The commitment to academic achievement of Chinese and Indian students, as portrayed in "All Eyes on the Competition" [February 25-March 3], is not a result of their schools.
It is the result of the values and expectations of their national cultures. If we wish American students to apply themselves as the Chinese and Indians do, the priorities of our general society must foster that. Schools reflect rather than create the pervasive commitments of the cultures in which they exist. That is as it is and as it should be. Education of the young is too important to be controlled by schools, even if that were possible.
Get out of your ivory towers and see what is happening. Why do our students score poorly in international competitions? Why are the technical companies importing engineers and scientists from other countries? There were over 40 students in the photo of a chemistry class. In this country we are bombarded by TV ads that our classes are too large and of course the schools need more money. The foreign students are disciplined and supported by the parents. They are not given rewards simply because they participated. We educate the mentally disabled until they are 21-years-old. However if you are intelligent you are not provided education beyond high school, plus university fees keep rising and federal support decreasing. What are the university fees in China and India? How much does China and India spend on public education as compared to the U.S.?
Students from India & China often outnumber American students in U.S. graduate schools, and they really know their material. They don't have the same amount of laboratory experience as American students, but most of them manage to overcome that. And think about what they're doing: how many Americans could go to another country and compete successfully with native students in the native students' language? The graduate schools I'm familiar with make no allowance for the fact these students are not functioning in their native language—professors lecture just as they always have, and expect the same level of performance on home work and exams. The only special programs for foreign graduate students I've heard about are to improve these students' English pronunciation so that undergraduate students don't complain that they can't understand what their teaching assistants are saying.
"All Eyes on the Competition" seems to hold up the ideal as attending Saturday tutoring sessions and squeezing in as much study time as possible. While academics are surely important, don't forget the value of a well-rounded individual. Partying is not a great example of what students who are not studying do all day. What about community service, club membership and physical fitness? Let's not get so caught up with our schooling that we take the wholesomeness out of American universities.