Experiences from the Chinese educational system

Written by Li Huiyun, Wu Xintian, Wang Yanglitao

We launched a new research project at Corvinus University of Budapest about the relationship between the fourth industrial revolution and the educational system. The aim of the research is to support an educational reform in order to mitigate or eliminate the harmful effects of the technological breakthrough to the citizens. Firstly, we asked some of our excellent students from China to write their educational experiences. The paper can be read below at our homepage.

CHINA Wen Jiabao pledges school reform to counter economic crisis
source: Asianews.it

Primary school

During my educational experience, I like primary school best for having little academic stress at that time. According to the policy, the pupils were supposed to enter junior middle school from primary school by the local residence permit that entitled a student to nine-year compulsory education, which covering six years of primary school and three years of junior middle school. My school is a famous primary school in Baoding city, which is China’s most populous city with nearly12 million residents and is in the center of Hebei province. There is one thing special of my primary school that we start to learn English in the first year. However, other elementary schools in my city teach students English language from the third grade. Comparing with my following school years, the time there was the most stress-free one for me, as the morning class began at 8 a.m. and finished at 12 a.m., and the noon class started at 2 p.m. and we went home at 4 p.m. We also had midday rest that allowed us to take a nap on the bed provided by school. The main subjects were Chinese language, Mathematics and English language; and the subsidiary courses were Science class, Computer class, Reading class, Music class, Art and physical education. Moreover, general examinations involved only the main subjects instead of subsidiary courses. Therefore, we had main subjects every day and diversified subsidiary courses once a week. In my opinion, my primary school education referred to quality education. In order to broaden students’ horizons, enrich pupils’ life and improve school citizens’ sense of social responsibility, a variety of social practice activities such as visiting museums, doing school clean-up and planting trees, were held by school after class. Because the pupils have a lot of leisure time, it is usual for parents to send their children into extra-curricular classes, which can be generally divided into two types, specialty classes and cram classes. The choices of specialty classes are diverse, such as musical instruments, dancing, calligraphy, swimming, and so on. In addition, Mathematical Olympiad classes, writing classes and extra English classes are typically the most common options as for cram classes. Some students learn these courses by interest, but a large proportion of students are forced to go to these classes by parents. To give an example of myself, I encountered the Guzheng instrument when I was in the third grade. My mother suggested me to learn it at first, but I remained keenly interest in it. As a matter of fact, there are some significant reasons for parents sending their children into after-school classes. For taking specialty classes, the first one is students could obtain some bonus points when they take entrance examination for secondary school. This privilege could be attained by a student who won a great award. Secondly, cultivating children with special talent in art and sports from childhood could be helpful for becoming a master. For having cram classes, parents would like their children to have a studying environment without distractions.

Middle school:

When I was in my middle school, the middle school period was covered by the 9-year free and compulsory education if students choose the public school. For public school, there are two methods of admissions—the location of student’s home and their grades. Thus, the prices of flats near some good schools are usually higher than the average. This admissions system also leads to a cycle that better schools have a brighter future with better based students, while the average schools may face the problem in finding their future students. My middle school is a popular public school in my hometown Suining city, which is a fourth-tier city with a population of 3.6 million people (the standard of cities is usually population and economy relevant). Before the enrollment, the students would have a class dividing test, which aims to put students with the same level of skills together. There is also one special thing about my middle school, which is that besides English, we can choose a minor language from French, Korean, Japanese and Spanish to learn (some of them are not minor languages and we call them this way just to tell they are different from the typical language—English). This is consistent with the new rule of our National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) that takes the minor languages into the exams if the students are willing to choose majors related to them. After I was enrolled into a relatively good class with minor language Japanese, I was also told that if I didn’t try my best, I would face the risk of moving to other classes, which was challenging for me. Luckily, the living and learning environment was great there. The time arrangement was that six days out of a week were the school days which forced me to quit Chinese traditional dancing classes that I started at the age of 4 due to the short time of break. Morning class started at 7:30 AM and the evening class ended around 8:40PM. The main curriculums are Chinese, Math, English, Politics, History, Geography, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The first three curriculums are more emphasized weighing 150 points, while the rest six weigh 100.  We conclude that during the primary school, parents pay attention to both the typical learning in school and talents training, while from the beginning of middle school, both teachers and parents pay more attention to the education prepared for NCEE.

