In the United States, teachers are facilitators of student-centered classrooms, while in China, teachers are authority figures and knowledge providers in teacher-centered settings.
U.S. teachers each have a base, but it’s the opposite there. According to him, “students stay in a homeroom classroom while teachers move between the classes. The belief is that this model avoids the chaos and inefficiency of passing periods and allows for the development of stability within a group of homeroom students.”
It appears students have less choice in classes. For instance, a vocational high school he toured offered maybe four specific career programs, including fashion design, photography and art. Observing how the Chinese dressed, he says, “The Chinese are trendy, by the way.”
It is a rigid, rather than fun-loving atmosphere. “The expectation is very simply ‘you’re at school to learn and to participate in class and do your coursework.’ It appears each student is competing against every other. There is a concern about being left behind. They challenge each other to do as well as they can.” While it might be considered embarrassing here, in China if a student doesn’t get a concept, he or she is brought to the blackboard and remains there until understanding is achieved with coaching from the teacher and fellow students.
At some schools, there might be 80 kids in the classroom, overseen by one teacher. He marvels, “Each of those 80 is trying to get 100 percent. That’s just the culture. How do we develop an even more competitive atmosphere in our system?”
Chinese parents place more of an emphasis on education. He sums up the distinction: “We value education in America as important. In China, they value education as necessary.” Parents know that when their kids come home, they might have to help them with homework.