Emulating the style of a famous report published 30 years ago called A Nation at Risk, Yong Zhao urges us to stop tweaking education and overhaul it.

“History is not kind to idlers” (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983, p.1). It is even crueler to reckless reformers who keep fiddling with the past to meet the needs of the future.

With strong accusations of “suicidal education reform”, Zhao is highly critical of reforms, saying they are “trying to do the wrong things more right”. And he says, “They are putting the world at risk”.

We agree with most of his points. In fact, his structure is similar to the one in our vision statement. He says the Industrial Era is over. Young people need creativity in the Age of Globalization, not conformity. But they are not getting it from schools. Then he juxtaposes, similar to how we do, the rate of global youth unemployment next to global talent shortages. It shows us how we have an answer to two problems, but it requires dramatic changes to teaching and learning.

In case you don’t have time to read the whole thing (although I HIGHLY recommend you do), here are his recommendations:


In light of the urgent need for improvement, both immediate and long term, I propose a set of recommendations that policy makers and educators can begin to act on now, that can be implemented over the next several years, and that promise educational excellence for the new age.

  • Stop prescribing and imposing on children a narrow set of content through common curriculum standards and testing.
  • Start personalizing education to support the development of unique, creative, and entrepreneurial talents.
  • Stop fixing solely the teaching force by selecting, training, and retaining better teacher candidates. It takes too long and we cannot wait.
  • Start empowering the children by liberating their potentials, capitalizing on their passion, and supporting their pursuits. Start giving the ownership of learning to the children.
  • Stop constraining children to learning opportunities present in their immediate physical environments by assigning them to classes and teachers.
  • Start engaging them in learning opportunities that exist in the global community, beyond their class and school walls.
  • Stop forcing children to learn what adults think they may need and testing them to what degree they have mastered the required content.
  • Start allowing children the opportunity to engage in creating authentic products and learn what they are interested in, just in time, not just in case.
  • Stop benchmarking to measures of excellence in the past, such as international test scores.
  • Start inventing the excellence of the future. You cannot fix the horse wagon to get the moon. We have to work on rocket science.