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Is Western Education Better Than Eastern Education?

Popularity 97Viewed 91659 times 2013-3-10 08:26 |Personal category:Education|System category:Others| excel, comparison, education, children, western

A wonderful article here on ChinaDaily said that spending for education increases annually by about 20%. As a foreign teacher here, I'm wondering how it is spent and what are the results. You can spend more money without being effective.

One of my biggest questions is this: Why do children in the USA go to school 2-3 hours less each day, have very little homework, no weekend classes and still excel in education in comparison to most Chinese students?

Now, in my humble opinion, Chinese students are smart. Very intelligent. I know. I teach them. More than 1,000 so far. They know how to study hard and for long hours. They know how to endure long classes (I've witnessed classes as along as 3 hours for primary school students). Children in the USA wouldn't sit through a class of over an hour. 40-50 minutes for most classes at most in the USA.

When Chinese students attend college/university in the USA, their success rate is nearly 100%. Very, very rare does a Chinese child fail in the USA. Why? The answer is the same. 'They know how to study hard.'

So, compared to Chinese children, American children get far less classroom instruction and far less homework at night. Yet there are over 200,000 Chinese college students attending schools in the U.S. and that number is growing by 25% annually.  In 3 years, there will likely be over 400,000 Chinese students studying in the USA.

Now, I can reason and reconcile why Chinese students want to attend college in the USA. But, in my year and half here (I've taught more than 1,200 classes and over 1,000 students in 4 separate schools including every grade from primary grade 1 through the MBA program at the university), I've met parents whose children are in middle school and the parent is wanting to send them to the USA. (By the way, I discourage them from doing this. It is a waste of money in my opinion. Parents in China sacrifice too much for their children's education needlessly. Again, only my opinion.)

It seems to me that in China, long hours, extra hours and extra days of classes is perceived as better education. Schools I've taught at here, take pride in adding classes and oftentimes, longer classes. In the West, parents, teachers and students would never tolerate this. They wouldn't think of sending their children to school on Saturday or Sunday. However, in China, it is very common.

Given these observations, am I to conclude that Western education is really that much better? Can we teach more in 6.5 hours of school per day in the U.S. versus 9 hours a day in China? Can we accomplish more (in the USA) in education with less school hours?

I honestly and sincerely don't know the answers to these questions. IF Western Education is THAT much better, then, shouldn't Western styles of teaching be adopted in China? Again, I'm seeking reasonable and intelligent objective answers.

