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Is Western Education Better Than Eastern Education?

Popularity 97Viewed 91658 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 idorun 2013-4-7 18:07
I have one question about schooling in the USA. Why do Chinese parents send there kids to the USA at all . There are far better countries in this world that the mighty USA for education . plus by not attending school in the USA youare less likly to get shot at by some carzy gun carrying student.
Reply Report Ted180 2013-4-12 03:07
huaren2323 you are brilliant!
Reply Report susan.liu 2013-4-22 17:36
I think the education in china should enhance the commiucation skill and cooperation skill, Chinese people are not such good at some soft skills.
Reply Report Dillonb1950 2013-5-10 08:31
I worked as an Educational Consultant in Canada for a very large school division. Quality of life has to be given much more consideration when talking education. Do we teach the "whole child" or keep going for the selective subjective mechanical style? The 40 Developmental assets approach is being implemented in many schools in Canada. There are 40 areas that children need to have serious support in if they are to be a successful productive student. The whole approach is about "relationship". The relationship of adults in a students life at home, school and community. My perspective on education in China is that the rigidity of the teachers and adults in a child life as "care-agents in that child s life as it  exists in China today is still not flexible enough. To seriously consider another style other than the one in use today is quite some time away. Teaching students to be obedient puppets with more class time will do nothing for the child's creativity and young imagination. Just some thoughts.
Reply Report ifidie 2013-5-12 21:17
Sorry that I only had little time to scroll through the above comments so if someone has already made the some point my apologies.

It's not only Chinese - most of the Confucian-heritage societies value 'diligence' or 'industriousness' more than 'uniqueness' or 'individualism'. These are all good traits though, albeit nothing should go extreme. I think nowadays teachers are better-trained in terms of creativity and independent thinking, but still, the whole education system is moulded by traditional philosophy. Many say that 'this is not quite right, but it's just how it is' or 'we cannot risk to make our children fail for going against the flow'. It is changing for the better, incrementally, may take generations I'm afraid though, to work it out. After all this is a globalised world, you either catch up or drop out.
Reply Report Ted180 2013-5-19 20:41
I'm not a teacher and I'm no expert in education. I do wonder, though, if there are variations of educational methods in the many schools in China. Innovating schools and individual teachers. Private schools. Research in education. A study of such things might reveal important advances.
Reply Report greggip2000 2013-5-21 18:52
why is education spelled incorrectly?
Reply Report WHYSO 2013-6-6 17:40

Come on! There is no need to be polite and praise the local education. Please tell the truth. This is the best way to help the locals.

In China and HK, the schools give the students a lot of heavy homeworks and dictations etc. We call this ' stuff the duck' education. If this kind of education is so good, why do the parents in China and HK work hard and save every penny spending a fortune sending their children to International Schools??? Why so many secondary school students wish going abroad for Uni education???

As you may know, many employers comment that China and HK graduates are good in following directions but weak in decision making and certainly weak in English???!!!

I am only airing my own opinion based on my own observations and experience.
Reply Report ManfromEngland 2013-6-20 10:03
Due to the competition for jobs in China, the students need something that makes them stand out from the rest.  Not many people can afford a western education and western degrees are more highly valued in the job market.  If you study in a western country and are employed by a company that deals with western countries, you are more likely to understand your customer base more than someone that has never traveled out of China.  I have a son and I fully intend to send him through the Chinese education system.  I think its a much better environment for students to learn in.  Kids in the UK have too much time on their hands and what do they do with that time is not always good for the community they live in.  There is a reason why China has the top students in the world and the UK are thinking about copying some parts of the Chinese education system.  If they do, it will solve a lot of problems that the UK has today.  I would say though, that even with the Chinese education system, if a child doesnt have a supportive parent that pushes and helps them, they wont do well in any education system that they are in.  I have heard a few horror stories of children that have been sent to western countries to study and have gone off the rails because there is no one to watch over them.  There are positives and negatives to every country and every education system.  If you have good parents, you will succeed anywhere.
Reply Report MichaelM 2013-6-20 11:16
ManfromEngland: Due to the competition for jobs in China, the students need something that makes them stand out from the rest.  Not many people can afford a western e ...
Very well said. Excellent points. Thank you.
Reply Report Newtown 2013-6-20 11:23
ManfromEngland: Due to the competition for jobs in China, the students need something that makes them stand out from the rest.  Not many people can afford a western e ...
A few comments about your views on education. You mention that UK kids have too much time on their hands and they may be up to no good. This only states the negative "side of the coin". In positive terms, such students have far more time to socialise and to interact with one another, to learn communication skills, improve their physical fitness by playing sports, develop their individual talents e.g. music, art, dance, and to understand their changing sexuality. Chinese students endure the most in-class lesson hours of any in the world as they are kept "off the streets" and apart from ordinary society for most of their daily lives.

This is undertaken in the belief that knowledge can be poured into them, as someone has said, like milk into a bottle. This is a fallacy and it has been very well documented that Chinese students lack critical and creative ability for problem solving and personal interpretation of pedagogical materials. This may well be due to the fact that they complete endless routine exams.

