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Chinese Universities Struggle to Match Leading American Universities    [Date Added : 02/28/2012 ]
American universities tower above their Chinese counterparts when it comes to producing human capital, according to Dr. David Lundquist, lecturer of Western philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He believes that this is America's greatest comparative advantage.

Dr. Lundquist identifies a number of barriers preventing Chinese universities from catching up with their American counterparts:

- weaknesses of the Chinese classroom include rote learning, an America-inspired fixation with metrics for professorial performance (scholarly publications), and large class sizes.

- Chinese university libraries, many of them newly built, are cramped and contain miscellaneous book collections, some of them discarded from American universities. Dr. Lundquist asserts that the typical American community college has a library collection better than that found in many of China's leading institutions.

- housing facilities are also inferior. Students live four or six to a room, with a bathroom at the end of the hall. Dr. Lundquist notes that American-style amenities should not be considered the world standard, but he questions exactly where is the emotional development on Chinese campuses. Amenities, perks and comfort zones might be what students need during four years of emotionally taxing, intensive social experiences.

The Extracurricular Advantage

According to Dr. Lundquist, it is in the less discussed extracurricular domain where American institutions really best their peers in the world. This is where the massive advantages the United States still enjoys in creating human capital are found.

China is a more conservative society than many Western ones. A narrow concept of learning is prioritized over wider notions of personal growth common to many Westerners. Chinese students are not only less likely to graduate without pleasant and fulfilling romantic experiences, they're also less likely to know themselves in many senses that Americans see as essential: tendencies under stress, life trajectory or, more practically, career preferences.

Despite rapid economic growth, many Chinese graduates still are not prepared for employment. And, even Chinese graduates who gain employment at Western firms have a high turnover rate due to gaps in their education, including a lack of creativity, flexibility and communication.

Dr. Lundquist believes that for China's next generation, the road ahead is not paved in gold, nor is it very inviting. However, Americans should remember that economic links render China's future important to the United States. And if the future of China is in part seen in its universities, there is cause for concern.

(extract from "Why China Isn't Winning: American Higher Ed Is Still Much, Much Better," by David Lundquist, theatlantic.com, February 16, 2012. This article originally appeared at the NationalInterest.org website. Copyright 2012 Atlantic Monthly Group)
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