Traditionally, the differences in American and Chinese educational systems are as different as west is from east. Differentiation between the US and China can involve politics, religion, culture, the arts, and education. Education perhaps illustrates best the fact that these two countries are polar opposites. Specifically, these differences have to do with rigid educational methods, teachers’ position in respective societies, and expectations of parents and student outcomes; because of these differences, China’s educational system comes out on top despite having certain disadvantages.
One of the foremost points of opposing thoughts has to do with educational methods employed by these two countries. American educators are not afraid to explore new and creative ways of teaching. This fluidity can work to their advantage or to their disadvantage. Nevertheless, the American system is not hesitant to change. On the other hand, Chinese educators are ingrained in their time-honored system. Sheila Melvin, author of an article in The Wilson Quarterly, writes that the Chinese education system needs to adjust because “education has for so long been the primary path to social and economic advancement” (37+). As indicated, there may be a desire to change, but tradition makes it hard to adapt new ways. An example of this rigidity is the practice of rote memorization. Andrew Corrie, a writer for Spectator, states that the main method employed is “learning by repetition” (21). Students are told constantly to simply memorize rather than apply that which they have learned. Because of this, the students of China only know how to study and memorize. Xu Zhihong, president of Peking University, maintains that although students are very strong in “mathematics, economics, and statistical science subjects,” they are “comparatively [weaker] in creative thinking and [the development of] independent ideas” (qtd. in Byrne 201+). Despite excellence in many areas of study, students in China are thought to be unable to think for themselves. The students may be successful, but the application may be lacking. This is an area in which the United States has the advantage. American students are encouraged to be free thinkers.
Still, another area in which China excels is that of its respect for education and for those who teach. Stacy Khadaroo, a writer for Christian Science Monitor, conducted a survey in which “China [topped] the first-ever Global Teacher Status Index.” A teacher’s position in China is much higher and they are well-respected. Teaching positions in China are highly coveted and the pay is excellent. Teachers are considered to be on the same level as doctors (Khadaroo). This adds to the allure of teaching as a profession in China. Yet in the US, the opposite appears to be true. Fewer and fewer students are majoring in education because of the low pay and lack of respect. While in China, because of the high status of teachers, parents are more likely to encourage their children to become teachers (Khadaroo). Being a teacher in China is equivalent to being successful. China outshines the US in the treatment of teachers who play an important role in education.
Along with the topics of methodology and educators, come the diametrically opposed viewpoints of Chinese parents and students versus American parents and students. Expectations concerning student outcomes are vastly different. According to Garreth Byrne, “ambitious middle-class parents” of Chinese students do not allow for “casual pleasures” due to their belief in the importance of education (201+). Chinese parents support this, because the desire for their child to succeed is foremost. There is little time for play. Thus, Chinese students suffer a loss of childhood much earlier on. However in America, more emphasis is put on leisure time and