We all know that kids in China outscore kids in the US on math and science tests. This gap exists between schools in China and the UK as well. And guess what the UK and US are doing to close the gap? Extending the school day.

Some school districts extend the school day literally, by keeping kids in school longer, or over the summer.  Some school districts (usually the rich ones) can’t extend school hours because kids have extracurricular activities, so schools give more homework, which, in effect, extends the school day.

When it comes to creative thinking, entrepreneurship, Nobel prize winners, etc, the US does much better than China. Yet here’s what China is doing: Decreasing the school day.

China recognizes that critical thinking and creative problem solving come from kids learning for themselves rather than having the teacher spoon-feed information. Quanyu Huang, of Miami University, shows how US educators are under the delusion that our school system promotes these skills. China is under no such illusions.

China is recognizing what homeschool advocates like Peter Gray from Boston College have been saying for years: Kids need free time to play and discover their passions. Get ready: education in the Age of Globalization will be test-free, and in the US the kids who will compete best will be those who leave the school system.

The best evidence of this trend? Waldorf is taking off in China. These photos are from Carolyn Drake’s trip to the Chengdu Waldorf School where there is a five-year waiting list.

Waldorf is notorious for not teaching kids to read until they ask to learn. Waldorf kids play pretty much non-stop until third grade. And self-directed learning rules the day. Every day. Until high school, when kids focus solely on their year-long passion project.

In the US, Waldorf is typically the school of choice for parents who believe in self-directed homeschooling but choose not to do it themselves.

So if you want to ensure your kids can compete in the workplace of the future, forget Mandarin. Everyone will speak English. Focus instead of homeschooling. Test-based schooling will be the ghetto of the 21st century.