This is from a fascinating survey from Newsweek, jointly with Intel, looking at attitudes toward innovation in China and the US.   There are eight different charts in total; one key takeaway is that the Chinese believe the US to be more innovative, while Americans view Chinese as more innovative.  But for me, an educator and blogger seeking to place educating for innovation at the very top of my goals, it is this particular graphic which speaks volumes: which set of skills best drive innovation?   What should we be teaching in order to build a more innovative American future?

Chinese parents do not, contrary to what might be my uninformed expectation, view math and computer skills as most important– but Americans do.   Chinese parents value what I believe they lack in their educational program (and I cite Yong Zhao’s expertise as my source for claiming this); they value creative approaches in problem-solving.    They also view knowledge of world’s cultures as important, much more so than Americans do.

Now, I hate to pick sides: all four of these are important. Certainly in my school there will continue to be a great emphasis on mathematics, science and computer science education; there also is a growing attention to a longstanding core subject: world history and cultures.   But I am also very attracted to the what the Chinese prefer: ensuring we teach students to use, and challenge students to use, and facilitate students in using, creativity in problem-solving, that we ask them to answer questions via multiple pathways.

I wish I had more information about what the interviewers, and what the interviewees, mean by “creative approaches to problem-solving;” as much as I like it, I cannot help but also recognize that it is pretty vague.   I wonder too about its translations; Americans, reading this in English, and conditioned by some national politics and national media to be skeptical of creative and alternative approaches, might see negative connotations when hearing this phrase, and, when translated into Chinese, the phrase might carry entirely different connotations.

I educate in the US of course, not China, and need to meet the expectations and goals of American parents.   I believe my approach is to unite and reconcile: provide excellent and challenging math, science, and computer science lessons while also doing more to stimulate creativity and innovative problem-solving methodologies for our students.

How do readers of Newsweek, and readers of this blog, respond to this survey and its results?   How would you apportion the balance of teaching and learning amongst these four “drivers” of innovation?  Use the comment box below to share.