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BBC Show: Are British Kids Tough Enough to Handle Chinese School?

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XiaoXi

They study very long hours which is admirable but the competition thing is really not necessarily and is very bad for the child's mental health. Also I'm not so sure studying so long really even pays off. I think they just learn how to pass exams. I used to know a Chinese girl and she complained about the ridiculous long hours of study but I discovered later that she didn't know even basic geography or history and also had no idea about the most simple science concepts like what 'heat' actually is. She was 富二代 too and lives in a major city so you'd imagine she went to one of the better schools. Her maths was worse than mine too and mine is only around average. Makes me wonder what all those long hours are actually spent doing. I'm not saying there's no one smart in China or it doesn't work at all but that surprised me. In fact speaking to Chinese generally they don't give you the impression of being incredibly smart or knowledgeable? What are other people's thoughts on that?

 

Also if the education is so great why do Chinese still need to steal every single idea and product from the West? Surely they must be smart enough to have some ideas of their own.

 

They say if you study beyond a certain amount of time it becomes ineffective. Maybe that's what's happening here. Or maybe as I say, they are just good at passing exams. But with all the bribery that goes on there must be so many exam results that are not really genuine anyway. From what I've heard almost every job position involves bribery. To the point even quite poor families will bribe more for a job for their child than the entire year's salary of that job....! They surely would do just as much for exam results.

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imron
They are still producing well educated, capable graduates.

I think gato made an interesting point.  If you look at the top end of the spectrum then yes, the western system is still producing well educated, capable graduates.

 

As you move towards the middle and bottom of the spectrum, then maybe this is less so compared to China.

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imron
Also I'm not so sure studying so long really even pays off

It doesn't.  This has been shown in studies of workplaces that involve mental work (as opposed to physical and/or mindless work), where working shorter hours (e.g. 40 hours weeks) is more productive than working longer hours (e.g. 80 hour weeks).

 

The brain is like a muscle and there's only a limited amount of time it can spend per day on productive work before tiring out and shutting down.  Exercising it regularly will keep that time up, but once you reach a certain point you're better of taking a break and letting the brain relax.

 

She was 富二代 too

That explains it.  In my experience (3 years teaching in China) the richest students were almost always the worst students.  They didn't care about studying or learning because they didn't see it as necessary to their future or their success, because their parents had already solved that problem.

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somethingfunny

 

 

As you move towards the middle and bottom of the spectrum, then maybe this is less so compared to China.

 

I'd be inclined to disagree.  I went to a very average state school but it was still producing good students that attended good universities.  If you look at how average British/US universities rank worldwide compared to average Chinese universities this is very apparent.

 

And yes, the Chinese system focuses on a mastery of basic techniques, particularly in maths and science.  Chinese students are far ahead of their US counterparts in terms of basic high school math - you just need to look at a break down of SAT math scores by country to see how far ahead they really are.  But the price China pays for this is in breadth of subjects studied.  An excellent high school maths student in China will be able to solve very complex trigonometry and algebra problems, but will only have a passing familiarity with calculus, as opposed to the best maths students in the US who will have taken AP calculus and already be at a college level of subject material.

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gato

The median high school student in the U.S. would have trouble with algebra and even arithmetics. The median Chinese high school would have no trouble with algebra and arithmetics. That should be a given. China is able to supply a huge number of entry- and mid-level technical workers.

If you go to Silicon Valley, you'll see that a majority of engineers are ethnic Indian and Chinese, many of them new immigrants and educated in India and China prior to going to U.S. for grad school.

The downside of the Chinese model is that even the best Chinese students (Beida/Tsinghua graduates) are poor at critical thinking and not as good at self-learning. Their range of knowledge would also be narrower.

By the way, did anyone notice an obesity problem in the documentary?

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somethingfunny

If you go to the UK you'll notice an obesity problem.  This is pretty well established.

 

One other thing I forgot to bring up was that in a lot of Chinese High Schools they teach the 3-year national curriculum in the first two years of high school and use the final year to review/prepare for the gaokao.  Now, this might have the advantage of meaning they know that material really well, but the counterargument is that its an entire year (potentially in their prime) where they could be learning new material.  And seeing as they only do this because the gaokao exists I can't help feeling its an entire year wasted.

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Angelina

If you go to Silicon Valley, you'll see that a majority of engineers are ethnic Indian and Chinese, many of them new immigrants and educated in India and China prior to going to U.S. for grad school.  

