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Is Western Education Better Than Eastern Education?

Popularity 97Viewed 91604 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 DouglasZhang 2014-1-31 11:21
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 ...
It is me again. Australian government school are very bad. Only private schools are good but very expensive. They are AUS$23,600 to $25,000 per year for high school. If you a foreign student, on top of the school fees, you still have to pay for accommodation and living expenses. You are looking at $40,000 to $50,000 a year. One Chinese girl was studying in my daughters' school about 3 years ago. She was boarding in the school. The boarding was $31,000 and the school fees was $23,000. That would give you an idea. Please don't envy others. Be proud to be a Chinese. You are very luck to be educated in China.
Reply Report lnjiajia 2014-2-3 10:25
DouglasZhang: 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  ...
It is totally different from what you mentioned chinese education
Reply Report 飘散的风 2014-2-17 16:11
i cannot understand why our child spent so many time in school,my child ,as a kindergarten,the teacher givehim homework for math ,not hand-made,when i complain it with other parents,they think it is right ,i donot understand ,why ,they are only 3 years old,i donot umderstand  the Education System in China Today,although i grew umder it .i donnot kown i can do what for my child,can you tell me Michael,the only important   i wish my child happiness all life.thank you.
Reply Report MissBarbara 2014-3-13 21:35
As and American and Chinese educator, I have come to think that one of the reasons Chinese kids don't get into as much mischief as American kids might be that they spend their time better occupied with school and homework. American kids, in my opinion, have way too much free and unstructured time, and we have a huge problem with juvenile delinquency, recreational drug use, and you know the story... So, I say, keep the kids busy, and I DO think that overall, Chinese students receive a better education. Almost all of them are bi-lingual from an early age, if not multi-lingual, and they rank far above American kids in math and science, according to studies.
Reply Report Prynne 2014-3-24 21:36
“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?”—— "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. "
These two sentences are contradictory, aren't they?
That's obvious, Chinese students do better in studies than American students.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-3-27 16:08
I think one of the major issues in the Chinese education system is the lack of problem solving abilities that are taught within the courses. Take learning English as an example, The chinese, rather than learning the alphabet and the spelling rules and using that powerful tool to their advantage, they memorise words, you might as well be memorising a list of pseudo random numbers. its such an uneffective way of studying. The other issue is with their own language, Chinese language education lasts a lot longer than English language education for British and Americans etc...

There is a strong copycat culture in China where the best way to study is simply to copy, and commit it to memory yet so many of the useful information they are learning is useless as knowledge without the knowledge of how to use such knowledge is in itself completely useless. It's like you know how to build a phone but you don't know what its really for.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-4-8 10:38
"...and still excel in education in comparison to most Chinese students." ... are you kidding me???
Chinese children learn a second language from primary grades on up: that is why we have jobs here. In the states, second language learning is an elective offered only to middle or high school kids. Only some schools, more advanced and usually privately funded promote second language learning as core curriculum. And that is just one facet highlighting the huge difference in academia between the two countries' education standards.
In the states, students only get half an education: odd years are 'learning years' and even years are 'review years', where the material taught in the previous year is recycled.  
There are too many differences between these two school systems to list them all here. Let me just say that, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, students are taught 'the test' - that exam whose results indicate whether teachers are effective. Test standards are ridiculously low to accommodate every student, from the brightest star to the poor kid with learning disabilities, and even ESL students. Yes, EVERY student, regardless of ability takes the same test.  Proof positive: the GED, which would grant students a second opportunity to earn a high school diploma comprises of 6th grade material. Apparently that is all that is needed to achieve a general education diploma.
Now speaking from personal experience... my grandson, 12 years old, has yet to learn how to write in cursive, and he will probably never be taught. History lessons are seriously lacking. New math serves only to bumfuzzle him... and me, when I tried to help him. Going back further: my daughter still cannot spell or do simple math. However, she attained her high school diploma.
My friend, I would honestly say that, possibly outside of EQ curriculum that American schools teach so well, Chinese schools have it all over the American school system.
Reply Report cecilia颖 2014-4-23 22:36
the present education system in China is not formed in one day, with the help of the government, parents, education tradition, teachers, students and even the training agencies outside schools, this system are becoming complicated and difficult to change, for each element of those factors is interralated. now, i think ,we need to find a cutting-point to think about the whole system and do somthing what we can. but i am also deeply aware how hard it is.
Reply Report Azindoo 2014-5-7 19:00
Yes too much .can't you see them look worn out  ,confused  
? Waste of kids time .the brain is like a machine When u over use it ,it get burst .the kids are just in the classroom  but i bet u nothing is going in .
Reply Report wheatbaby 2014-5-13 20:46
if we said the American education is better than Chinese one, we have to set up a standard for judging it . but we can not. in my humble opinion, why more and more Chinese students go to or want to go to study aboard. there are some reasons. The very first reason is that their parents are rich and blindly believe that American education is better than Chinese one. and they are rich and should be educated with better education. second,  American culture is invading the world and some Chinese students have been told that the American education is better through movie, CD, media ,etc.Also they wanna get rid of the Chinese education mode and try some new mode. Last but not the least, some Chinese students really like America education and culture and lifestyle or something like that, and they go to there for further study for their own. so it is not necessary to say America education is better than Chinese one when we see Chinese students go to US to study. cos there must be many reasons to choose one thing, but we can not say that we choose it because it is better. For example, there are one pear and one apple, you pick up apple and others ask is apple better than the pear? will u say yes, it is better. how can u judge by that. the answer might be "yes , i like it or i pick it up without intention".
Reply Report wushengli 2014-5-27 13:48
Actually, somewhat kids are not respected. "Kids must""kids have to" instead of "kids can"!
Reply Report jw0023 2014-5-31 02:25
For me, the question of which educational system is better is irrelevant:  whether I am in the East or West, I can learn the same things online--and for free.  Why are parents sending their kids to a physical school in the first place when education could be Napsterized in a short period of time?  Educate yourself.  Wikipedia, edX, and a host of other free educational tools are available online.  Anything you can learn in a university or high school is available online.  But the question begs to be answered:  why are Chinese parents paying so much money to send their kids abroad?  As Henry David Thoreau observed, "Tuition, for instance, is an important item in the term bill, while for far more valuable education which he gets by associating with the most cultivated of his contempories no charge is made."  The only value seems to be the social connections the student can make with elite friends.  Even the value of improving their English lacks justification.  If the students want to improve their English, they can Skype with an English tutor for a cheap price.   

