Match your wits with an Indian child

July 8, 2008
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Bob Compton has taken a few arrows in the back since he began screening the film he funded, â??2 Million Minutes,â?? last fall.

Compton, who was a venture capitalist at CID Equity Partners before striking out on his own to bankroll tech startups that include Exact Target, Aprimo and Compendium, is seeing the film screened at places such as Harvard and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

The documentary contrasts how American, Chinese and Indian school children spend their roughly four years of high school. In short, the film shows American high schoolers dwelling on sports and entertainment instead of academics and intellectual pursuits.

The upshot is that American kids donâ??t hold a candle to their counterparts in math and science, both of which are key drivers of economies.

Chinese and Indian students not only spend more time in school, but their respective cultures also glorify learning. Compton says it isnâ??t uncommon for hundreds of people to turn out for a debate or math competition, while a soccer match is thinly attended.

Most people seem to get the point of the film, he says. Parents emphasize the wrong things.

But educators are taking it personally. In fact, Compton has gotten the greatest push-back from Harvard professors, who dismissed Chinese and Indian education as rote memorization.

When Compton asked if any of the professors had actually been in a Chinese or Indian classroom, none raised a hand. The reality is, Chinese and Indian students still memorize a lot, but they now also learn critical thinking skills, says Compton, who has traveled in both countries and sat in their classrooms.

To drive home his point, Compton suggests Americans of any age try taking the seven tests Indian students must pass to advance from 10th to 11th grades.

What do you think? Hereâ??s a link to the tests.
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