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





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Reply Report RonJaDa 2013-3-12 18:41
seethroughwest: I want to use RonjaDa to demonstrate the lack of basic Chinese knowledge for most Westerners. He said that Chinese students are not told to deal with  ...
Correction seethroughwest - That is an error my comments were directed at my own experiences.  They were my thoughts on how I learned it was a sharing of experience not a comparison of school systems.
Reply Report Kevinfly 2013-3-12 23:30
Western Education teach children to be a person first, they encourage students to do what they want and intersted in, it is more effectively than Chinese students who study for a job, what in the Chinese students' mind is how to get a high score in the coming exam, how to pass the college entrance examination to attend a better university, how to find a nice job after graduate from school, they spend so much time on studying no matter they like or not, It's doomed that they could not learn effectively as foreign students.
Reply Report JungJoe 2013-3-13 23:42
It's interesting to see that some folks on this thread seem to be quite enamored with the educational system in the US.  I don't have a dog in this fight.  I chose to have my daughter educated in a Parochial system, the rest of us in my family have all been educated in American public schools, except for my one year at a private college.  I married into a Chinese family and I've seen and heard a great deal about the Chinese educational system.  What I know about school kids in the US has been learned on the fringes of the school system, coaching high school sports and working as a counselor in juvenile corrections.  What I have observed over the years has been a dumbing down of the US school system, where excellence isn't to be expected and more time, money and attention is focused on negative elements within the system.  Our public schools seem contentwith the idea that average is acceptable for their students, and too much time is focused on passing standardized tests in order to garner more federal money for the unionized school.  These schools have also become insistent on focusing too much attention on such PC driven curriculum as accepting/embracing homosexuality, racialism, sexuality, raising babies and other schemes of the American Left.  Our private schools, for the most part, have managed to focus their agendas on nurturing traditional education themes.  The result of the US public school education, K-12 in particular, is that our kids are unable to read to level, can't write proper sentences, don't know world history, aren't familiar with classic novels or ancient philosophy, and in general aren't prepared for college level courses.  And these are the students who later become teachers in the same systems that helped produce them as students.  I agree with many others that our kids lead the world in one category: self esteem.  We've managed to raise a bunch of spoiled brats, expecting the world to be laid at their collective feet.  Hard work?  Don't bother.  Competition?  We give participation trophies, snacks for all and a passing grade just for showing up.  Everybody passes, personal responsibility is so yesterday and the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  The achievers are told to stay busy while the teachers massage the malcontent.  Parental involvement is practically non-existent.  Far too much time and money is wasted teaching foreign born and raised kids how to be fluent in English, as our government has been lax in enforcing immigration laws.  There are schools in my state of Arizona where the vast majority of students are still being taught remedial English in the fourth grade at the expense of students of all races who don't require such teaching.  It's become a self defeating process, that is, if the end result is supposed to be excellence.  The average American student wouldn't last one day in a Chinese school, only our finest would survive.  Unfortunately our finest is only 10% of our kids, and I feel I'm being generous with that estimate.  I agree with Michael that Chinese kids shouldn't bother to come to the US for your education.  Stay in China, learn English, mature and then come to the US and become a star.
Reply Report voice_cd 2013-3-14 14:00
Congratulations! This article has been quoted by China daily paper and we hope more our bloggers' work could be used on paper.
Reply Report jennytq11 2013-3-14 20:04
Each has it's two sides, determined essentially by two totally different cultures and traditions. Yet, both are learning and changing.
Reply Report xiaozu 2013-3-14 20:53
Education for what end ?    The end justifies the means, maybe.
Reply Report seethroughwest 2013-3-14 21:53
JungJoe: It's interesting to see that some folks on this thread seem to be quite enamored with the educational system in the US.  I don't have a dog in this fi ...
JungJoe, despite our ideological differences, a faithful conservative vs. an atheist liberal, our observations on the US education system agree with each other. The US education results, despite the huge increase in funding, stayed stale with no verifiable improvements on students' achievements. The following news made it to the headlines in recent years: (1) a high school teacher was fired for giving F to a deserving student (2) Certain K-12 school board approves that the lowest grade that can be issued to students is C (3) Certain districts require the schools NOT to keep scores when students play sports. All these come from "Education and Psychology" experts. They claim that students' self-esteem must not be damaged at all cost. The result is a bunch of American students who never learned how to compete and went into workplace lazy, taking short-cut and angry for being evaluated by their supervisors. The problem of these Education experts is that they NEVER learned math themselves. They have no clue how to learn math or sciences. If you listen to them, everyone becomes an Education major. One of the most problematic thing in the US is "students rating teachers". As the internal politics run severely rile in US schools, such system creates party teachers, party students and party schools. For Chinese, "party something" means someone does nothing professional, handing out vacuous rewards and keep everyone happy.

