Fifteen-year-old Zhang Chi, who finished her elementary schooling in Beijing, came to the United States when her father’s job moved the family to America and transferred to a middle school.
After three years of middle school study, she returned to Beijing with her father and continued her high school education there. Having studied under the two education systems, Zhang Chi says that schooling in China is too grueling and stressful, but she also realizes that the American system is not perfect either.
According to the Jan, 15 issue of Chinese Youth Daily, in Zhang Chi’s mind, the daily schedule reflects the differences between the two education systems. In the United States, school starts at 7:45 a.m., breaks for half an hour of lunch, is followed immediately by afternoon classes, and dismisses at 2:45 p.m. The majority of the students stay at school after dismissal, attending clubs like astronomy, participating in sports, and so on.
Zhang Chi explained that every year the schools in her district host different competitions between schools, so students are all preparing for these events after school. At 4:30 in the afternoon, the school bus brings students home. Homework was minimal and could be completed in about an hour.
After she returned to China, based on her scores on the high school entrance exams, Zhang Chi was sent to an “advanced exam preparation school” 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Beijing. She found that, compared to the United States, there was much more pressure.
Because of the travel distance, Zhang Chi had to stay in school dormitories. The school guarantees that the students will get good marks on the exams, and only allows one visit home every three weeks.
Usually, Zhang Chi has to wake up at 6 a.m., and begin self-study at 6:45 a.m. There are 12 classes every day. Academics finish at 10:30 p.m. The study and rest periods are very compact each day, she said, and there isn’t any time to rest. Zhang Chi has only one feeling under these living condition: Exhaustion.
According to Zhang Chi, the grades in her American school are composed of 70 percent homework scores, 20 percent test scores and 10 percent from classroom quizzes and participation. After the exam results are finalized, results are divided into letter grades, A, B, C, D and F. Everyone minds their letter grades, rather than if their mark was a percent higher or lower than someone else, so students don’t make an issue of grade rankings. Everyone feels relaxed after exams.
When Zhang Chi returned to China, however, she found that studying wasn’t fun anymore. Fellow students around her were in a constant competition for higher marks, competing for every single point. In addition, the numbering and placement of exam results make her self-conscious of the disparities and her insufficiencies. This made feel her uncomfortable, when before, she was full of self-confidence.
Zhang Chi feels there is a great difference in education methods in the classroom as well. According to Zhang Chi, teachers in America are highly concerned with classroom participation. Student participation normally takes up more than half of every class. After a semester, students have to make class presentations. Each student has to personally prepare a set of PowerPoint slides, and make a 3- to 5-minute presentation to express their points of view to fellow classmates. Zhang Chi feels that every student around her is a “person” and could confidently express their two cents on any subject, and not feel timid or intimidated.
In Chinese classrooms, she said, the atmosphere is very heavy. Student participation is very limited. More time is devoted to teacher lectures while students listen. Furthermore, Chinese students seem to be trained as if the brain has formed a set of problem solving paths. Whenever they see a problem, they immediately begin to think of a method to solve it. This was a bit difficult for Zhang Chi after a few years in America.
In Zhang Chi’s opinion, she said she felt as though her few years in America made her fall behind in terms of knowledge as compared to her Chinese counterparts, but she feels that education in America is more concerned with comprehensive human development. The education system in China develops students with excellent marks, nothing else.
However, she also recognized certain weaknesses with the American system of education.
Although the education in America made her feel the joy of learning, it also made her feel stressed. Her marks during primary school in Beijing were very good. When she first arrived in America, her marks were not bad as well, especially in mathematics. As time went by, however, her marks slowly declined. According to Zhang Chi, the education in America is too open and loosely regulated. Students can only really learn if they organize themselves efficiently. The majority of the students under this type of “no-pressure” environment do not study diligently. Many do not even do their homework after school. This makes the “two extremes of the American education” very noticeable.
In Zhang Chi’s eyes, education in China is too strict. Only when students study diligently can they get good marks, and enter better schools. Sometimes it feels like students are only “studying for the exams.” However, when compared to the American education system, students in Chinese schools do indeed gain more knowledge, and master the knowledge more effectively.