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Is Western Education Better Than Eastern Education?

Popularity 97Viewed 92759 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 caochumichael 2013-7-20 11:10
I think no one can ansewer this qusetion , as we stand different basis and we will have different attitudes .the population in China is so large but the school resouce is so limited , however ,we shoud use a method to make the limited resource to be took advantages fully . also we have this style culture dating back to the ancitent time . so there is no one can answer which one is bad and which one is good
Reply Report xiaomar 2013-7-25 19:35
One suggests that there is too much emphasis placed on the incorrect notion that there is such a thing as a 'Western' education.     What is 'Western' education? The answer is a bit like the answer to 'what is the climate like in the West': it depends on where one is living. French education, for example, places a large emphasis on the study of philosophy and with it, the hope that students will be able to develop a greater capacity for critical thinking and also to become more enlightened citizens.  Other Western education systems have their own unique characteristics. Perhaps the Chinese system could be improved if there was less emphasis placed on what is generally described as 'rote learning' and a greater emphasis placed on areas such as personal development, civics, humanities etc. (Admittedly 'rote learning' also plays a major part in the education systems of most countries).
Reply Report xiaomar 2013-7-26 23:19
seethroughwest: Let me post some points in English. Yes, I would say Western education at graduate or higher level (Master’s and PhD’s) is absolutely better than th ...
'Memorisation is the highest level of learning' . One respectfully suggests that this statement is utter nonsense. For example, one can rote-learn a passage of English literature and reproduce it perfectly in either oral or in written form. Do you seriously suggest that rote-learning guarantees that he/she who then recites this piece of literature has an aitomatic and complete understanding of what might be a n extremely complex narrative structure. Comprehension of the ideas or values which a text advances is not always a simple task. Ideas in a literary text are often presented indirectly or in a symbolic fashion. Is the reader able to analyse the authors thinking and if necessary be able to construct a critical analysis of the piece.
It is suggested you do a little more research before you make such uneducated assertions.
Reply Report KristaChen 2013-7-29 13:39
i am also a teacher. and i kind of agree that Chinese students are bottles to be filled with knowledge by rote methods. That is why we are trying our best to learn from the western education system. and hopefully, in the coming future, we will find a better way to teach.
Reply Report enmfve 2013-8-4 10:58
Just the population makes so,,,i think.
Reply Report MichaelM 2013-8-8 03:28
KristaChen: i am also a teacher. and i kind of agree that Chinese students are bottles to be filled with knowledge by rote methods. That is why we are trying our  ...
Very good point Krista.
Reply Report LuckyInFuture 2013-8-28 16:45
Chinese students are good at studying. But when they are a adult, their creative is not better than the USA's student. Chinese education is the examination-oriented education system. It has a long history. It can not be changed in the short time.
Reply Report rcasale 2013-8-28 20:44
In the US, we lived in a "good" public school district.  One problem with the US is that they do not like to admit that children have different needs and learning abilities.  My daughter was reading at a 9th grade level by the beginning of 2nd grade, yet by 4th grade most of the children in her class still could not read.  She spent her time "helping" the other students and learning nothing.  Her 4th grade math teacher could not do basic math!!!  I ended up pulling her out of school and teaching her at home.  However, what the US does excel at is diversity and making sure children are well-rounded.  By the age of 12 my daughter had played numerous sports and excelled at volleyball, golf, and rowing.  She is an excellent artist and speaks Japanese.   She is currently in 8th grade at the Shanghai American School-Puxi, which is known for the number of students it sends to the Ivy League schools.  Her math skills have improved greatly, but her reading and English skills actually decreased at SAS. She spends so much time on homework that she no longer has time to read or draw.  Except for a few specific sports (i.e. swimming, badminton) the sports here are depressing by US standards.  Many of the students that she is in class with spend all of their time obsessing over their grades.  (She is the only non-Asian in her homebase class)  They aren't allowed to do things with their friends after school or on the weekends because they have to study or take extra lessons.  I don't want my daughter to  hate school.  She has her entire life to learn.  Why is it so important to fit so much into the first 18 years?  The interesting thing is that SAS isn't even a Chinese school.  I cannot imagine forcing my daughter to spend so much time on rote memorization.  I would rather that she learn creativity, independence, and the ability to think rationally.
Reply Report LUCY2013 2013-10-9 12:13
in china it is a good way if students just learn what they are nterested in, but the fact is that the system put too much pressure onto students, students are forced to learn what they have no interested in and what's more some projects are much difficult for them, i think some projects can be easy if students aren't interested in, and vice versa.
Reply Report PAULNICE 2013-10-9 21:30
TedM: Newcomer to teaching & advising in China, and to this blog thing.  Agree with your comments on Chinese education. English schools and education still  ...
This view is correct!
Reply Report grace32 2013-12-12 11:46
TedM: Newcomer to teaching & advising in China, and to this blog thing.  Agree with your comments on Chinese education. English schools and education still  ...
agree with your idea
Reply Report praful 2014-1-21 15:33
I am from Nepal.Currently, I am studying Chinese language and then I will study Master in China.And , I really feel that Chinese spent lot of time in teaching and there is lot of pressure.I felt my Bachelor in home country was much easier than chinese language. So I think they should change the way of teaching.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 08:31
Kevinfly: 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 Chin ...