The downside of the Chinese model is that even the best Chinese students (Beida/Tsinghua graduates) are poor at critical thinking and not as good at self-learning. Their range of knowledge would also be narrower.

 

Very well said. 

 

Top UK education is better than top Chinese education, as you move down, China gets better. The average Chinese student is much better at maths than the average British student. 

 

Chinese people care more education. They also have a better and more realistic attitude to learning. In Britain, a kid who does well at school will be bullied- in China the same kid will be celebrated. 

 

 

The problems Chinese education is facing are usually down to language. 

 

1. Even the best Chinese students, when they go to Beida, they are not that good (compared to British-educated academics) when it comes to writing papers. A big portion of academic life means writing (obviously), in China they don't focus that much on their writing skills. This problem has caused a lot of plagiarism and other types of academic misconduct recently, thus people don't usually associate Chinese higher education with quality;

 

2. They can't attract enough talent from abroad. It is easier for someone from Bosnia to learn good English and then go to Britain for school. If the same person were to learn Chinese it would take her/him much more time and effort. Britain seems like an easier option for those who want good higher education and don't have access to it back home. Many people choose Britain out of convenience;

 

3. School hours. It takes much more time and effort for Chinese students to become fully literate in Chinese than it takes British students to become fully literate in English. It does not mean British education is more effective, it means their writing system does not force students to spend as much time in the classroom as the Chinese. 

 

 

 

I hope I won't offend any British people by saying this, but the reason why British education is good when compared to other parts of the world is political. Britain had colonies for a very long time and many people acquired an enormous amount of wealth. This included looting. Cultural artefacts were not an exception. Even the person who led the destruction of the 圆明园, was educated at Eton and Oxford. This is reality. 

 

I am not trying to blame anyone, I am only trying to explain how come Britain is a leader when it comes to education.  

 

I also agree with Shelly on discipline, sans corporal punishment. China seems to be doing well. Great discipline, extremely nice and friendly people. 

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somethingfunny

 

 

The average Chinese student is much better at maths than the average British student. 

 

I still feel uncomfortable with this kind of generalisation without seeing some data.  I could believe the average university going Chinese student to be better at maths, but the entire school leaving population as a whole?  Now I'm struggling.  I'm not saying you're wrong, just that I'd like some supporting evidence.

 

 

 

In Britain, a kid who does well at school will be bullied- in China the same kid will be celebrated. 

 

I'm afraid this is just nonsense.  One too many after-school specials for you.  

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Angelina

I still feel uncomfortable with this kind of generalisation without seeing some data.  I could believe the average university going Chinese student to be better at maths, but the entire school leaving population as a whole?  Now I'm struggling.  I'm not saying you're wrong, just that I'd like some supporting evidence.

 

There are many British kids struggling with maths. This is not a problem in China. 

 

I am not British. I went to a gymnasium where some students were maths geniuses, some of them work for famous tech companies now. Still, they were part of a rough 10% (me included) of the student population (within the gymnasium) that could do maths. The rest was struggling, they lacked basic skills. Even otherwise extremely smart kids. 

 

China does not have the same problem. Britain does. 

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somethingfunny

 

 

There are many British kids struggling with maths. This is not a problem in China.

 

 

You see, when I read this it gives me the feeling that you think everyone in China is good at maths.

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realmayo
1. Even the best Chinese students, when they go to Beida, they are not that good (compared to British-educated academics) when it comes to writing papers. A big portion of academic life means writing (obviously), in China they don't focus that much on their writing skills. This problem has caused a lot of plagiarism and other types of academic misconduct recently, thus people don't usually associate Chinese higher education with quality;

 

So plagiarism and academic misconduct is because Chinese people are bad at Chinese??? Is this really something anyone believes, or is it just arguing for the sake of arguing?

 

2. They can't attract enough talent from abroad. It is easier for someone from Bosnia to learn good English and then go to Britain for school. If the same person were to learn Chinese it would take her/him much more time and effort. Britain seems like an easier option for those who want good higher education and don't have access to it back home. Many people choose Britain out of convenience;

 

Would most Bosnians prefer a degree in Chinese from Oxford or a degree in English from Beida?

 

3. School hours. It takes much more time and effort for Chinese students to become fully literate in Chinese than it takes British students to become fully literate in English. It does not mean British education is more effective, it means their writing system does not force students to spend as much time in the classroom as the Chinese. 

 

This must be nonsense. It doesn't apply beyond the first few years, surely?

 

 

 

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Angelina

So plagiarism and academic misconduct is because Chinese people are bad at Chinese??? Is this really something anyone believes, or is it just arguing for the sake of arguing?

