An aca­demic com­pe­ti­tion with a so­cial im­pact

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By YU RAN in Shang­hai


China’s teenagers have demon­strated that they can be in­no­va­tive de­spite be­ing in an exam-ori­ented ed­u­ca­tion en­vi­ron­ment, ac­cord­ing to or­ga­niz­ers of China Thinks Big (CTB).

In­tro­duced in 2012, CTB is a spin-off of the Har­vard Thinks Big com­pe­ti­tion, an an­nual af­fair that fos­ters the ex­change of cre­ative ideas from stu­dents across the Har­vard com­mu­nity. One of the high­lights of Har­vard Thinks Big is the pre­sen­ta­tion of ground-break­ing in­no­va­tions by 10 pro­fes­sors from var­i­ous fields of ex­per­tise.

In China, CTB has been branded as a com­pe­ti­tion that pro­motes a cul­ture of in­no­va­tion among Chi­nese stu­dents by get­ting them to for­mu­late so­lu­tions to so­cial is­sues in China and around the world.

“It pro­motes and cul­ti­vates valu­able qual­i­ties that Har­vard stu­dents also seek to de­velop, such as re­search abil­ity, team­work, aca­demic writ­ing skills and pre­sen­ta­tion skills,” wrote a Har­vard Univer­sity pro­fes­sor in his en­dorse­ment let­ter to CTB.

The num­ber of par­tic­i­pants has been on the rise ev­ery year and CTB is look­ing to in­volve high school stu­dents out­side China’s ma­jor com­ing years.

“Com­pared to pre­vi­ous years, we are see­ing a greater di­ver­sity of top­ics. This trend demon­strates an in­creas­ing will­ing­ness of high school stu­dents in China to think in­de­pen­dently, as well as a greater con­sid­er­a­tion of their own strengths and re­sources to pro­duce ac­tion­able so­lu­tion plans,” said Ben­jamin Li, one of the co-di­rec­tors of this year’s com­pe­ti­tion.

“We hope to en­cour­age Chi­nese youth to learn more about the large so­cial is­sues and think about how they would go about solv­ing these prob­lems,”

cities in the said Kong Yi­fan, another leader of the Har­vard stu­dent team.

The com­pe­ti­tion this year, which ended on March 20, at­tracted thou­sands of teams across the coun­try and 15 fi­nal­ists were se­lected af­ter six months of judg­ing and two rounds of on-site oral de­fense and com­pe­ti­tions.

Ev­ery year, the com­pe­ti­tion presents a judg­ing board con­sist­ing of lead­ing schol­ars from China and over­seas, as well as lo­cal alumni and in­ter­view­ers of top uni­ver­si­ties in­clud­ing Har­vard and MIT.

Teams had to work on one of the nine is­sues that fall un­der four main cat­e­gories — sus­tain­abil­ity, hu­man­i­ties, com­mu­nity and sci­ence in so­ci­ety — and they are re­quired to cre­ate an ac­tion­able project that can ef­fec­tively ad­dress the is­sue.

The Lit­tle Wings, a team com­pris­ing stu­dents from Bei­jing Na­tional Day School, Tian­jin Ex­per­i­men­tal High School and schools af­fil­i­ated to Ren­min Univer­sity of China and Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity, won the com­pe­ti­tion with their project that seeks to make learn­ing about men­stru­a­tion in­ter­est­ing while cor­rect­ing mis­con­cep­tions about it.

Shang­hai High School In­ter­na­tional Di­vi­sion, which won the third-prize in the 2015 com­pe­ti­tion, im­proved on its rank­ing this year with a sec­ond place fin­ish. Their team, ArchiShang­hai un­der­took a project about the is­sues sur­round­ing Shang­hai’s ar­chi­tec­ture.

The team of seven 17-yearolds had car­ried out ex­ten­sive re­search, in­ter­view­ing pro­fes­sors and sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts, hand­ing ques­tion­naires to lo­cal res­i­dents along the streets and tak­ing pho­tos of var­i­ous ar­chi­tec­ture be­fore de­sign­ing a 52-page book that doc­u­ments some of the most his­toric build­ings in Shang­hai and tells of their sig­nif­i­cance to so­ci­ety.

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