Here in the United States, we value creatiiiiiiiiiiiivity. That our kids don't do well on state, national, or international tests, well, we explain that away somehow. When the Chinese do well, we (and sometimes even they) claim that the Chinese system makes great test-takers but not great thinkers.
False dichotomy. Seriously. The two are not mutually-exclusive. In fact, we should strive for both.
And consider this: if you don't know the material well enough to do well on a test, you don't know it well enough to be "creative" with it. This parallels my beliefs about critical thinking: you can't think critically about something without first having a broad base of knowledge on which to draw. Making excuses for mediocre performance is just sour grapes, nothing more.
Update, 1/17/10: I've received the author's permission to post the following, which was sent to an emaillist to which I am subscribed:
From the article:
"Students rise at dawn, disappear into school until dinnertime and toil into the late night over homework in preparation for university entrance exams that can make or break their future."
Fortunately for our kids in the USA, college won't "make or break their future." (sarcasm)
more from article:
"They have huge vocabularies and they do math well. However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low."
They fill our STEM graduate programs in the USA. They account for a high percentage of IT startups in the USA. The percentage of USA patents filled by Chinese goes up every year. The percentage of scientific articles published in the world by Chinese goes up every year.
They are giving "failure" a bad name.