Nautilus

Attitude, Not Quantity, Makes Homework Effective

A smile pulled the corner of Yú’s* mouth. “There is a saying in China,” she says. “‘No students compete. Parents compete.’” The polished Beijing native, who is both a mother and a grandmother, leaned forward with flawless posture as she reminisced about overseeing her son’s education. He was a brilliant student who graduated high school at 14, completed both a bachelor’s and master’s degree by 20, and then moved from China to the United States in pursuit of a doctoral degree in engineering.

Now devoted to the education of her three granddaughters who reside in the United States, Yú travels regularly from Beijing and is witness to the countries’ stark dichotomy in educational practices. Yú recounted sitting beside her son for hours nightly while he labored over homework in subjects like math, Chinese language, and even drawing—a common practice in China. And so, when her granddaughter arrived home from American first grade with an empty backpack

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