“The school day is much different over there in regards to time,” Budd said. “They spend much more time each day in school.”
Another major difference, the superintendent added, is that Chinese high-school students must pass a qualifying test to gain admission. Those who are accepted are required to live in dorms, something unheard of in American public education.
“If they don’t get into high school [in China],” Budd added, “they either go to vocational school, or they’re just done.”
To Budd, the fact that, for Chinese students, high school is neither compulsory nor guaranteed, makes constant media comparisons between Chinese and American students highly skewed and unfair. Those comparisons, Budd said, unfairly make it seem like American students lag far behind, when the reality is far different.
“When people compare scores [between American and Chinese students],” Budd said, “they’re comparing China’s top students – only those students that can qualify for high school – with ALL American students. This is not an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison. People need to understand what they’re comparing.”
He continued, “When you compare our top students with their top students, we’re on par with them, if not better. I’ve known this for years and most other educators know, too, but the media and the public generally don’t realize it.”
Budd characterized such unfair comparisons – which make it seem as if American students don’t “measure up” – as “funny” in light of the fact Chinese educators are highly interested in learning about how America runs its education system.
“If we’re so far behind them,” the superintendent said, “you wouldn’t think they’d be so interested in how the American education system works, but they’re constantly trying to learn about it. The main goal in China is for their high school students to come to our universities. It’s highly competitive, too, because everyone wants to be educated here.”