The longhaul preparation for the "gaokao" means that students are under constant pressure to study. Their parents  will frequently spoil them to the extent that the kids do no housework and don't know how to cook or clean for themselves. They even know little of their own neighborhoods as they are discouraged from going out to play or mixing with strangers. In other words they have little independence or self-confidence for being able to face individual challenges and difficulties - the university of hard knocks - as many western students contend with.

Inevitably some Chinese students who go to sudy abroad will face "horror stories"  because they do not have the cloying family support that they enjoyed in China. Life has been served up to them on a silver platter and they don't have the practical skills or wherewithal to face new horizons. They feel homesick, they feel lonely, they miss Chinese food, they can't interact easily with a foreign culture and new educational models, they don't have sufficient survival skills even to be able to deal with day to day things such as managing their money efficiently.

The unending pressures of exams and the "push" of Chinese parents often leads some students to snap and commit suicide. Others take drugs to boost their attention span for the period of the tests, while at other times drugs may be used simply to alleviate the tedium of their lessons - students often go to sleep on their desks behind their mountains of textbooks, small scale "great walls" which keep at bay the attention of the teachers. This is often possible given that class sizes in high schools can exceed fifty students.
Reply Report Purplegriffin 2013-6-20 23:09
jiayangguizi8: Generalisations. Western education doesn't involve only one style. French education is completely different from British and American education.

In U ...
I couldn't agree more. After having obtained two different degrees, having studied in two different "Western" university systems, and although I recognize the practical value of having an American education (as the dominant culture in many fields), in no way, shape, or form it appears to me as intelectually superior to my Spanish education. I am teaching in China now and I am sick and tired of being put in the same category of "Western", "American", etc...
Reply Report idorun 2013-6-22 22:22
Not in the USA , where a gun state mentality exists , there are better places to get the so called western education .
Reply Report 天天seven 2013-6-26 20:45
I am Chinese,I love my education system. I think our education is Very suitable for us
Reply Report lnjiajia 2013-7-1 08:56
I used to take the extracurriculum courses hold by my teacher on weekends, honestly to say that's useless.Extend hours on the same or different subjects or take the overtime classes produce the extra fees are benefit to teachers who want to earn more, because they can not santisfy with their pay at regular school work,what is more, they short the content details should teach in the classroom and teach the students  test techniques after class hours to get more money,that's the same as a saler sold your unperfect  thing and charge for after service fee.In my view school should take the SET(stduents evaluating teachers)system as the western countries usuall did to monitor teachers' teaching method and approches in order to raise their educational standards. why parents send their children early to learn something in kidsgarden or primary school under 6 years old ? Becuase most of them do not konw how to teach children so they they give the responsibility to school and teachers ,in another way they give their trustworhthy to them.
That's all my peronal views.
Reply Report 铁人year 2013-7-1 22:08
i am a chinese student, in fact i really envy foreign students. in my view,some subjects we learn at school are useless or we can not use them in life,because we study just for tests. like me, my major is english teacher. i has learned it for about 10 years,but my english is just so so espeially oral english.
we are young we are full of energy but we havent time. one day when we have time, we have known what we like
Reply Report hcmxmy 2013-7-5 09:45
Why our child have to face huge stress?
Nowadays, a big question occurred that the flowers of our motherland is bearing and facing more stress than my time whom graduated from college at 2000.
The most important reason is that the huge number of student has to face stronger competition on school selection, imbalance resource of education, vanity of parent.
    My son's teacher said to all the parent of his class on a parent meeting that this is reality, every one should be came up with the educational environment in China except if you want to your child has less homework, more spare time playing, immigrant is good choice but the kid have to stay aboard for ever because he wouldn’t fit when come back.
    Vanity which build on child's school record is the first factor that every parent should abandon in future .Each kid should possess their happy childhood what is the rights for them.
    Our government should balance the difference of educational resource in future. The phenomena of extra class (Olympic maths, English)which is cruel for growing kid.
Reply Report Judipeipei 2013-7-7 10:27
Newtown: A few comments about your views on education. You mention that UK kids have too much time on their hands and they may be up to no good. This only stat ...
I was a Chinese Student, i agree with you absolutely.
Reply Report Judipeipei 2013-7-7 10:27
Newtown: A few comments about your views on education. You mention that UK kids have too much time on their hands and they may be up to no good. This only stat ...
I was a Chinese Student, i agree with you absolutely.
Reply Report ross-chang 2013-7-16 11:37
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  ...
yes chian has the idiom: Failure is the mother of success. But when we were in school, can you remember who taught you how to deal with failure, the teacher and parents always told us that you can't fail in the test, you must got No 1. Who told you when you fail in something, nobady told us that, espcially when we took part in the test that enter the university, did anyone tell us how to deal with the failure of test. No. nobady told us, the only thing they told us was that enter university was the only chance you can get success. nobady told us if we fail in the test, whatever we can do next?

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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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