Education in a Non-Western Culture
Quality education remains the most influential force in the society today. In fact, it is only education that can develop intellect and impact children as early as they join the school. Pine (2012) notes that as the most populous country, China provides the public with a diverse education system. It has plenty of public schools for students all ages including special schools for the physically and mentally disabled, vocational and private institutions among other educational institutions. However, since the Chinese education system was fundamentally created under a different culture, its structural aspects are similar and different in some ways with those of the American education system. In this paper, I am going to compare and contrast the Chinese and American education system.
According to In Wang, In Ma & In Martin (2015), a large number of the Chinese students choose to study in western countries when they reach the university or college level. However, the majority of Chinese parents consider the elementary, middle, and high school education the best. Most of the educators and parents consider the Chinese education crucial for the foundation of their children while the American education is viewed as important for the cultivation of creativity. The American and Chinese education systems have different goals. While the Chinese education aims to facilitate the accumulation of knowledge which students can later apply in life, the American education system focuses on how the students apply the knowledge gained in the society. It allows the students to critique and challenge ideas as well as creating concepts for themselves.
Pine (2012) observed that the Chinese education system comprises of three major levels including the primary level, secondary, and post-secondary level. The primary level is referred to as the elementary education while the secondary education is divided into lower and upper levels which are equivalent to middle and high school. On the contrary, the 1st to 8th grade in America are labeled by years while high school and college classes are named from freshman to senior. Unlike in the United States where the law requires students to compulsorily remain in school until they are eighteen years, in China students are only required to complete nine years after which they can choose to join vocational secondary, upper-secondary, or join the labor force directly.
The manner in which knowledge is transferred to students is also different between the Chinese and the US education systems. When doing homework, the Chinese students only memorize the textbook facts and take notes. However, in America, the teachers step forward to assess the student’s leadership, cooperation, and creativity level. According to Zhang (2009), the emphasis on these skills encourages students to participate in extracurricular activities. The Americans believe that there are numerous ways the students can engage with the society and that education is only a part of life. Moreover, the length of a normal school day is different between the two cultures. In the US, school starts at eight in the morning and ends by three in the evening. In China, evening lessons are reserved for only middle and high school students. The middle and high school students use the evening hours for self-study as they prepare to join institutions of higher learning.
Plomp (2003) noted that the grading system in the US varies significantly with that in China. Students in the US are graded based on some factors including volunteer and extracurricular activities, essays, GPA, test scores, as well as the contribution to the school environment. On the contrary, China grades students on a standardized exam. Although students are tested based on their province and the subjects they undertake, three subjects are compulsory; a foreign language, mathematics, and literature. Admission to institutions of higher learning is based on the student’s interests and the test results threshold. Due to the significance of exam results in China, several cases of cheating have been observed. The high probability of failing in the national exam prompts students to risk cheating to secure places in institutions of higher learning. However, in the recent decades, China has deployed drones to monitor exams after the use of wireless communication failed to address the cheating menace. As a result of focusing more on exams and tests, the Chinese education system has been criticized for being extremely harsh and producing robots instead of elites.
The proponents of the US education system believe that the art and physical education lessons that are not available in the Chinese education system help the students to become more rounded. On the contrary, the proponents of the Chinese education system argue that the standardized curriculum is the best for China due to its high population as it ensures that students have equal opportunities. In brief, Zhang (2009) observed that education is a culture, and the different education systems are a reflection of the different cultures. Although the US education system looks good, it may not be the right match for the Chinese community and vice. Neither the Chinese nor the America is better than the other, but there is room for improvement to each of these systems. The most important thing is to create international acceptance and awareness for the different education systems, knowledge and cultures. Every culture has the obligation of developing its education system to meet the required standards.
In Wang, C., In Ma, W., & In Martin, C. L. (2015). Chinese education from the perspectives of American Educators: Lessons learned from study-abroad experiences. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
Pine, N. (2012). Educating Young Giants: What Kids learn (and don’t learn) in China and America. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Plomp, T. (2003). Cross-national information and communication technology policies and practices in education. Greenwich, Conn: Information Age Pub.
Zhang, L. (2009). Engaging University Learners in Critical Thinking to Stimulate Collaborative Learning: Perceptions of American and Chinese Students. Indianapolis, Ind.: Broken Pencil Production.