The problem of China is that many Chinese, who have no English skill and who know nothing real about the US, are blindly copying the US system. A friend of mine have a kid who refuses to go to school in China. He is only grade 7. He plays video games 7 hours a day 7 days a week. He refuses to eat "Chinese" food. He must each KFC and seafood. Do not even dream that he will eat any vegetable. He is extremely obese but his parents still worry that he does not eat well enough. He refuses to remember any English word, therefore, he turns in a blank final exam sheet in English. He claims that in America, kids do not have to memorize things. His mother believes and follows the kid. I want to ask the Westerners on this board, do your Western schooling not ask you to memorize the techniques for and the spelling of words. His mother pays a driver to send and pick him up from school in a nice car. At Grade 7, his mother still hire a nanny to cook for the child. The mother also blames herself, day and night, for the failure of the child. He and his mother claims the Chinese system is too rigid and do not allow the kid to receive personalized education. They desire to come to the US K-12 to receive a superior education. Unfortunately, neither speaks any English.
Reply Report JungJoe 2013-3-15 03:31
Americantongue, I was tempted to snarkily reply "How very Ivy League of you", but I won't (tsk,tsk). If only all of our kids could be Ivy League caliber, what a strong country we'd still be.  Unfortunately, too many of our high school kids aren't intelectually prepared for any college courses nowadays.  And when so many high school kids in some of our largest school districts in the US don't even graduate, how can we be so confident in our methods of teaching those kids?  Personally, I'd rather hire somebody who is fully capable and willing to perform than a person who can't read or write acceptably.  They can't all be cream of the crop, well-rounded, confident go-getters.  We need plodders as well.  It's like a good baseball team, a couple of superstars and the rest gamers and pluggers gives you a fighting chance. It's going to take China a long time to match our Ivy League schools, but I don't think for a second that they can't or won't.  Their kids work too hard and the government doesn't have to waste money, time or effort on such silliness as teaching "diversity".  Social skills have nothing to do with diversity.  They can deal with that issue quite easily.
Reply Report Indefensible 2013-3-15 08:12
As a parent of two teenage children in the Australian education system, I have had this discussion with Asian parents, not just in China.
Firstly, I think it is relevant to ask why so many Asian companies will look for western educated staff for senior positions. As an anecdote, I was friendly with a Dutch born project manager for a large multinational industrial firm, and he was assigned to Singapore for several years. His comment about Asian trained engineers, was that they were technically competent, but if something unexpected occurred, they struggled to think laterally and would come to him for a solution, which they could implement most competently.

I think this is a reflection of the differing education systems.

Asian education systems (not just Chinese) favor rote learning. Long hours remembering facts that can be regurgitated up at some exam, and then promptly forgotten. This is already well documented in the article and previous comments.

What is different about western education, and for me, specifically Australian education?

My children don't study until midnight, they don't go to school on the weekends. My daughter struggles with maths, so I pay for a tutor for 1 extra hour per week to give her one on one tuition so reinforce what she has learnt in the classroom.

Despite some critics, the Australian system no longer concentrates on remembering facts, for most students, remembering who was king of England in 1066 will have no relevance for future life.

What it teaches instead, is how to FIND information and how to apply it. So, a large part of my childrens homework is now checking different sources, and correctly showing their references. The final result may look a little thin by comparison, but I think they learn more. It is a far more important life skill in the always-on environment that they are inheriting.

Finally, while it is a gross simplification, the Asian style of rote learning prepares students for a life as factory workers, being told what to do, and carrying out their duties, while the western education system prepares the designers and managers of tomorrows world. Surely it is no accident that much of what we hold buy today was conceived by the products of liberal education systems, and built by the products of the Asian education system.
Reply Report seethroughwest 2013-3-15 08:19
Americantongue, let's keep the topic simple, so that you can understand the logic. I know you are faith and politicsl based. I am fact based. Now look at your statement: "Chinese are taught to sit, listen, memorize, obey, and follow. "

My question to you: have you any Chinese language skill to prove this is the case? If you understand no Chinese, you may be repeating a Cold War propaganda from the West.

Also, I do sit in US Christian churches. I exactly feel the US churches ask me exactly to "sit, listen (to the good news from god), memorize (the good news from god), obey (god or jesus), and follow (god or jesus)." Do you hate yourself, unwittingly?