 

Chinese people are not being taught academic writing with the emphasis British and American schools teach it. Probably the PRC government is trying to push Chinese academics to compete with people educated at said education systems. Hence the plagiarism problem. Plagiarism is there because Chinese academics are not as good at writing as British academics (and British-educated Chinese), but they are forced to be competing against them when it comes to publishing. 

 

I don't support plagiarism. I am trying to understand the problems Chinese higher education is having. The UK has a problem with discipline, China has a problem with plagiarism. Fair enough. 

 

 

Would most Bosnians prefer a degree in Chinese from Oxford or a degree in English from Beida?

 

Last year I met a Chinese linguist who studied at Beida's 中文系 before the Cultural Revolution, 邵敬敏. He told me this (in Chinese):

 

"Beida will always be the number one university in my mind"

 

This must be nonsense. It doesn't apply beyond the first few years, surely?

 

Chinese people are constantly trying to learn more characters. Many university students would come across characters they are not familiar with when reading, especially those studying philology or philosophy. Maybe that's why humility is a virtue here. 

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realmayo

Edit: forget it.

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Lanchong
How does it happen? How have they got so far being so badly behaved?

They usually aren't badly behaved. One class that is usually diligent and works hard with one teacher can, with another teacher or on a different day, be a nightmare. That's one of the first observations you make when you start teaching in a school.

 

The school in the documentary is full of well-off kids who get good exam results. No doubt they have many good teachers who know how to manage the students. 

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Shelley
One class that is usually diligent and works hard with one teacher can, with another teacher or on a different day, be a nightmare.

 

That is bad behaviour, as far I am concerned they should be on their best behaviour all the time for all teachers and all classes.

 

One of the real reasons I find bad behaviour so unacceptable is the distraction it causes, it disrupts the whole class and makes it impossible for the teacher to do their job of teaching well and for the students who want to learn find it difficult.

 

Noisy, boisterous kids should be excluded from the class if only to enable the class to continue.

 

The teacher's job is not to spend their time controlling unruly kids, they are there to teach.

 

The school in the documentary is full of well-off kids who get good exam results.

 

That is absolutely no excuse to behave badly, in fact if they are well off, intelligent kids they should know better.

 

By the way, did anyone notice an obesity problem in the documentary?

 

 

Yes, sad isn't it, not only in schools and young people, it's affecting all ages of people in the UK.

 

I also think that students who do well in UK schools are more likely to be made fun of and laughed at than looked up to and emulated. The terms used to described a smart, hard working student give it away in my opinion, nerd, teachers pet, swot, bookworm and so on. Non of these have a positive connotation to them.

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anonymoose
In Britain, a kid who does well at school will be bullied- in China the same kid will be celebrated. 

 

I'm afraid this is just nonsense.  One too many after-school specials for you.

 

 

I agree with the first quote. Maybe not the same in public schools, but in state schools, it really does tend to be like that.

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somethingfunny

You are much more likely to be bullied due to your race, weight or economic background than for your academic success.

 

Going round saying things like "You're a loser because you got straight A's" doesn't really work when the person doing the bullying is failing every class.

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Flickserve

You are much more likely to be bullied due to your race, weight or economic background than for your academic success.

Going round saying things like "You're a loser because you got straight A's" doesn't really work when the person doing the bullying is failing every class.

it is not bullying in the usual sense - you would be called a swot or uncool (for spending time on studying rather than k pop, football etc).

Seen it done before. It's not unrealistic.

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Angelina

All bullying is wrong. Bullying means attacking the person for who she/he supposedly is instead of the healthy way of showing disapproval at what the person is doing. For example, when someone has too much body fat, it is perfectly fine to suggest weight loss. It means you care about this person, you care about her health. Bullying: when this person becomes the "[insert an insult for an overweight person]". There is a big difference.

Unfortunately, certain things like weight are strange. In Britain, many people equate suggesting how someone needs to lose weight with bullying. No wonder that many people are overweight. Is it because of student centered teaching and child centered parenting? I can't believe the excellent work of Vygotsky is seen as some ivory tower academic theoretisation. It can and should be put into practice- teachers (and parents) should assume more authority. When your child or student is not healthy (too much body fat) you should tell her to get fit, it is your responsibility.

Which brings us to the bullying of those kids who do well at school. They are attacked for who they supposedly are and become the "awkward kid who does well at school". Unlike race or weight, it is politically correct to be bullying nerds in Europe.

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