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Can Chinese Education Change?

Popularity 2Viewed 20365 times 2018-5-9 15:33 |System category:News

My 11th grade students often want to engage in open debate on certain subjects. Of course, they want to do it in English. It challenges their English skills and enhances their fluency abilities.

Today, they asked me questions about Western education. They particularly are interested in the differences in their education and an 11th grade student in America. Most of them had dim views about Chinese education. Part of the trouble is (1) they don't know much about Western education (the positives or the negatives) because they have no first hand experience, and, (2) post secondary education in America is coveted by students around the world. I know what they are curious about. They want to know 'why' it is.

I commend them for being intellectually honest enough to admit that they don't know. Many of their teachers tell them many things about Western education (usually negative things) that, they find out later, not to be true. Of course, those teachers know little to nothing about Western education and can only pretend to know. The students are wise enough to realize this. They don't trust what they're told.

Well, this all presents a dilemma for me. First, I love China and never seek to disparage anything about China in any way. Second, I am honest in my assessment of the 'good, the bad and the ugly', regarding whatever I know about without regard to whether it is China, America or any other country. I think they deserve an opinion from an educator that is objective and honest.

We talked (semi-debated) about some aspects of both. By comparison, we talked about the amount of time that a Chinese student spends at her/his desk every day. We talked about traditional teaching methods (such as, "Shut up, sit down, listen, don't talk and don't ask questions. Right now, I am your god. Listen to me!" teaching method that they say prevails so much here.) I told them that in my father's generation, it was much the same way in America. We, Westerners, discovered that there are more effective ways of teaching and started evolving from that way of thinking many years ago. One student said, "So America did the same thing, right?" I said, "Yes. And China is evolving rapidly right now to be more open to classroom discussion, listening to opinions of the students and creative processes of learning."

The students disagreed with my assessment that Chinese education is changing. They said, "It must change because we know that Western education is better. We must change and evolve because our economy and lifestyle depends upon it. But, it will take us too long." My assertion was/is, that it is changing and that it will more and more. I believe in China. I also believe that when China takes education as seriously as they have taken the economy over the past 40 years, China will one day dominate the world, economically, socially, technologically, scientifically and educationally.

One student asked the question, "Why does it take China so long to change? We have existed for 5,000 years yet we are still a developing country whereas America is 240 years old and has already developed." It is a valid point, however, I don't think the student is acknowledging what China has done as reflected in the economic miracle of the past 40 years. As Deng Xiaoping said at the opening ceremony of the Yangpu Bridge in Shanghai nearly 25 years ago, "If we can do this (build this amazing bridge), we (Chinese) can do anything."

Can Chinese change and develop more rapidly in areas other than the economy? Well, I think the economic miracle proves that it can. The ability is here. There is no doubt. In addition, though China is a major contributor to environmental pollution, it is also the world's leader in environmental protection innovations and technology.

Can Chinese education change? I'm the eternal optimist. I believe that not only that it 'can', I see that it is changing and changing quite quickly. I see it in the classrooms of Chinese teachers. I see it in the attitudes of students. Creativity is becoming an issue that is important to Chinese educators. Innovative and cutting edge methods of teaching and instruction are becoming important to teachers and education leaders.

China will change in positive ways without the negative aspects of Western education. And, as they do, they will develop into being the dominant force of influence around the world.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report SEARU 2018-5-16 10:53
I think foreigners are advanced on writing (working)style that we could see if we compare the dictionary of English and Chinese with each other! Chinese scientists and teachers must tell stories in plain words to children and leave more free space for the latter to do logical thinking all by themselves. That is the direction of Chinese education-reform. We must first realize our disadvantages on schooling and then do some operations for changing and improvement!  Never copy foreign things on appearance!
For more, please check my recent writings on education!

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MichaelM

Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.

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