A Chinese proverb states, “Teachers open the door, but you must walk through it yourself.” This viewpoint may seem in stark contrast to the American perspective on education. School life in China can be very different from the experiences we have here. From extreme pressure at all levels to lack of imagination in the curriculum, Chinese education is very different from ours.
While many American students stress about the SAT’s or ACT’s, that seems to be only the tip of the iceberg for Chinese students. In China students must not only test to get into university but also take exams to enter high schools. For each test, the grades are separated into tiers so that if you reach a certain grade you are placed in a certain school. Only once reaching this tier, though, will you be accepted. Parents place extreme stress on students to do well, often paying for private tutors or even nutritionists to maximize their child’s chances. Those who do not do well must wait an entire year to test again, making the odds very high.
However, the high press of exams create the special benefits for students. To get through the exams, students gain solid foundational knowledge through instructor’s detailed teaching and the student’s own frequent practice. No matter how technology develops, foundational knowledge is still necessary for every person to succeed in the future. You might wonder where the high pressure comes from. It’s because the students are required to learn over a wide range of fields. From classical literature to modern science, students get acquainted with all different subjects relatively earlier than U.S. students.
Students are also given a very strict curriculum. Many believe this is why they often test the best, because students are taught the exact answers. The US and China differ in this way. In the US, students are often given the opportunity to choose what they want to study, making their education more personalized.
It’s clear that both types of studies have their strengths and weaknesses. And the best way to understand new cultures is to experience them. Check out the winter study abroad programs to China this year and experience all that the Chinese education system has to offer!