As with any country, there are positives and negatives to China’s education system. Although it is compulsory, it is not free, and many poor children do not complete the required 15 years of education. Those who do complete a high school education have some advantages over American youth. Here are three things that Americans could learn from China’s education system
It is a well-established fact that children younger than puberty learn languages easier and better than those over that age. The fact that in America most schools do not start teaching any foreign language until high school makes no sense given this information. In China, the students learn English starting in the third grade. Although few students become fluent, the basic structure and grammar of a foreign language remains in their heads, which makes it easier to relearn as an adult should the need arise. This means that many Chinese will make better international businessmen than many Americans.
Students can choose one of two paths for high school: academic or vocational. These vocational schools are not considered to be second class, or where you send the students who are not good enough for college (although in the past they were). Instead, they are seen as offering an education for students who want to go to work instead of college. These students’ skills are considered for the job market. Although there is currently a crisis because the skills taught do not line up with the skills needed, this should only require a small refocusing of educational possibilities, not a complete overhaul of the system.
Today, in America, too many students go to college. This is largely because that is the only thing a high school education prepares you to do. Very few employers will talk to you without a college education. The existence of a respected program in high school to teach students job skills could help alleviate the student debt crisis by providing an alternative to expensive universities.
It is a long-held Chinese tradition to respect teachers. They even have a holiday for teachers. Students and parents respect the teachers and hold them in high esteem. Politicians largely do the same. This allows teachers to teach without fear for their futures. They do not worry about how many furlough days they are going to be forced to take because half of the government is not out to scapegoat teachers. This leaves teachers free to teach. In addition, if a student receives a bad mark, it is that student’s fault, and not the teacher’s fault. Giving a little bit of respect goes a long way to creating an atmosphere where learning is possible.