One of China’s Pillars:  Education


Madame Chairwoman, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning!

It is my great honor and pleasure to join you at the 8th annual Sea SkyLand Conference.

It is well known that the world economy is undergoing changes that would have been difficult to image at the beginning of the Twenty First Century.  The world now appreciates that it is witnessing the rebalancing of wealth and influence from the West to the East!

The economic strength of China is often viewed as the direct result of its serving as the “workshop of the world”.  This view, although shared by many, ignores the technological and innovative contributions that are now flowing continuously from China’s industrial and academic centers.  Although innovation and determination are key factors in the rebalancing of the world economy, China has never wavered in its commitment to the education of its young people.  With its next generation of scholars, scientists, industrialists, and yes, educators, China will propel itself to even higher global heights.  It is important for China to remain true to its values that place a premium on education, and especially on the education of its youth.  Although I have visited China only 10 times, I am deeply impressed with the respect that the youth of China shows towards their teachers who work tirelessly to shape their minds for future success and prosperity.

During the Song Dynasty (AD 960 – 1279) the world witnessed the development of a comprehensive civil service examination system.  This standardized method of preparing and selecting senior-level government workers survived into the early part of the Twentieth Century (i.e., 1912).   As we move into the post-PC world, we are increasingly anticipating that a China-led Asia will once again lead the way in the innovative use of digital and emerging technologies for the purpose of educating and assessing students.  This is an area that the world will watch closely over the next decade.

Recently, the Association of Test Publishers (ATP), a global association of test publishing and delivery organizations, surveyed government officials and educators in North America and Europe about their near future priorities.  The preliminary findings point to a growing recognition among policy makers and educators that a transformative change in the way we educate from preschool to senior high school was not only needed but that such change had already begun!  Our survey respondents agreed nearly 100% that strengthening educational programs was a critical step in their country’s objective to gain or sustain a competitive, dynamic, knowledge-based economy. 

As several respondents noted the new currency of the world is knowledge and making smart investments in human capital becomes for each nation, a national priority.  For educators this means modernizing educational systems, turning societies into lifelong learning environments, and using education to power a growth-oriented, resilient economy that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of people, and the competitiveness of countries.

Admittedly, the digitalization of our society is before our eyes and this technological explosion will continue to touch every aspect of the educational enterprise – from the educational infrastructure to the classroom textbook.  This transformation is unstoppable!  What remains constant, even in this rapid burst of technological change, is the importance and value that each teacher plays in shaping the educational experience of students. Still, it is important to embrace technology with a clear purpose and plan to improve the quality of education; however, to merely surrender oneself to technology is likely to turn the classroom into a distraction that disrupts rather than facilitates learning.

In recent years the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) has grown from a North American organization to a global trade organization.  One of the founding objectives of ATP is to improve the quality of the experience for each student test-taker. Achieving this objective means promoting fairness in the assessment process, and working to ensure the design, development and delivery of the assessment are consistent with global best practices.  Ongoing improvement of the assessment means that the student receives a quality experience!  ATP understands that in the post-PC era we will see more digitally-driven, cloud- powered ways to deliver assessments to students.  These new assessment approaches will be smarter and more student-centered.  Ideally, this means that assessments function more to unlock the educational experience of students rather than a method to capture discrete moments in their scholastic performance.  This forward-thinking view on assessments increases their usefulness and offers ways for assessment data to serve students, teachers, and policy makers. 

Well-designed smart assessments can play an active role in the educational growth of students because they provide actionable, real-time data to increase the likelihood that students realize a rewarding learning experience.  Next generation assessments are ideally more “student-centered” so as to offer a deeper understanding of students’ weaknesses, strengths, and competence. They leverage pertinent data to inform instruction and to devise tailored or group intervention strategies for when students are faced with hurdles that hamper their learning progression. The alignment of the smart assessments with a Twenty First Century curricula affords students an educational head start that can pay long-term dividends to both students and society! 

At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, John Dewey, the leader of the early 1900s progressive education movement in the US, noted that “if we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow”!

I have no doubt that Sea Skyland will play a key role in helping educators and school administrators to improve upon a foundation that offers a rich and high quality educational experience for each student, as educational institutions become digital learning environments.

Enjoy the conference and thank you.

William G. Harris

Association of Test Publishers