In the past week, Chinese students have been sitting the two-day exams for entrance to national colleges and universities. They were perhaps not so onerous as the nine-day Imperial Exams of a millennium ago — which effectively chose future mandarins — the modern exams are relatively just as important in setting up a career path in government or good jobs in industry.
As previously, children will spend years in extra study to prepare for exams and parents have to spend fortunes to crammers — pretty well exactly similar to parents in the advanced countries who spend the equivalent of an average annual salary in sending a child to a private boarding school.
There’s a huge difference, however, between the expensively educated children of the two countries. The Chinese children still have to learn by rote, whether at state school during the day or with crammers in the evenings and weekends. They emerge from schools at 17 or from colleges and universities at 21 as totally conditioned creatures with little, if any. creativity.
Of the nine Nobel prizes in science that the Chinese have won only one was by a Chinese — a woman — who’d done her research in China. The other eight had won their prizes while doing research abroad and having spent years in a different liberal culture.
In contrast, children in England and America who’ve been lucky enough to go to private schools — or a handful of the 1,300 state schools who happened to be situated in highly favourable upper middle class districts — with far less discipline, much more free time and are far more creative. Products of the 7% of private schools dominate in both the arts — drama and entertainment — and the sciences — and half of the leading scientific research and engineers.
Whereas China has won 0.007 Nobel prizes in science per one million of population, the UK has won 1.5 — 200 times the rate. This is why China with a Confucian tradition will remain a copying nation — like Japan — and not a creative one for a very long time to come.