On Education, “Can Norway Learn From China ?”

In the eyes of some Chinese parents, western education (the American progressivist curriculum) is better than the Chinese one. As a result, they would like to send their kids to U.S, to U.K, to Australia… The blooming international education business in China has proved this point to some extent.

However, is it a right judgment ?

This week, I have received a mail from Prof.Arild Tjeldvoll, inviting me to give some comments about his book “CAN NORWAY LEARN FROM CHINA – SCHOOL QUALITY ?”

Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll is an expert of international education at his 70s. He has been the Chair of Institute for Educational Research at University of Oslo and visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Harvard, Western Cape, Stanford, Xiamen and Vietnam National University.


At the first sight, I was struck by the title. As you know, most of the time, when I look at the education in China, I am thinking about how to make it better. And the comparative object is the European education. But, Prof.Arild Tjeldvoll is working on the opposite direction!

In his book, Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll has pointed out that:


  • “ The first Norway can learn from China is to have a vision of education to achieve an important value, refinement of human character or morality. The Norwegian Unified School has largely become a place to stay, and has given symbolic certification and a certain amount of technical expertise, more than character formation. ”
  • “ From China, we can learn that education contributes decisively to create a strong identity and great mastery, expressed by the commitment and the ability to take advantage of competition. Respect for education and love for education is the central nerve of Chinese patriotism to strengthen the country in difficult times. ”
  • “From China, we can learn that we should consider looking back to the Norwegian school’s golden age, to see what has been lost during the transition to a Unified School based on an American progressivist curriculum tradition, and, to see what we can regain. Such actions, and even such thinking, may prove difficult in a time of affluent oil economy and the world’s best social security system. However, the awareness that we once were a nation with a school focusing knowledge, may be an advantage for us the day there is no more oil, and stronger efforts required. The reward of such awareness is the rediscovery of the kind of school that created business-entrepreneurs, creative scientists and dynamic union leaders in the first part of the 20th Century. ”
  • “ From the Chinese, we can learn how important parents are for a child’s education. In today’s Norwegian school, the most serious problem is many parents’ lack of interest for the school as a workplace for knowledge acquisition. An example of this lack of interest is how easily parents take their children out of school to go on holiday during the school year. But the girl from Western China, whose parents helped her to get into Xiamen university, so she could have a better education and a better life than they had had. The parents of the famous professor Pan could find the modest money needed for keeping him in the lower secondary school. ”

To summarize, Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll compares the education status between China and Norway from national strategic view, from personal character development view, from personal professional development view and from a family view. He expressed that it is blessed to be in a nation that attaches importance to education and it is blessed to be in a family that thinks highly of education.

No matter in Norway, or in China, we do have our different problems in education. Our Chinese “ personal character and value education” faces the challenge from the economic development. Some  youth hold that this is an age that money makes decision. In the meanwhile, our “ vocational education” lags behind the western eduction. What’s more, at an age of digital transformation, knowledge and skills update rapidly. What Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll has written on the blackboard 40 years ago might seem to be dull nowadays. And in the next decade, the current curriculum used on campus might be outdated too. But I insiste that we must cherish the Chinese cultural heritage of “ learning” and respect education.


Firstly, reading and learning is a process of self-refinement. It is not only about enlarge your practical information and skills but also cultivate your ability of self-control and perseverance. When an iPad or laptop opens a world for you, it is not easy to shut it off and just open a black-and-white paper book.

No matter in the business world, or in our family life, a partner with good “ personal character” or “ personal quality” runs longer. It is easy to find a skilled craftsman, but it is hard to find a craftsman that we trust.

Secondly, learning is for “not-learning”. A learning process helps us to set up our personal method and habit of learning. This personal way of learning would keep on working even if we get out of the campus. Just like when we meet a new topic at work, even without a professor, we would be able to deal with it confidently.

“Where to find the correlated information?” “ How to analyze it ?” “ What is the key point ? ” “What’s the solution? ”  This is the logic cultivated from learning.


But for sure, I can learn from Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll, an expert at his 70s who keeps on advocating the importance of education. For those interested, please read the book of Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll.

A Reflexion about the book “CAN NORWAY LEARN FROM CHINA – SCHOOL QUALITY” by Prof. Arild Tjeldvoll.


Ying QI

– Director China at EasyPass International


Initially published on LinkedIn

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