Chinese education, American education

Cultural Insights — By on June 2, 2010 at 11:18 am

chinese schoolThere are many differences in the educational systems of various countries. One of the largest gaps is between the Western and Asian styles of teaching and learning. Those differences were on display again in a recent NY Times story about Chinese guest teachers in the United States. The article focuses on an exchange program that allows more than 300 Chinese educators to teach language in American schools. It’s a great way to promote cross-cultural knowledge and expose students to the Chinese language. But within the story are also interesting nuggets of information about the cultural differences between the two nations’ in terms of students and teachers.

Here is one example:

Zheng Yue, a young woman from China who is teaching her native language to students in this town on the Oklahoma grasslands, was explaining a vocabulary quiz on a recent morning. Then a student interrupted.

“Sorry, I was zoning out,” said the girl, a junior wearing black eye makeup. “What are we supposed to be doing?”

Ms. Zheng seemed taken aback but patiently repeated the instructions.

“In China,” she said after class, “if you teach the students and they don’t get it, that’s their problem. Here if they don’t get it, you teach it again.”

And another:

Ms. Zheng left her teaching post at a provincial university south of Beijing two years ago to come to Lawton. She is out of her usual element in this city of strip malls and car dealerships surrounded by cattle ranches and an Army base. The culture of American schools is also different.

“My life in high school was torture, just studying, nothing else,” said Ms. Zheng (pronounced djung). “Here students lead more interesting lives,” partly because they are more involved in athletics, choir and other activities.

“They party, they drink, they date,” she added. “In China, we study and study and study.”

In interviews, several other Chinese teachers said they had some difficulties adjusting to the informality of American schools after working in a country where students leap to attention when a teacher enters the room.

There is a lot more in the full article. Check it out.

Photo credit: P.Morgan via Wikimedia Commons.

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