I was quite fascinated by the difference in the Chinese and American education system. I was really curious as to why the Chinese did so well in Science and Math compared to the rest of the world, so I did some research on this matter and found out some shocking results. Chinese kids start Kindergarten when they are only 2 years! Whereas an American kid starts Kindergarten when they are about 5-6 years. Parents might say that they don’t want to send their kids to school when they are only 2 years, but most of the kids in America are watching TV at this time. According to Pediatricians, kids should not watch TV in the first 2 years. Even I personally feel that 2 years is still too young for a kid to start school. Maybe they can engage in some creative activities to enhance their brain development instead of watching TV. Another major difference is that Chinese students go to school about 230 days on average. Whereas the American students go to school only 175 days per year. The Chinese students even have Saturday school. Normally a Chinese school starts at about 6.30/7:00 am. In the morning, they have a morning study session and then they start classes. In the afternoon, they get an hour for lunch and they continue their studies in the afternoon till about 5:00 pm. Then they have an evening study session till 9:00/10:00 pm. In between they get an hour for dinner. If you don’t attend these evening study sessions, you apparently get expelled from the school. I personally feel that this is very stressful! They are even made to memorize books! Another thing I found out was that, in Chinese classrooms, the students remain in the same classroom all day, with teachers rotating in and out. Whereas in America, the students move about to different classrooms and have different classmates. ‘Chinaisight’ explains one of the major differences-
‘In America, personal expression is valued heavily. Many classes are based around discussion of the material, and teachers expect students to be engaged in this dialogue. Classroom participation, meaning how a student contributes to the class discussion, is a significant part of a student’s grade, so a student who is attentive but never speaks up could receive a lower grade as a result. Chinese classrooms do not place this same emphasis on classroom participation. Class is based on the teacher lecturing and the students listening quietly. This means that students can do well in class by being diligent and attentive, but it also means that less interaction exists between the teacher and students. This difference extends to the overall classroom attitude. In American classrooms, students are likely to talk not only when participating in classroom discussions, but also when talking out of turn. As a result, the classroom can become noisy and boisterous. Students often develop a friendly relationship with teachers over the course of the year. In Chinese classrooms, respect towards teachers is emphasized far more. Students are much more quiet and attentive than many American students, and when a student is called on to speak, he or she is expected to stand. This classroom atmosphere is more formal and respectful.’
Despite all these differences, I feel that we should think more about the students, about what they are experiencing. According to some research carried out 86% of Chinese high school students experience high stress when compared with only 61.7% in the United States. One of the main reasons for high-stress levels in China is peer competition. Another surprising fact I found out was that Chinese students have to sign a ‘Suicide Waivers’ form before they start college. The form states that the university is waived off from any responsibilities in the event of any suicide. Switching to Chinese education system might not be the best option to develop the science knowledge in students. Maybe we should show them the true beauty of science so that they develop a passion towards the subject and study hard. The idea is to ensure that they study really hard, not because they are forced to but because they love science.
A. M Ovini Hasara Amarasinghe