To Indefensible, also keep this simple, now, I have never been to Australia. Let me ask you a question: do you observe Asians are not leaders in Australian companies? If so, why do you think Australian Racism do not play a role in it. thank you.
Reply Report huaren2323 2013-3-17 01:29
americantongue: Slander and libel are two different things. I should know, I teach law.
Being Learned and being educated are also two different things. The first one want to ends a discussion with either being right or wrong and the second ends the discussion in being enlightened... I believe MichaelM asked for opinions and not conducting a debate. Everyone's opinion is taken as it is ....opinion based on their experience. Even SFphoto whose experience differ from yours when you painted a mosaic of education subject depending on each region in USA which may not be true. Slander and Libel or being a law teacher do not come into this discussion.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2013-3-17 20:46
RonJaDa: I am no expert , but here is my opinion.  I have observed through out my career that sometimes what we need the most is a break to freshen our mind or ...
I agree that "put it down, go for a walk.... get to the answer quicker." It is because human mind has 3 levels. The subconscious level is continuously working on problem solving even when people are resting or sleeping. One thing I can assure that results from Chinese education had been showing successes in an international tests in literacy, mathematics, and science a few years ago. Obama's administration was very alarmed that American students were rated in the twenty among 35 countries. Chinese students were No. 1 in all 3 subjects. There is a huge gap between American style education and Chinese style education. In Australia, I had been working with some Chinese students from China doing Master degrees. They are hard workers but not 100% pass in individual subjects. They all finished their Masters.
Reply Report RonJaDa 2013-3-17 21:02
DouglasZhang: I agree that "put it down, go for a walk.... get to the answer quicker." It is because human mind has 3 levels. The subconscious level is co ...
Thanks You are right no one can reasonablly argue your facts.

That said no system is perfect and we all could learn from each other.
Reply Report Octavian 2013-3-18 21:36
I am married to a Chinese woman and I have 2 wonderful children. We live in China and we have lived in America. Both of our kids are very young right now.  We have talked about their future education a lot and are trying to stay in China while they both finish their Elementary education.

At the same time we both want them to go to an American High school.  Yes, learning to memorize some basic info is useful but learning how to think is a must and something that schools here lack. Also in Southern China kids go to school 6 days week and spend too much time in the classroom. I feel in America, too many parents do not spend enough time with their kids.

PEOPLE, there is a middle ground to be found take the best of both.
Reply Report liufeng88 2013-3-21 15:42
Every time i see the rural poor child  can't not go to school as no money or no vihcle.i hope China make more effort or finacial for the education especially the rural,or remote poor region~
Reply Report 梓宣 2013-3-31 11:42
As a middle school teacher in Shenzhen,  I think, every coin has its two sides. Chinese education has its advantages and disadvantages. But from my two years' experience, i feel frustrated for the chinese edcational system. Some middle school students fall behind in their courses, and most of them lose their heart in studying, but they have to attend those classes which they are not interested at all. As a teacher, we should follow the step of kinds of tests. We can't change the teaching material.
Reply Report DannyDix 2013-4-4 20:32
huaren2323: ( Sharing my comment on MichaelM's forum whether Western is better than Chinese Education)

I appreciate the candid disclosure of MichaelM experience ...
Thank you, that was very informative and well written hauren.
Reply Report huaren2323 2013-4-4 22:12
DannyDix: Thank you, that was very informative and well written hauren.
You are welcome. We all hope to educate our future generation so that the world is safe, productive and happy no matter what ethnic or political group we belong to. In the end it is how we as parents act as models that our children follow.
Reply Report DannyDix 2013-4-4 22:22
huaren2323: You are welcome. We all hope to educate our future generation so that the world is safe, productive and happy no matter what ethnic or political group ...
I totally agree. Go well friend.
Reply Report drdrake007 2013-4-6 12:55
There is a big difference between being a good student and being someone who innovates and creates.  The Chinese system is structured to produce followers.  They will learn a skill well in fact become masters of that skill.  However, rarely we see true innovators emerge from China.  Why is that? Looking at a country who has a long history and a vast population you would think most of today's innovations would be continuously streaming from there .  Instead they capitalize on technologies already produced in other countries.  I'm sure the Chinese system will improve with time but for now that is the true difference between the two systems.  The Western system does a better job creating independent thinkers.   Harvard recently has changed it's policies to harvest these independent minded individuals because they realized successful people aren't always the brightest and best at regurgitating others ideas.

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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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