Chinese Students Are Taught A Completely Different View Of The World
Walk into any American classroom and you'll find that even the best students get snarky with their teachers from time to time. But a teacher in a Chinese classroom is in complete and unquestionable control. During one lesson, I had a student ask me how many ships were at the Battle of Trafalgar. I told him I didn't know, and he smugly informed me of the correct number (which I don't remember because I mean come on). I then asked him to explain why it was such a significant battle in history, to which he could only tell me Admiral Nelson was involved but not why he was remembered or what he had done that totally changed naval warfare. He knew the raw details (who, what, when) but not the real information (why it mattered).
His entire education revolved around just giving the right answer, so a question with critical thinking was just impossible.
Sirikornt/iStock"Damn -- this one doesn't list 'In your own words' in the index, either."
There's a reason he was so obsessed with straightforward answers, and that's the Gaokao. It sounds like a Street Fighter character from one of the later games that nobody pays attention to, but Gaokao are actually China's college admission exams. They're serious business, and the pressure is so overwhelming that there are spikes in student suicides around test time.
The tests take nine hours, and in my province they were spread out over five days. One of my students had just begun his first day when his parents died in a car accident. He was sent to stay with family and told his parents had taken an abrupt vacation, presumably to a nice farm up-province. He learned the truth only after the test was done.
marako85/iStock"Flowers? Lay your test results at the grave next time if you want them to rest peacefully."
I prepped kids for the Gaokao, and they told me they were taking English as a back-up in case they bombed the test. They assumed their education in China would be over if they underperformed, so they'd head to the States instead. American students have safety schools -- Chinese students have safety countries.
The Gaokao focuses exclusively on facts, so that's what every class is geared toward. If I asked, for example, "What do you think Chinese-American relations will look like in 10 years?" my students would start work on a time machine, rather than venture a guess. They could rattle off facts like human encyclopedias but struggled to think critically. Western education, on the other hand, is all about critical thinking, so that's what we did. Some kids couldn't handle it, sure, but for others it was like Aladdin taking Jasmine on a flying carpet ride.
Evan V. Symon is the interview finder guy at Cracked. Have an awesome experience/job you would like to share? Hit us up at email@example.com! To read more from T.H. Paul, visit his website www.thelegacychronicle.com or (Twitter @LegacyChronicle) or get his new book on Amazon.
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