Jim Fallows is an former editor of and currently writer for the Atlantic Monthly who has often written about education and who is currently stationed in Shanghai. In an email to me this spring, he called the schools in Shanghai "awful." Deborah Meier and Eleanor Duckworth, two of the nation's premier educators, were gentler. They were invited recently to consult with Chinese educators. The Chinese are concerned about the quality of education schools are providing even for the elite. In an August 18 email, Deborah said "the idea that they have a superior education system is beyond absurd."
She also wrote that most of the "immigrant" Chinese kids are not even in school. "Immigrant" is the word applied to Chinese families who have moved, illegally often, into the cities from the poor rural regions. All Chinese schools charge tuition and they cannot afford it. Immigrant Chinese kids are legion.
Deborah says that they were told "that in many rural areas there are virtually no teachers--even if there are schools." As for the schools she visited, "The schools we saw were middle class ones in Shanghai which were working with the University and seemed pleasant enough but had 50 kids in a class and a relatively ordinary pedagogy."