An international study that began in the year 2000 named â€śProgramme for International Studentâ€ť PISA surveys education systems worldwide by testing their skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students of different participating countries.
In 2009 China participated for the first time ranking 1st in all three areas of reading, mathematics and science. PISA average scores are around 500. China scored 575 in Science, a 556 in Reading and 600 in Math. United States scored 502 in Science, a 500 in Reading and 487 in Math.
Like Finland I decided to look into how the Chinese Educational system is set up and the reason behind its success. One thing is for sure they work hard to obtain the best results possible in their test scores. PISA noted the phenomena and reported the following as well: â€śTypically in a Shanghai classroom, students are fully occupied and fully engaged. Non-attentive students are not tolerated,â€ť it said.
Shanghai also places great importance and care in training and nurturing their teachers who receive continuous support to improve their schools. According to Dr. Miller an observer of the Chinese Educational System points out that Shanghai invests heavily in education research and â€śis at the forefront of doing research to help teachers teach better,â€ť
So, what do Chinese schools look like?
As I browse through the videos on Chinaâ€™s education and classroom management, you have to be prepared to see a world of discipline and organization like no other. Contrary to the freedom that the Finnâ€™s have when they enter their classroom setting, Chinese schools are no Montessori schools. Children enter and sit at their individual desk. They are taught from the start to respect their teachers and others. But what respect looks like to you or me may be different to what it looks like to other people in different cultures. Here respect is one that is not questioned. You do as you are told, and when you do not follow through there is disciplinary action. When a teacher walks in, they all stand in a synchronized momentum and sit at the same time as if staged for their debut. Whether we agree with their style of teaching or not, they have undoubtedly achieved an academic level of perfection. Chinese as a culture are known to push to their limits and beyond. When you see their flawless gymnastics stunts, dance routines or testing skills, you wonder how they did it. How did they get there?
Did you know that a long time ago before 1949 Chinaâ€™s population was 80% illiterate? It was not until Mao Zedongâ€™s rule that education became one of the governmentâ€™s most important priorities. Chinese children have to attend school for at least nine years. Â There are three years of preschool and children do not enter elementary school until the age of six. The Chinese believe that this is a crucial time and places lot of emphasis on training and teaching young children to play games, dance, and sing. Children from pre-school are taught here to act and uphold their values of Truth, Kindness and Beauty. Chinese discipline their children from a very young age. They do not allow waste, or any misbehavior in their classrooms. Middle school is split into two categories, they take a test to determine their vocational/technical path or another basic extension of traditional school in which students learn science and the humanities while preparing for the university. High school lasts for three years: Chinese students receive primary or elementary school education for six or seven years, but are typically in middle school and high school for three years each. Primary schools have 13 weeks of vacations and holidays, junior secondary schools have 12 weeks, and senior secondary schools have 10-11 weeks of vacation and holidays. Chinese youth (15-24 years) have now achieved a 99% literacy rate.
Children go through mandatory medical health check-ups to ensure that children are in good health. Students in high school have to go through a full physical check-up and have a great range of medical tests to make sure everything is in perfect working order before entering University. A day in what is considered the best High School can go like this:
5:45 AM Â Â Â Students awake and get ready to enter school
6:00 AM Â Â Students go into what looks like a study hall and study for 45 minutes. One can see a large group of teenagers, all focused in the book in front of them and reading out loud. It is amazing to see them concentrating on their subject in spite of the noise. Like a warm up before a symphonic concert.
7:00 AMÂ Â Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise before breakfast
7:30 AMÂ Â Breakfast
8:00 AMÂ Â Classroom Lesson till 11:30.
11:30 AM Students break for lunch time
Lunch is followed by 90 minutes of free time. Students have time to socialize and just hang out.
1:00Â PM Â Â Classes resume with a 15 minute eye exercise/massage, because Mao believed this would improveÂ Â Â Â their vision. Lessons continue till 5:00 PM.
They break for dinner and do not come back to school until 7:00 PM.
7:00Â Â Â PM Â Â Students continue with their lessons till 10:15 PM
10:30Â PM Â Â Teachers clear the classrooms and students head back to their dorm
The educational Paradox in China and Finland is that their style of teaching and learning are just totally the opposite in style, but both styles have been able to produce successful students that are successful in testing.
What is common or different among both countries?
The importance they place on their teachers. They both have a careful selection of teachers. They nurture, respect and invest in their training. Usually the principal and the assistant principal go to universities to interview college students. Like Finland they make a selection by picking out students who practice teaching in their school during their last year of college.
A big difference is that China does have an accountability system new teachers are often observed by the principal, dean and department chair and each observation lasts about the whole period (45 minutes). They can get rid of the new teachers if they donâ€™t teach well.
There is no scholarship for good teachers, but they do have more privileges. They are the teachers that are assigned to teach the best students, which will bring them other benefits. A big difference with Finland because Finland offers a college degree, a masterâ€™s to their selected teachers.
If you are a parent, what kind of system would you like your child to go to? If you are a teacher what system do you think you would like to work in? Do you think U.S. Public Schools can learn something from these models? If you are a parent which educational systemÂ would you like for our schools to have?