Seas Apart: A Comparison of American and Chinese High School Life

Chinese teacher Chunyun Zhang is well-acquainted with both Chinese and Amreican culture, having taught English classes at her home town's school in China. | Photo by Barrett Kowalsky '12

Chinese teacher Chunyun Zhang is well-acquainted with both Chinese and Amreican culture, having taught English classes at her home town's school in China. | Photo by Barrett Kowalsky '12

Carlie Schwaeber ’12
Staff Writer

Chinese teacher Chunyun Zhang is well-acquainted with both Chinese and Amreican culture, having taught English classes at her home town's school in China. | Photo by Barrett Kowalsky '12
Chinese teacher Chunyun Zhang is well-acquainted with both Chinese and Amreican culture, having taught English classes at her home town's school in China. | Photo by Barrett Kowalsky '12

Most kids at Staples are probably at home eating dinner or doing homework.

In China, the students may be just leaving school.

“Some of the higher students stayed [at school] till 7, even 8 or 8:30 at night, and then they went home and studied more,” said Chris Fray, a Chinese teacher at Staples who worked in a high school in China for five months.

According to Zhang and Fray, a typical high school day starts at around 7:15-7:35 a.m., but one could only imagine what time students have to wake up to arrive to school on time.

“Students use the bicycles, and if you have to ride more than forty minutes on a bicycle you are allowed to live on campus, at least at the school where I was,” Fray said.

The way a Chinese student is taught is not similar to the way American students are taught, but it is still effective. However, China is looking to adopt some of the ways American teachers teach their students because they like the creative style that is incorporated into lesson plans.  When Fray taught his students in China, they liked how he used different, creative methods such as PowerPoints, dialogs, and songs.

The students receive a lot of discipline from their teachers, which often results in good test scores.  However, the students are so busy studying, that there is no time for after-school activities.  In fact, there isn’t even time to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

“When I asked them about dating, they said their teachers don’t allow them to date.  If they found out they were dating someone they would call their parents because their attention was supposed to be on studying,” said Fray.

Chunyan Zhang, a new Chinese teacher who worked as a high school English teacher in Nanjing, China, explained that the main focus for Chinese high school students is in the entrance examinations.  These examinations are a huge focus in high school because they determine what college one attends.

“In China, you just show your results of the entrance examination,” said Zhang.

In fact, at least 40 percent of Chinese students don’t go to college.  The ones who don’t go to college find a job or go to extra-curricular classes, so that they still get an education.

In America, colleges do not only consider grades but look for aspects like creativity, charisma, or non-academic talents such as sports, theater, or music.  In China, knowing the skills to get ready for college is much more important to parents than being athletically or artistically talented.