contrast, foreign investment in Latin America fell 19% to $153 billion after four years of increase, while foreign investment in Africa fell 3% to $55 billion.
But the region that suffered the largest decline outside the U.S. was Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, known by the United Nations as the “transition economies.” Concerns about the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia contributed to a halving of foreign investment to $45 billion. Foreign investment in Russia alone fell 70%, while foreign businesses cut their investments in Ukraine by $200 million.