High school:

I finished my high school in the same secondary school. As usual, we would have a class-dividing test before enrollment. In my opinion, this has become one of the traditions of our education in different levels, and later I’ll also introduce this kind of test in my university. After a year of learning in high school, I arrived the first big decision about my NCEE—choosing the Liberal Arts subject (Politics, History, Geography and the three main curriculums) or the Science subject (Physics, Chemistry, Biology and the three main curriculums). Both subjects are connected to different majors and different labor market needs. Usually, the students choosing Science are more than that choosing Liberal Arts, and the students choosing English as the foreign language for NCEE are more than that choosing other foreign languages. I finally chose Liberal Arts and realized that this subject requires the reading, comprehension, disciplinary integration ability. Except for the routine learning, my class prepared for plenty of activities, such as dramas, poem recitation and speech contest. It’s generally believed that only that one examination—NCEE decides our future. But there are chances before NCEE. In the last year of my high school, most of us were preparing for both the NCEE and other national competitions in order to pass the independent recruitment test of universities. For example, if one student is talented at math and participated in some competitions, he or she can have a test of their dreaming university to see if they can enroll to some related majors with 20 extra marks added to the NCEE marks. Personally speaking, the last two months of my high school is the best memory that I cherish, but it’s also the very period that I don’t want to get back to. During that period, we met one another in my classroom every day. We had the same goal and pulled together. The scene that we helped each other to solve problems could be seen everywhere. But at that point I only have a half day off in a week. The schedule for us is four days of exams and two days of reviewing the papers, the rest of the time is for self-learning. At that time, my feeling was always a mixture of hope, motivation, stress and a little bit of uncertainty.

University life

I have a year of experience of the public university in China called Xihua University located in Chengdu city, which is one of the centers of southwest China (the other one is generally believed to be Chongqing city). This is a comprehensive university with around 40 thousand of students and 3000 acres area located in the suburb of Chengdu. Most of the universities in China are in the suburb or at least some of their campuses are far away from city center in order to cover a bigger area. The university is quiet like a small society for me with education buildings, dormitory sections, dining halls, restaurants, markets, sports fields, greens, lake and rivers passing by within campus. This time, after my enrollment I had a test that is a little bit like the ones that I took in middle school. We freshmen can sign up for the honor college which looks for 160 new students every year. As for the majors, the new trend that most of Chinese universities are applying is called big category training. For example, I chose the Economics and Management category at first. All the students who chose this category would have the same compulsory courses during the first year in university. After a year of learning the basic courses, the students can better understand the different majors in this category and their strength than the time when they just graduate from high school. At the second year of the university life, students can start to choose the exact major and further study about it. In my opinion, I have more choices to make in university, which makes it more challenging. For example, I used to face the dilemma of arranging my time on weekends of having the courses of another major as my second degree or preparing for some Students Union activities.

Difference between two systems on universities

1. The difference on the choices of subjects. in Chinese university, apart from compulsory major-related classes, every student must take at least 3-semester “socialist” class (Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought, Militaristic theory). I haven’t heard about similar rules on choosing subjects in the Hungary like that.

2. The admission system of college. Most of universities in China are public universities and there is only one standard for them to decide which students are eligible to get admitted, grades from NCEE (National college entrance examination). Given there are heated debates on the system and now the government is making changes. In Hungary, I applied in the whole different system requiring for several materials. It is fair to claim that Hungary system also focus on students’ academic performance in a less weighted way than in China.

3. The duration of college education. The college years in China are mostly 4 years except for medical students while Hungary advance university holds 3-3.5 years during college depending on the major.

4. The examination. In china the final exams in college are largely made up by written exams, the weight up to 80%-100% whereas in Hungary, presentation or other sorts of assessment method are generally used as well.

5. Living inside the college. In China it is quite common that students (over 95%) are living in the dormitory inside the campus and the university only charge a small amount of money of that because they receive subsides from government. (around $40 for one semester) In Hungary, the university are not obliged to offer accommodation for all students.

6. The teaching method. Hungarian universities would encourage students to speak more in the class and talk about their opinions while Chinese counterparts interact with students in a lower frequency way.

In general, there are also similarities between them, for instance, the ways of having class are the same, both lectures and seminars.

Szólj hozzá!