Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm (about) as smart as a third world tenth grader

The people behind Two Million Minutes, that film about high school education in China and India, released an online test that lets you get a sense of what tests are like in India so you can compare yourself (or your kids) to their future competitors.

I tried the History exam.  Supposedly it's not nearly as rigorous as the real exam that Indian kids take, but at least it gives you a flavor of the difficulty. History is pretty fuzzy, of course, at least compared to math or physics or chemistry (some of the other sections on the test). I mean, with math it's fairly straightforward to ask a question like "what is the probability of having 53 sundays in a leap year". Even though you may have never heard that math question before, you'll know how to solve it if you know something about probability. With history, I don't see a way to do well unless you simply memorize every possible date or event. It basically boils down to a rote memory contest; somebody with photographic memory would do exceptionally well.

I think I understand now why I'm less than impressed with Indian schools, at least as they were presented by the movie and, now, the test. You don't need to understand anything about history other than dates. You could do well on this test even if you were completely incapable of applying lessons of history to current events, for example, or if you were unable to think outside the rote box.  Assuming the math and science sections are similar (a big assumption), I'm less worried about straight head-to-head competition on real-life matters.

On the other hand, there is much to be said for the type of discipline that these schools apparently instill in students who have the patience to learn fact after fact. 

The test took only took a few minutes to complete, and afterwards I received an emailed PDF summary of my results. Of 15 questions, I answered 9 correct, 2 incorrect, and 4 "no answer".  It concluded that I am "Good", but gave me no other obvious way to compare myself to other test takers.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I haven't seen you try math or any of the science subjects on the Challenge about trying one of them before you conclude it is 'rote learning'...