I have been to China five times within the last few years. Three of those trips were specifically dedicated to learning about Chinese education. On one trip I was a featured conference speaker and spoke to educators from around the world.
1. Most Chinese children are the only descendants for two parents and four grandparents. In a society where most are poor...it REALLY matters that your child succeed! Your future depends on it!
2. Chinese children NEVER have part time after school jobs. Their job is one thing...get an education. Six people work to make sure a student has all that is necessary to compete in school.
3. There are no intramural sports, time consuming away games, or frivolous waste of time (as they would look at it). Exercise is done in group on a large field. Lines and lines of children all moving together to the loud speaker. (By the way...in China it is considered unpatriotic to be overweight...exercise spots dot the city landscapes to encourage fitness.)
4. Chinese children get only one chance to succeed. If you are a poor student at a young age then you will not be going to a university. You will be sent down another path.
The recent hoop-la in the media regarding the American Chinese mother and her take on raising children has at least brought to light what the competition is like. We need to have that discussion.
Obama should have called on America's parents to dedicate themselves to educating children. National priorities are not left to institutions or intellectuals, or better buildings. We need to reset priorities as we do know who are competition is. It is not the kid next door. It is the kid in China or India.