An academic competition with a social impact
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.