Resources for Educators who are recruiting and enrolling students from China in the USA.

Educating 1 billion people

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Although China implemented the one child policy in 1978, there are still 211mm students in China (China has 23% of the world’s population) to educate in a country that is almost the size of the United States and a school system that is just as big as ours but catering 3 times more students (US has 77mm students).

In large urban cities like Shanghai where the population is 23mm (compared to Manhattan at 1.6mm), classrooms are crowded. Unlike the USA, teachers rotate between classes not students since there are simply too many of them to crowd the halls and to delay class schedules from being on time.

Students also tend to stay in school longer hours to complete school work because they can receive help from teachers but also there might not be space at home for them to study. Most average families in China still live in cramped residential spaces with a family of 5 (parents, grandparents and child) would inhabit tight quarters in densely urban areas.

Principles and subsequently teachers are rewarded when their students receive scores on exams that are above the national average. In fact, this examination system has long been part of the Chinese culture (see post on Impact of Emperial Civil Service Exam on Today’s Chinese Exam System). So when a public school in China receives a high rank by their Ministry of Education for achieving high test scores, every Chinese parent in the densely populated district will want their student to attend that school. After all, if your one child does not do well on their national exams, their chances of moving to the next level at a better school will be dim in this highly competitive academic system.

That is why students, after 6 days long days of class (hours), will still attend cram or tutoring sessions after school and on weekends. That is why they have such a structured academic curriculum. All of the classes in their core curriculum is to help prepare them for the national examinations. Little room can be left for extracurricular activities or hobbies.

With the recent rise of Chinese middle class, more and more families are sending their one child and sometimes two ( to private schools. Oftentimes, the more privileged Chinese students will have music, art and sports lessons in the likes of piano, violin, painting, tennis, ping pong etc. In terms of Physical Education, students usually have to go through military training in the summer time, where they report to the school a few weeks early and do physical exercises like running and fitness routines. I remember a time when I went to China for college, only when I arrived, no one was in class. Students were actually doing their military training drills outdoors. PE and exercises are called out in the loud speakers across campus and in the athletic fields first thing in the morning. Team sports are available like soccer but given how most Chinese cities are so polluted nowadays, it is a health hazard for students to be outside.

Keep this in mind when you recruit Chinese students as it is no accident why they are brilliant test takers who often appear less well-rounded than U.S. students. It has been proven in U.S. classrooms that students from China who are good test takers do not always make the best students in class. The Chinese curriculum leaves little room for students to explore who they are, think for themselves and solve problems that out their studies into practice. Imagine as an educator if you were evaluated solely on your performance to get students through to the next grade by rigorous exams. If students make too many mistakes and do not test well, they cannot get into better schools or ultimately college. The success of a Chinese student’s future- academically, socially and professionally- completely lies in the hands of teachers who prep them for exams! Imagine what your job would be like in China under those circumstances and how stressful it is for Chinese pupils and their parents. How does this translate in the real world? Companies do not hire good test takers, they hire good problem solvers!

Please read more about the origins and history of China’s examination system

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  1. […] economics were neglected. Although this had not been Confucius’s intent, the result was that China’s education system produced a traditionalist bureaucracy which was ill equipped to deal with military and economic […]

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