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5 differences of the Chinese and American classroom
Author: EnglishTeacher    2022-09-17


We love asking teachers about their personal style of teaching and are always intrigued about how educators uniquely teach across the globe. Influenced by cultural norms, societal mindsets and lifestyles; there are a number of differences to highlight when comparing the American classroom to another.

Teaching style and structure varies from teacher to teacher, state to state, and inevitably from country to country. Although education is, a majority of the time, standardized; teachers always infuse their own flair throughout their lessons, which makes the learning experience that much greater and advantageous for students.


Here are the 5 differences of the Chinese and American classroom:


1) The Classroom

One of the first contrasts you can find when comparing the American and Chinese classroom is size. Chinese teachers are responsible for 30 to 50 students, whereas an American teacher is typically used to a maximum of 20 students. Due to a larger classroom, the teacher’s focus is not on the individual student like it is in Western culture, simply because it is both challenging and inefficient. Therefore, with no emphasis on “one on one” student development; China’s classroom run far larger.


It is also important to note that in China, it isn’t uncommon for a teacher not to have their own classroom. The reason behind this is because they circulate from each classroom they teach in; while students stay in the same classroom at their assigned desk.


2) The Teacher

China’s education system lacks an element of fluidity when it comes to teachers moving or as some refer to as looping. American students have a number of different teachers throughout their academic studies whereas Chinese students can have the same teacher who will stay with them for a minimum of three years; sometimes even throughout all their years of primary school.


3) The Exams

A common denominator between the Chinese and American education system is exams. Exams determine everything in Chinese culture and are taken very seriously by the Chinese people. However in China, exams are not only a reference point to evaluate a student’s progress; they also determine a teacher’s value seeing as they have taught the same group of students for an extended period of time. Depending on the level of improvement of the class from their entrance and exit exams; the teacher then receives an appropriate fitted raise.


4) The Element of Creativity

Creativity does not thrive in China as much as it does in North America. Where the arts are heavily encouraged at a young age in the American education system, China’s main focus for education is memorization. There are certain downfalls with this kind of structured education system as many Chinese students simply work hard to memorize answers which leaves them with little to no room for innovation.


Time plays another factor in the lack of creativity as Chinese students are bombarded with homework, leaving them with no time for extracurricular activities such as team sports, dance or art classes. Chinese students take their education very seriously as it is embedded by society that a good education is the key to a successful life. Although Americans share this mindset to a certain degree; in China a student’s time is only devoted to school and their studies until they graduate and transition into their careers. 

5) Nationality vs. Individuality

China’s national pride is evident throughout the country – especially amongst its people. This is recognized at a very early age and repeated throughout Chinese students academia. Individual praise is rarely, if not ever, expressed since success is measured and celebrated as a team in the name of China; whereas in the United States and most Western cultures, individuals who succeed are often praised for their achievements.


It is not so much that there is a lack of individuality amongst the Chinese people; it is that the Chinese people are humble and grateful for everything China has offered them – recognizing and thanking their country for giving them the opportunities to achieve their goals and get them to where they stand today.


Essentially, there are many factors which differentiate the Chinese and American education system. It is always interesting to speculate how differently school systems are structured, how they function and what teaching regimes they choose to implement. Keep in mind that our intentions of this article was not to point fingers at which educational system is better; but to highlight how the learning experience is complex and does not follow one universal system.

Fundamentally, when juxtaposing the Chinese and American education systems there are a list of pros and cons. However, when speculating both systems – it can be said that both parties have something to learn from each other, which really is what learning is all about isn’t it?


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