1. Zhao says, “China cannot have a Steve Jobs,” and he goes on to explain why. What drastic changes would China need to make in their educational system so that an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs could survive and start a company like Apple? Could the 826 Valencia program work in China? Explain.

The reason that China cannot produce an entrepreneur like Jobs is that the creative mentality needed for an individual like Jobs is missing in China. With the rote memorization and standardized testing that are well known characteristics of the Chinese educational system, the attributes that develop confidence and creativity necessary for entrepreneurial success fail to manifest. The accomplishments that lend to high testing scores in China are in fact the things that also lead to failure as entrepreneurs. China needs to make sweeping changes to their educational system in order to prepare its students for entrepreneurship. Chinese students need the liberty to explore personal interests as well as the opportunity to develop individual talents. Similarly, young students need the chance to be inquisitive, curious, interactive, and courageous enough to explore the avenue of learning in the following ways: asking questions, challenging ways of prior thinking, and developing new opinions about content. According to Zhao in an article reported in the Washington Post, the Chinese Ministry of Education has listed, with the intent of implementation, ten regulations that are meant to reduce the academic burden for primary students (Strauss, 2013).
1. Admissions to schools are transparent and not dependent on exam scores or previous achievements.
2. Student placement is balanced across classrooms and teachers; no classrooms heavily weighted with fast track or slow students.
3. Instruction for first graders must begin at zero proficiency.
4. No, or reduced homework for primary students.
5. Reduced testing/assessments for primary grades: no testing for grades 1-3 and semester assessments for grades 4 and up.
6. Replacement of the 100-point system for a categorical evaluation system.
7. The use of supplemental materials is reduced to one type along with the text book.
8. The utilization of extra lessons/classes for means of advancement is forbidden.
9. Schools are required to incorporate a minimum of one hour of physical exercise.
10. A blanket enforcement of the mentioned actions to ensure that student academic burden is lessened/reduced.

I don’t feel a program like Valencia 826 would work in China. The culture of China is deeply engrained in its people and they have been programmed to do what is required to further themselves as individuals, not assist others and help them to be successful. I think it would take a really long time for Chinese students to have the confidence to step out on faith, and without fear of repercussion, and pursue self interests and passions. The means by which Chinese students have been forced to conform would be hard to overcome. Also, without a nationwide mandate to enforce education reform, it would be difficult to have some abandon the age old ways to prepare for the gaokao and risk admission to university while others choose to continue preparation and then in fact secure the limited spots available. While 826 Valencia is a very cool concept and exhibiting success in the United States, I don’t feel it would be widely accepted in China.


Little, A. (2014, September 24). Fixing the best schools in the world. Bloomberg Business Week. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-09-24/chinas-education-reform-push-extends-to-shanghais-top-schools

Strauss, V. (2013, October 30). China’s 10 new and surprising school reform rules. Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/30/chinas-10-new-school-reform-rules-reduce-standardized-testing-homework/

2. Zhao says, “The US economy is three times as large as the second largest economy in the world, China which has four times the population…the United States is still viewed as the hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship…American education operates under the same paradigm as the Chinese education system.” So what are differences in the two countries’ school systems? Don’t forget to use sources other than Zhao to support your response.

According to Zhao, there are notable differences between the educational practices of the United States and China. Firstly, American students are not required to spend all of their time studying (learning) and are allowed more free time to pursue personal interests. This allows students the time explore and develop their own passions and interests. On the contrary, students in China spend anywhere from 10-12 hours per day receiving instruction and sometimes seek extra lessons to enhance learning and procure high test scores. Secondly, the education system of America possesses a lack of uniformity in a national curriculum allowing for more control of what educators are teaching at the local level. Chinese students have strict expectations regarding what and how they learn with little/no ability to stray from the content. When interviewed, Chinese college students attending Boston University claim that education in their homeland is equated with strict memorization while learning institutions in America are referred to as places of “studying” (Barlow, 2013). Western education has been stereotyped to be more liberal because students are allowed to combine presented ideas with their own opinions (Gee & Shao, 2012). Students in China must conform to a single set of skills and knowledge. Although Chinese students are expected to spend countless hours learning, they are allowed little “play time,” which gives American students the opportunity to develop independence and social relationships. The Chinese eduction system places an increased rigor on its students and emphasizes direct competition for achieving the highest on national assessments. The Chinese author of a blog writes, “Students become inanimate, they only know how to pass the exam (college entrance exam). It is the disadvantage of Chinese education” (Kazakhnomad, 2012). To the contrary, American education does not maintain this attitude of “high expectations” for its students, which preserves student confidence. Finally, unlike American students, the Chinese do not have the availability of extracurricular activities which could inspire life pursuits other than academia. While these events could be viewed as unwelcome distractions, these activities promote creativity and entrepreneurial characteristics.


