Li Xing

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by Li Xing

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Feb 14, 2011

The high-profile debate over Chinese mothers continues. A China Daily senior editor says Chinese education needs to incorporate broader values but an education researcher praises China's educational achievements

The heated debate over whether Chinese or Western mothers are superior has spread far and wide around the world. Amy Chua, the Yale law professor who initiated the discussion, had received some 7,722 comments on the Wall Street Journal website alone by Monday.

However, the debate mostly focuses on what to do to ensure children excel in academic studies or future career development. An essential point is missing: How to bring up our children so they will become conscientious citizens who value teamwork, creativity, individuality and independence.

With her book and essay, Amy Chua enhances the conviction of many Chinese, as well as Western parents and educators, who believe strict rules and rote learning along with "humiliation" are the prerequisites for academic and professional excellence.

When I raised the question – in my column published on Jan 28 – whether rote learning is conducive to nurturing creativity in children, one reader responded by arguing that rote learning for young children is a must.

Under the online name huaqiqiao, he wrote: "Children and young people have fantastic memories, and that's the time to build their basic skills.

"Concentrating on 'creativity' at that age is a waste of time, many 'creative' youngsters in the West, are unemployed. Einstein himself was not schooled in the 'modern' manner, but in traditional Old Europe gymnasia and universities, that all stressed rote learning and drill-and-practice."

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Li Xing is assistant editor-in-chief of China Daily