This article is brought to you by our sponsor VIPKID.
A Look into the Chinese Educational System
In order to give teachers a deeper look into a Chinese student’s life and the Chinese educational system itself, we interviewed VIPKID staff about their childhood education. After gathering information about their elementary school experiences, it’s our hope that their personal statements can help teachers in the US and students in China grow a strong relationship.
Longer Hours in School
Typically, Chinese students start their school day earlier and end their school day later than American students. American elementary school start time can vary from 8:00AM to as late as 9:50AM, and typically finishes around 3:00PM. Students in China will arrive at school as early as 7:00AM and stay until 5:00PM or 6:00PM in order to finish homework or participate in after-school programs.
“I remember I would wake up to my parents yelling my name. It was time to go to school. I would attend all of my classes, but was really only looking forward to playing table tennis with my friends after school. We had a Table Tennis Training club. To help pass the time, we would play small tricks on other students in class. I would get home around 5:00PM to have dinner and finish my homework. I would play with my friends after I finished my homework.” -Edward
Larger Class Size
A typical class size in China can vary from 35 to 50 students. When one class is finished, it is common for the teacher to change classrooms while the students stay at their desks. Students are allowed to decorate their desks, but are required to keep them neat and clean.
“I was 1 of 48 students in my class. I sat next to two of my friends. We each brought things from home to share with each other and to decorate our desks with. At the end of the day, our teacher would tell us to cover our desks with cloth to keep them clean.” -Nancy
Students Get Quieter as They Get Older
At a young age, Chinese and American students are very similar. They can be rambunctious, loud, and comical. However, as Chinese students grow older, they tend to become more reserved.
“I raised my hands (yes, hands) during each class. My teacher had to institute a rule that no one was allowed to raise both hands or shout “Me! Me!” so that the other classes would not be affected by our enthusiasm. As we got older, we chose to be silent instead. I remember the silence started around Grade 3.” -Grace
The Belief in Rote Learning
The main teaching style in China is referred to as Rote Learning. Rote learning is a memorization technique that utilizes repetition in order to learn material. The belief is that constant repetition would help students remember the meaning or concept. This style is very different when compared with the American approach of critical thinking. However, not all classes are taught by memorization. Chinese students have a wide variety of classes and topics. Students can have between 7 to 8 classes a day and each class runs about 45 minutes. Math, Science, English, Art, and Chinese are just a few of the many lessons that Chinese students can take.
“I would say that some of my classes were taught with memorization and some of them were taught with critical thinking. It would depend on the kind of class. Science class would use both styles. My favorite classes were math and music. Memorization was very important for these two classes.” -Becky
Big Focus on Grades
Most of the time, Chinese students will receive homework for each of their 7 or 8 classes. This can take hours to finish. Children are expected to finish homework on their own. However, parents will help if something is too difficult. Parents believe that education is the most important responsibility a child has and that grades are the only indication that their child is learning.
“I always had so much homework to do after school. However, my parents always pushed me to work harder and to be a better student. If I didn’t understand something they would walk me through the question until I understood it. Sometimes I was nervous to show my grades to my parents, but they were happy as long as I tried my best.” -Esther
The Pressure is Always There
However, this important responsibility can also put a lot of demands on young Chinese students. Chinese parents have high expectations and their children often feel this pressure.
“My parents influenced me so much. They are very successful. They would push me to achieve the goals they set for me, even if I didn’t want to.” -Crystal
Check out this video on students working with VIPKID:
The goal of this article is to help teachers gain some insight into the life of a Chinese student and the Chinese educational system, both inside and outside of the classroom. Our Chinese colleagues enjoyed sharing their stories and hope that more teachers can utilize their personal experiences to improve their teacher/student relationships!
About Our Sponsor
VIPKID is an ed-tech Chinese startup that provides online English language classes and the American elementary school curriculum to young Chinese students via its virtual platform. We aim to teach English in a way that encourages students’ critical learning and creativity, as those are not skills usually taught in Chinese schools.