Many Chinese students who transfer to US high schools after which subsequently sign up for American colleges often notice a strange dichotomy. After initial difficulties relating to language, many find secondary education in the US to be a breeze when compared to rigorous Chinese curriculum — only until senior high school graduation. After they become college freshmen, the image is reversed. They encounter a difficulty level that is often unmatched by the university courses within their native country.
Although some like Jin Li, author from the recently released Cultural Foundations of Learning: East and West, attribute the space to difference in cultural values, the scholars themselves think that the answer is much simpler than that. In their country, the main difference between As and Cs and high school could possibly be the difference between attending university or not getting a advanced schooling at all.
Although a minority people colleges are incredibly selective C and those tend to increasingly be the target of many Chinese applicants C there’s typically a school for every achievement level. This is not the case in China. There, the only method to a college diploma is through extreme competition in senior high school C so much so that families look towards US schools to relieve some of the competitive pressure off their kids.
That isn\’t to say the culture plays no role at all. According to some students, the difficulty also lies in the learning approach C Chinese schools have a tendency to stress memorization of facts over understanding and application.
Ying \”Phoebe\” Zhang (CAS\’15) says the Chinese have a phrase, \”learning machines,\” for students who pursue top grades out of obedience to demanding parents, and they\’re not universally celebrated. \”For my parents, they don\’t want me to be a learning machine,\” she says. \”You need to learn how to be a human, ways to get along well with other people.\”
According to Yijing Lu, many Chinese students slack off in college because after dealing with years of pressure inside a system that even forbade dating because it was distracting, they welcome the outlet. This assessment is echoed by a few students interviewed by Rich Barlow for his BU.edu piece.
However, according to many of commenters who chimed in to offer their perspective after publication, it’s impossible to base such broad conclusions about the education systems of the two countries according to input from students who have no direct knowledge about Chinese universities.
This is funny. I did my undergrad in one of the best universities in China. And that i went to a higher school which is one of the best local high schools in my hometown. Failing the college entrance exam is never the end of the planet. Many of my classmates who did poor to enter a good Chinese university got accepted in very good US colleges. Actually many wealthy Chinese families always tell their children not to worry about doing bad in senior high school study in China or on college entrance exam, simply because they can always apply to US colleges.