From my experience helping some Chinese students in Australia, majority of them are keen learners. They may not be effective in foreign countries because their English is not high. I tutored them in how to write assignments. They are definitely very efficient in materials searching and computer skills. So far, non of the students I helped had fail in their master degrees. My own children are not working as hard as the Chinese students but they have the benefit in language. I read an article from USA, "Tiger Mothers". Their children were very successful students. I modified the Tiger Mother theory. I allowed my children had a little bit more free time. My children are extremely confident and successful in their life. They all are genuinely kind (not superficially), honest and good citizens. They are being very well accepted by all aspects of people. I certainly don't agree 6.5 hours education contact time is enough. Australia system is 6 hours contact time. I privately tutored them after school. However, they must relax completely on Friday evenings and Sundays. To learn to be a person is not 100% through school. Family education to learn to be a person is far better and more effective than schools education. This is my personal opinion without quotation or reference. Maybe, my children's success as a good citizen is a reference.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 10:01
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 ...
Your message is very honest and excellent. I am from Australia. Our government schools are generally very inferior to private school. However, there are some famous government schools such as Melbourne High School for boys, McRobertson for Girls, Rossmoyne High school and Willeton High School in Perth are some top government schools. I wouldn't send my kids to public schools. They are exactly like USA school that they aim at average. One of the teachers in my little daughter's school told me that he used to teach in public school. The difference is teachers cannot possible finish their agenda planned for their classes---a lot of disturbance and interruptions from their students. Like you said children educated in China, learned English and then come to Australia and become a star. One of the Melbourne top private High School called, Taylor College, is the top 5 schools in Australia every year. My first 3 daughters' school is also top 5 in Australia. Their student population is 85% from overseas and mainly Chinese. One boy came from Hongkong struggling in English. Had some private tutoring in English for 2 years. Entered Melbourne University in medicine with a score of 99.75. His mathematics and science are far above average. This boy was studying in a public school. In 2009, there were 35 countries comparing their students standards in literacy, numeracy and science. America students were rated in the middle twenties out of 35 countries. American education system do has a big problem. I don't know why Chinese sent their children to study in America. Maybe the reputation as militarily the most powerful country in the world. Chinese in that year was the top in all 3 subjects. Why did and do Chinese wealthy families want their kids to be educated in America.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 10:04
seethroughwest: JungJoe, despite our ideological differences, a faithful conservative vs. an atheist liberal, our observations on the US education system agree with e ...
I totally agree with what you said "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".
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 10:17
Indefensible: 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 t ...
I agree and disagree what you said " 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 believe that is not mainly the education problem. It is mainly the protective role of Chinese parents which did develop their children's ability to adapt unfamiliar environment which affect children's confidence. Confidence is the key for success but Chinese family have neglected that aspect. Look at the scientific successes of China, especially in military development. They developed from scratch with little assistance from the West. I am an Australian Chinese. My children are very confident and very successful in their careers. Confidence is the key which most Chinese families in China neglected it due to the one child policy---over protective.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 10:41
梓宣: 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 tw ...
I didn't know Chinese education system. I suppose every country has the same problem as students are pushed to study or attending school. Like Australia, education is compulsory. Families will lose social benefit if their children are not going to school. I looked after some students from Chinese. All are hard workers except one I met who came from a very wealthy family. All other passed their master degrees (not bachelor degrees). In general, I can confidently say that Chinese education standard is very high comparing with other countries. It had been proved by international testings in literacy, mathematics and science. In 2009, Chinese students scored No 1 in all 3 subjects. I am from Australia. We are in the top 10. Look at the successes of the Chinese scientific development. It, again, prove the Chinese education is successful. Please be pround being a Chinese. Certainly, even though my children are only half Chinese, they are very proud to call themselves Chinese and surprisingly, my wife is proud to claim to be Chinese. She isn't Chinese. She only speaks English and that is why my children can't speak Chinese. I am employing 2 Chinese students to train me and my family to speak Mandarin.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 10:53
天天seven: I am Chinese,I love my education system. I think our education is Very suitable for us
I am from Australia. I fully support you that Chinese education system make China wealthy and make Chinese proud. Tests proved that Chinese students are No 1 in literacy, mathematics and science. I don't understand why Chinese families wanted to send their children to go overseas to study. I am thinking to sent my 11 and 12 years old daughters to China to study. They are learning Mandarin at the moment so as I. I may come to china to teach when I can speak Chinese.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 10:58
lnjiajia: 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 subjec ...
I am from Australia. Chinese education system had been proved to be the best in the world. Truss it and be proud as a Chinese. My daughters and I are learning Mandarin. I'll come to China to teach.
Reply Report DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 11:08
铁人year: 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 ...
I invite you to read my previous comments on comparing Chinese and Western education system. Chinese education system has been proved to the most successful system academically. It is up to families to train their children to be a good person with confidence and high self-esteem. Be proud to be a Chinese. Please don't envy foreigners because they have more money to spend than Chinese. There are a lot of problem in our society. I mean western societies. Truss me. I was educated completely in Western society. I am very Westernised but my children (even only half Chinese) are very proud to be Chinese. I had gone through a lot of racial discrimination through my time in Western societies. Don't envy others because they have more money than you.

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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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