I watched the BBC program “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School” recently. I’m glad to see that the Chinese teachers won by the exam results. As a Chinese who was educated in the traditional Chinese way, the program brought me many memories, both pleasant and unpleasant. It kind of reminded me how I grew up.
It’s too much for me to cover everything. Here I write down my views about the education purely based on my own experiences.
Personally, I think some rules in the Chinese education affected me a lot and I’m happy that I was taught since I was a kid. They are:
- Morning exercises (It helped me to start the day with a positive and new status. It may not work for those night owls)
- Compulsory physical education (It helped me to be physically healthy, see my potential of doing some sports, come out of my comfort zone, and gradually build an exercise habit. The students in the program said it put them in a competition situation. In face it is, however in life we are actually only competing with ourselves. It’s the feeling that shown our weakness in public that makes us to defense and don’t do it.)
- Eye exercises (It helped my eyes to relax and keep a good eyesight. Wearing glasses is inconvenient.)
- Self-study time in the classroom (It helped me to finish coursework at school. I could get help from classmates and teachers if there was anything I didn’t understand. Then after school I had free time for other interests and activities. Also, it freed my parents to some extent)
- Apart from the main subjects, there were some optional classes that encourage students’ interests such as sewing, drawing, gardening, music and dancing.
- Clean the classroom (It helped me to learn what responsibility means and don’t take things for granted. We helped parents to do housework too without payment for sure.)
- Keep quiet in the class (I know this is hard. As a child, I liked to talk to peers, day dreaming, peek my cartoon books, or drew anything on my textbooks… But I gradually learned to respect other people’s time, teachers’ and peers’. So in the class if I’m not interested, my brain could wander or dream, but I stopped talking to peers or making noises.)
- Respect teachers and behave. (This point implies the culture difference very much. For example, British people respect women by opening doors for them or letting them go first. Chinese people respect elders and teachers by listening to what they taught them and by keeping disciplines. This doesn’t mean Chinese youngsters wouldn’t have their own opinions and just obey without challenging views. But it’s definitely not as free and straight as the manners those British youngsters had.)
On the other hand, some aspects in the Chinese style restricted me to some extent and some of the aspects are uneasy to change considering Chinese own culture and circumstances. However, I think it changed over the last 20 years, but wouldn’t have changed to the UK style obviously. Clearly many of the rules are embedded in the family, in the culture and in the society since you were born.
- Large class (It’s hard for Chinese public schools to have small size classes because of the large population. Students who sit at the back of the classroom do got affected considering distractions from peers who sit in front of them. Naughty students normally were arranged to sit in the front so that teachers kept an eye on them. “Good” students would sit at the back because teachers believe they could learn well themselves and had self-disciplines. This was the teachers try to help the “bad” students. There were also “good” students were arranged to sit in the front, “bad” students sit at the back. This was the teachers have given up the “bad” students.)
- Teachers physically published naughty students and asking students to stand outside of the classroom during the class was normal. It’s a sign that they didn’t do what the teacher told them.
- Students who are good at their study would be selected as a subject representative. This means they could be a model and good example for others. However, it’s temporary as some teachers didn’t name the representatives but encouraged students to vote or self-recommend.
- Results of examinations were the key. Individual, special, or personalised needs and interests were often on the second or third position.
- A lot of coursework and additional learning materials from both school and parents.
- Students have few chances to ask questions, interact with the teacher and do group work in a class session.
- Fewer options for students apart from the path of going to middle school, high school, universities, and having a good chance to find a decent job.