As of late, I have begun taking Mandarin classes again as to prepare for the HSK 5 (a standardized test for speakers of Mandarin as a second language).
This class, while not my first exposure to the Chinese style of education, has gotten me thinking again about the differences between education in China and America.
Generally speaking teachers in China and America are focused on very different things. Chinese teachers are very, very detailed oriented and mostly lecture students without leaving space for many questions.
This has been hard for me because I am the kind of student that likes to challenge teachers. I was brought up through the American education system, in which teachers are more open to questions and actively seek to encourage this kind of behavior from their students.
When my career first began in China as a teacher, I considered the Chinese style of education very short-sighted and often felt superior to my colleagues because of my own educational background. However, I have come to deeply respect practices and attitudes towards education in China.
The Chinese education system helps students in very practical ways: teaching incredibly large sets of information, helping students perform well on tests, and instilling a sense of discipline.
Furthermore the interest and enthusiasm for education in China is incredible. To the average Chinese, providing a quality education for their children is one of their top priorities in life. This attitude is so valuable because education can not only serve people on an individual basis, but also as a rising tide for society as a whole.
A quality educational system creates well educated people. This, in turn, benefits society.
The opposite being a group of people who receive a substandard education. Such a group can easily become problematic for society, although the problems they create are in many ways systemic of the education they receive.
While there are certainly areas of the Chinese education system that I could criticize, there are a lot of positive things too. As someone who often encounters Chinese students and teachers in both his professional and personal life, I can testify that my own conception of education has certainly morphed and become more nuanced as a result of these interactions.
It is through these experiences that my own ideas about education have changed.
I believe that in the future, those who figure out how to take the ideas and sense of discipline surrounding education in China, and combine them with the creativity of the American system will be most successful.
Perhaps that is why we see so much success from those students with more international experience, and in particular the rush of Chinese parents to give their children the second half of a 21st century style of education in foreign countries.