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Interesting post. When I taught at Fudan, the system also encouraged rampant cheating. After all, if the school and the teachers are being judged by the scores – don’t you want the students to do everything possible to score high? Even if it includes turning a blind eye to answers being written on desks or people bringing in notes they shouldn’t have. My students would tell me that you have to use all the tools available to you to succeed an that being good at cheating was also a skill.
I have grown to be much more appreciative of the role of the arts and sports in education since I have been here. Not only are they important in teaching children that no one can succeed alone (even the Bill Gateses of the world need companies of people to back them up) but they also help students to see and appreciate the variety of talents that people may bring to the table. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the Chinese are best at individual sports and not team sports.