The differences between Chinese and US education

The differences between Chinese and US education

This article highlights some of the differences between the Chinese and US education, coming from a local Chinese’s perspective. He was 23 years old at the point of interview, studied in a local Chinese school, and he was born and raised in China.

You must have heard of the saying that has been quoted countless times: Chinese students start reciting their multiplication table at the age of six or seven, and since then they have been able to quickly calculate sums in their heads. There is even a stereotype that Chinese students are better at mathematics and are generally smarter. But is this really the case? Chinese education habitually instills everything as much as possible into students since young. How will you compare the Chinese and US education system?

As students mature, and with a certain degree of guidance from external environment, it is hoped that they can finally fully understand and make use of what they have learnt in school. Chinese students are smarter in the way that they are able to provide model answers and get perfect exam scores, but that is just it. Because it is not difficult to follow through the Chinese education flow chart, Chinese students seem to be a machine for mass production.

1. Human being is not a machine

First of all, human being should not be likened to machines, and naturally cannot and should not be disposed of like robots. A child’s state of mind may start off as a blank piece of paper – good at imitating and learning. But unlike the cold and ruthless steel skeleton of a machine, human beings have their own natural emotions and personality. Different people possess different feelings and sensitivity to the same things, and differences in human behavior will always exist. If you have to compare people to machines, then some parameters are inherently set. 

2. The drawbacks of Chinese education

However, China’s exam-oriented education has the tendency to not only inculcate technical knowledge, but to also inculcate values and the outlook on life. Or perhaps, Chinese education frames students in a set world because their collective society cannot tolerate differences. In a preset environment, Chinese students naturally no longer need creativity, no longer need a unique perspective of thinking and look at the full aspect of things, because they only need to do what is told.

3. To respect instinct

Human beings are instinctive. Kids’ instinct is to play, and they naturally begin to understand the world as they play. When Chinese education prematurely instills a fixed set of rules upon children, it hinders their opportunity to explore the world by themselves. On the other hand, American education is on the opposite end of the spectrum. American education does not emphasize a lot on academic work. Instead, children are told to play as much as they want. Such an environment is more conducive to cultivate growth and talent. And when it comes to attending universities, the American educational philosophy is also quite different from China.

4. Macro comparison

When Chinese students start middle school, they are “forced” by their parents and schools to already choose the major they want to specialize in and had little chance to start all over again. They have fewer opportunities to explore the different subjects and professions because it has already been fixed in the early days of their education. On the other hand, schools in US allow students enough time to explore different subjects during the first two years of University.

Unlike China, sports activity is equally as important to develop students as a whole package. Students are not forced to quickly major in something but they have opportunity to consider, feel, and reconsider about their interests and strengths. Generally speaking, the overall development of American students is much more comprehensive than that of Chinese students, and after careful exploration of the different subjects, students will be more passionate in what they major in.

5. Micro comparison

American education pays more attention to interaction and activity among students. In particular, every student will be involved as much as possible. Teachers usually ask a question or point of view, have an open discussion in groups, analyze the problem and express their opinions. Each student is relatively more active during curriculum hours. Therefore, under the American teaching model, students get to participate in class, and undergo the process of analyzing, thinking and problem-solving, and are able to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject content. When it comes to Chinese education, it is a one-way traffic where there is no feedback provided and very little class activity. In such a situation, Chinese students have fewer chances to engage and learn from each other. This also results in some Chinese students growing up to be more reserved whereas American students are relatively more outspoken. Chinese and US education system can learn from each other here to create balance.

6. Both the Chinese and US education system have their pros and cons

Of course, American education is not deemed perfect. The disadvantages of US education are precisely its advantages. That is to say, American education provides too much freedom for students and not every student has good self-control ability to ensure they go on the right path. In this situation, a controlling Chinese education is favored. A well-balanced education system requires a combination of the two in order to complement all types of students. It is necessary to have a free and open side of American education, and at the same time, external control and guidance are also needed to some extent.

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