Scholars: Made in China?

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to be studying at Emory. I went to an international school in Shanghai where everything was taught in English and we had an American curriculum, so my academic and application experience was probably like most other people here. I was lucky to have been able to grow up surrounded by English speaking people and plentiful opportunities to participate in extra-curriculars, but for many of my Chinese high school counterparts, their journey wasn’t as easy.

My mom and dad raised me with horror stories about how their academic environments were like. My grandpa made my mom do 100 math problems every day to make sure she was best in the class. My dad studied extremely hard while in middle school to take a high school entrance exam, because if he got into a good high school, he could possibly get a good grade on the high school entrance exam, and then get into a good college. So it goes.

The Chinese mentality is that education is the only pathway to success, which has been instilled into their culture due to the many centuries of civil service exams during the dynastic era. (The civil service exams were national exams that scholars of the day would take to get prestigious government positions.)

China, in many ways, is still like that today. An American education is what many believe to be the best way ensure the success of their child, so these parents put a lot of time and effort into prepping their kids to be the best candidates for admittance. A recent article on Business Insider describes Chinese parents are taking extreme measures to get their kids into U.S. colleges. Just to give you a highlight: one couple tried to hire a one-to-one tutor to teach their kid the SAT’s from 1AM to 3AM because that’s the only time their child was free.

I’m not saying that their method or approach is wrong, but it’s definitely different. It might be worth it to take a look at the similarities and differences between the “American” and the “Chinese” approach to education to gain a healthy dose of perspective, and perhaps a little bit of appreciation.

A birds eye view of Chinese students taking their college entrance exam.

(Above is a picture of a birds eye view of Chinese students taking the annual college entrance exams.)

2 responses to “Scholars: Made in China?

  1. Coming from Jordan, I can completely relate to this post. Just like you, I was fortunate to be able to attend an English-based school that offered an American curriculum. However, I was surrounded with students who were not fortunate enough to attend a private school. Instead they attended the overcrowded and mismanaged public schools that mainly taught its students how to take the Jordanian national exam. Their only way of getting into college was to score in the top five percentile on the national exam. As a result, parents would force their kids to spend most of their time studying for the exams. Although examinations are an efficient way to screen students, they are not a fair assessment of a student’s academic ability. Some students are just better at testing than others. I firmly believe that parents should not force their children into using most of their time for studying. Parents should give their children time to build their characters, develop their social lives, and find their passions. However, this opinion is coming from a person who was fortunate and who did not go through the extremely competitive national exams.

  2. This scenario is pretty universal across Asian countries. I personally know many international students who are Chinese from high school. Most of them told me about how lucky they were to be in America instead of home due to the rigorous requirements for colleges. In Vietnam, it is the same scenario, so I have really strong opinions on this educational . I personally prefer U.S education over this “Asian” education because U.S education develops much more than just theoretical knowledge. It gives individuals social and practical skills. An education consists of much more than just “knowing” things, and that’s how I view the direction of this “Asian” education.

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