Barlow, R. (2013, May 22). Chinese students adjust to American education: When east meets west, differences abound. Boston University Today. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from: http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/chinese-students-adjust-to-american-education/

Gee, R. & Shao, O. (2012). Opinion: Educational differences between China and America. Retrieved October 15, 2015, from: http://www.shanghaiexpat.com/article/opinion-educational-differences-between-china-and-america-21977.html

Kazakhnomad. (2012, August 23). Kazakhnomad’s blog: A westerner’s view of Kazakhstan. Retrieved October, 15, 2014, from: http://kazakhnomad.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/differences-of-education-between-china-and-america

8 thoughts on “Zhao Blog 3: The Entrepreneurship Gap

  1. Cynthia (Cindy) Scott

    Hi Karen, I enjoyed your views on what China needed to do to have Steve Jobs types. I agree that it would be difficult for the Chinese to have a program like 826 Valencia because of their rigid educational process and that students would have a difficult time going out on their own to be creative or explore. I feel China as a whole would have to buy into programs like Valencia and implement them with the same aggressiveness as their academic school system for them to make a go of it. This would mean there would have to be changes other than just the school system since everything revolves around how well students do.

  2. Heather Korrell

    Karen, what a great post! I do agree with your discussion about why the Chinese educational system does not produce people like Steve Jobs. Ultimately they are sucking the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit out of their students, but overwhelming them with so much school work, so many tests, and the inability to fail. Taking risks is a huge part of creating and building your own ideas, products and businesses. Without that important key, they will always struggle to produce entrepreneurs. Their education system focuses on making sure that students have immense amounts of knowledge, however the students are not sure what to do with the knowledge they have. They are not given the opportunities to apply their knowledge or to be creative.

    I do think that eventually a place like 826 Valencia could work in China. To have students work on their schooling and to receive the one-on-one treatment, then be able to spend their evenings with the much needed free time to create, explore interests, and be with family. I think that it would be only work after mindsets, and the educational system have been reformed.

    You point out some very good strengths and weaknesses of both educational systems. I strongly agree that a strength of the US system is the focus on the individual and the ability to create, and I also agree that China has a great strength in seeing what all students are learning. The curriculum uniformity that you discuss is important. It is so difficult to understand how national tests can be used and accepted as a tool to determine student learning when schools across the country are not teaching the same content. I also really like you inclusion of the extracurricular activities. I think that is so important to our educational system and really does allow students to be themselves and explore their talents and abilities. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Melissa

    It would be very difficult to be a student in China. If our education system does not encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in children, what can be said of China? I cannot imagine having to study all the time and be given such little free time to myself.

  4. Joe Riley

    Regarding your response to question 1 in Blog #3, I agree with you about China’s lack of creativity among its students. The rote memorization that China’s students spend countless hours on do little or nothing to further innovation and entrepreneurship within the country. In order for things to change the culture itself must change, not just the education system. I think this is why a program like the 826 Valencia program is exactly what China needs. If the country is serious about growing innovation and entrepreneurship then why not import a program that is a wonderful example of each of these things. The Chinese people can learn how both of these things work in America and how people come together in collaboration to do great things. The situation in China is not going to change unless the people understand how it can be done.

  5. Janna Chiang

    The last point that is made in regards to extracurricular activities is in fact not accurate. Chinese students are required to have at least two extracurricular activity. It does not have the same “freedom” in a way that sport in America are often not “graded”. For Chinese, it will be graded and if you are not good, you will be immediately kicked out of the program.

  6. Denise Lewis

    I completely agree that 826 Valencia, while an ingenious idea, would never work in China in the current cultural mindset. When viewed as a whole in China the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, rather in China the richest peoples are going to afford their children tutors to give them an advantage. A free center for academic success would be a difficult idea for the Chinese to accept.

  7. Kristina Jewell

    I think you bring up a good point that 826 Valencia types of centers would probably not be very successful in China without a government mandate. I read in a few articles that some middle class Chinese parents are heading to the U.S. to have their student educated for high school and college. I think if the government were able to find families that were interested in a creative type of education, like 826 Valencia, they could successfully establish a few schools and market it towards people with a similar mindset. Then, perhaps they would catch on and lead to some changes in Chinese education.

  8. Kenny Lee

    I don’t think the mentality for entrepreneurship is missing as much as suppressed. The Chinese have created several innovations over time, but the current climate is one where they concentrate on individuals conforming to a national idea rather than an individual idea. They seem to be trying to make changes to their system illustrated by the 10 regulations in your blog. And, I agree the intense focus on academics limits the individuals ability to interact and develop the variety of skills American students learn outside the classroom.

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