Incentives key to China’s effort to upgrade higher education, Stanford expert says

August 18, 2016

By Clifton B. Parker

China can improve its higher education system by introducing incentives for students and teachers so they take learning more seriously, a Stanford professor says. Under the current system, college students are essentially guaranteed a diploma, offering little motivation to excel.

Prashant Loyalka, a center research fellow at the Rural Education Action Program in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, led a forthcoming study that found that Chinese college freshmen in computer science and engineering programs began with academic and critical thinking skills about two to three years ahead of their peers in the United States and Russia, but showed almost no improvement in such skills after two years of college. Critical thinking skills are typically defined as the ability to make clear and well-reasoned analyses and evaluations of information.

Loyalka, also an assistant research professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, recently published an article on how teacher incentives boost student learning in China’s primary schools. Some of the findings could be applicable to China’s universities, he said.