A further look into Chinese and American educational systems

A Chinese proverb states, “Teachers open the door, but you must walk through it yourself.”  This viewpoint may seem in stark contrast to the American perspective on education. School life in China can be very different from the experiences we have here.  From extreme pressure at all levels to lack of imagination in the curriculum, Chinese education is very different from ours.

While many American students stress about the SAT’s or ACT’s, that seems to be only the tip of the iceberg for Chinese students. In China students must not only test to get into university but also take exams to enter high schools. For each test, the grades are separated into tiers so that if you reach a certain grade you are placed in a certain school. Only once reaching this tier, though, will you be accepted.  Parents place extreme stress on students to do well, often paying for private tutors or even nutritionists to maximize their child’s chances.  Those who do not do well must wait an entire year to test again, making the odds very high.

However, the high press of exams create the special benefits for students. To get through the exams, students gain solid foundational knowledge through instructor’s detailed teaching and the student’s own frequent practice. No matter how technology develops, foundational knowledge is still necessary for every person to succeed in the future. You might wonder where the high pressure comes from. It’s because the students are required to learn over a wide range of fields. From classical literature to modern science, students get acquainted with all different subjects relatively earlier than U.S. students.

Students are also given a very strict curriculum. Many believe this is why they often test the best, because students are taught the exact answers. The US and China differ in this way.  In the US, students are often given the opportunity to choose what they want to study, making their education more personalized.

It’s clear that both types of studies have their strengths and weaknesses.  And the best way to understand new cultures is to experience them.  Check out the winter study abroad programs to China this year and experience all that the Chinese education system has to offer!


Things you need to know about learning Chinese

Language learning is always a process full of frustration. This is especially true  when you are trying to learn a language that is totally different from your mother language. Chinese is considered one of the most difficult languages in the world. Want to know how to learn it well? Here is some advice.

The starting point of learning any language is the same- learning to speak. It is a good idea to start with basic vocabulary and phrases. These phrases could be anything easy that occur in everyday conversation,such as “Hello” or “How are you?” While you are learning to speak Chinese, pay attention to the tones taken. Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the same words or phrases can have different meanings based on the tone. After you get a little more familiar with the language you should feel confident for the next step,  which is pronunciation and sentence structure. This is the most important part of oral Chinese. The best way to learn is to listen to native speakers as much as possible. When your ears have grown accustomed to listening to this speech, your mind will naturally instruct you to speak in the native way.

Another part of language learning is reading and writing. Pinyin is the writing system that uses letters from the Latin alphabet to “spell words out.” Pinyin is the foundation of reading Chinese characters.  After you understand Pinyin, reading and writing will be much easier to learn. Learning a language is a process of accumulation, meaning that no one can fully understand a foreign language in a short time. The best way to learn is practice a little every day. Set yourself a goal: how much you want to read every day, how many characters you want to learn every day, etc. And then follow your goals step by step.

The fastest way to learn any language is to immerse yourself in it. You can practice with native speakers, listen to Chinese songs, or watch Chinese films. These are all good methods for improving your language intuition. It is also good for language learners to get in touch with culture. To understand more about Chinese culture, you can practice traditional calligraphy, visit exhibitions, or even arrange a trip in China.