Longer or shorter class hours don't ensure a better clarity of thinking for students.  Johnny, for instance, can often fade out of a lesson, because Michelle, who sits next to him, is dressed very hot today.  I like the school uniforms in Chinese schools; they are less distracting and do away with social status symbols, like name brand clothing.  On the downside, somebody could probably argue school uniforms discourage self-expression.  Well, both sides can avoid the problem all together by studying online.  You can set the pace, deciding how many hours you spend each day studying.  Also, you can avoid the problem of bullying, because students, at least in high school, often bully somebody because of the way they look.  Both Chinese and American education systems share the problem of bullying, but I would be interested to know if one system features less bullying than the other, and what the causes are.
Reply Report lindalje 2014-6-5 13:34
Having taught in a Chinese university for years and sit in an American university for a course or two, I'd say it has more to do with the way of teaching rather than the hours:-) The American students take the reading list required for the course real seriously, and participate rigorously, while the Chinese students try their best to pretend they have read one or two, and their teachers often hesitate about flunking them for they are instructed explicitly not to flunk too many for the same course. So it may be quite a big deal to get admitted to the college, but once you are in, you are pretty much all set for your diploma 4 years later, unless you are found out plagirazing or poisoned your roommate.
Reply Report J.E.Overington 2014-6-7 10:05
"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?"

Hubris. The apparent excellence in comparison is in part a semblance to misguide who allows himself or herself to be misguided.

"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.' "

There is no such thing as hard work apart from physical labour. The remaining work available is all straightforward however, sometimes much work is allocated to a few able whereas some workload distributions allow for shared resources and enjoyment.

"It seems to me that in China, long hours, extra hours and extra days of classes is perceived as better education."

"Better" is public code for think less, know less about what matters, and know more about anything nearly irrelevant. The world is designed.

"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?"

Labour laws do not apply to learning. Rather, goal orientation does apply, together with ordinary differential equations applicable to resource competition.

"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."

All 'that' is all unreal. Some illusions are lies from criminals confessing their crimes. Consumerism fails by design, success of that is an illusion. Physics is a good guide to what is real. Observe some people avoid conversation ostensibly to save face and then miss real content, self-restrict to buying dishonesty, in real situations without hubris, without a need to save face, thus, people doing that work to their own demise.
Reply Report J.E.Overington 2014-8-9 16:29
TedM: Newcomer to teaching & advising in China, and to this blog thing.  Agree with your comments on Chinese education. English schools and education still  ...
Good insight. I am training students to reject TOEFL’sbeloved False Dichotomies in the normal sequence of rejecting the fallacy, reasserting normal choices in normalsituations, and the (only to fully answer the question) acknowledge what choice the student would make if forced to submit to an imposed False Dichotomy, such as with extortion. Of course, spoken this way the answer to force is non-binding since duress is clear. I am also teaching student from our CORE US  curriculum What Your (K to 6th) Grader Needs to Know series and theMcGuffy Eclectic Readers (1 to 6). These readers give stdents aclear idea of ournormallevel. I let student know we teach in Taipei in EFL the  graded reader at the same age level... IE our seven year old students read the Grade two book. We can do the same here, however, it depends on the population voluntarily adapting to the idea of upward mobility, making an effort in kindergarten, and speaking openly and comfortably without uncomfortable emotions while saying no.  ... Oddly, the What Your Third Grader Needs to Know book is not yet available in China and so I hope the Minister of Education may soon adjust something so we can order the book in for our students.
Reply Report JthZsdad2x 2015-11-23 01:04
seethroughwest: 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 ...
As a teacher in a public Chinese high school, I was given exactly this instruction. "Control the children before they control you." I have seen Chinese teachers assign rote memorization homework to be recited verbatim. So, even though my Chinese is weak at best, I know what my Chinese colleagues do and expect me to do. It is a joy when my students come up to me and ask me questions about anything else other than the class topic. This shows a sense of natural curiosity which does not seem to be regarded well in Chinese schools.
Reply Report JthZsdad2x 2015-11-23 01:07
idorun: 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 worl ...
Prestige, plain and simple

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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.


Recent comments

  • Amazing Chinese Student 2018-6-16 15:05

    Great story.

  • Can Chinese Education Change? 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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