Education has always been regarded as one of the most critical tools and a priority area for different societies. Theoretically, it can serve a huge variety of important goals, including the transfer of wisdom and factual information and ensuring the nation’s health. To a large extent, the significance of education is linked to its ability to promote the spread of social values and attitudes to others that would be aligned with particular countries’ political orientation and goals. The conflict of values between China and the United States finds reflection in the field of education. Therefore, the former’s authoritarian educational model and high standards for students are unlikely to be of benefit to the American nation.
The Model Suggested by Chu and the Purpose of Education
The purpose of education can be rather difficult to define since it may look very different in dissimilar societies. Approaches to educating children and the selection of instructional content may vary depending on multiple factors. As an example, it goes without saying that secular states and countries with established official religions have different views regarding the religious components of public education. People in some states may regard fostering strong religious or political beliefs as prerequisites to children’s and the country’s future success, which encourages reflecting such values in the approach to education. Therefore, in general, it can be said that in any country, education serves the purpose of giving young children everything that they need to develop into productive members of society.
The Chinese model of education and related values are extremely different from what is currently practiced in the United States. In her essay on dissimilarities between Chinese and American schools, Chu introduces the key features of the Chinese educational model, including the suppression of individualist values in children, teachers’ authority, and perfect self-discipline (p. 1). From the author’s personal experience, despite its potential drawbacks, the Chinese approach to education actually helps to unveil children’s intellectual potential by challenging them (Chu, p. 2). In contrast, she criticizes teachers in the United States for placing too much emphasis on individual students’ concerns. From her perspective, it results in relatively undemanding academic performance requirements and can explain American students’ being “in the middle of the pack” when it comes to international skill tests (Chu, p. 2). Therefore, by combining her own experiential evidence and credible research results, the author provides an honest overview of the Chinese approach to teaching children with reference to its ability to grow new generations of achievers.
The Model’s Strong Points
Based on the article, the Chinese authoritarian model has multiple advantages, including the final results of its implementation, such as Chinese students’ high competitiveness compared to students from more individualistic cultures. As an example, Chinese students show incredible results when it comes to international assessments of problem-solving abilities and the chances of being admitted to the world’s leading universities (Chu, p. 2). In the context of the main purpose of education, such achievements act as an important positive indicator since they can promote the nation’s power by multiplying its intellectual capital.
The next strength of the model is its ability to address the lack of respect for teachers among school students, thus helping the teacher to maintain proper discipline in the classroom. One of the main secrets of China’s public school system is that students’ parents are supposed to give due respect to teachers’ professional opinions and avoid confrontations related to the most appropriate pedagogical methods (Chu, p. 2). When parents “fall in line with teachers,” they provide a positive model of conduct for their children (Chu 2). Seeing their parents treat educators with deep respect, school students also become more respectful towards their teachers, which has positive implications for classroom discipline. For instance, according to the author, due to studying in Shanghai, her son gradually became afraid of disappointing the teacher and even refused to skip classes to travel with his family (Chu, p. 2). Apart from discipline-related benefits, fostering respect for teachers supports the goal of strengthening the nation since it can encourage more students to choose careers in teaching.
Additionally, since it is based on collectivist values and promotes mutual respect between classmates, the Chinese educational model allows meeting classroom goals in a more effective way than more individualistic approaches do. Unlike the American model, the Chinese approach involves “no exceptions and no diversions,” which is simultaneously an advantage and a drawback (Chu, p. 3). The positive aspect is that in Chinese schools, there are no attempts to place specific students’ interests above the group’s needs by neglecting vaccinations, demanding special treatment and accommodations, and so on. As a result, teachers can focus on teaching and improving children’s skills instead of spending time to meet the unique needs of every single student.
The Weaknesses of the Model
The model that Chu defends in her paper also has a range of weaknesses that are absent in the American approach to education. From the considerations of justice and a one-size-fits-all approach, Chinese schools often support explicitly draconian policies and rules. For instance, to avoid giving preferential treatment to the author’s son, his teacher refused to let the boy use his rescue inhaler at school (Chu, p. 3). In contrast, students in the United States can be sure that their individual needs will not meet an indifferent reception. The essential weakness of the Chinese collectivistic educational model is that its approaches to teaching do not encourage originality and freshness of imagination in children. According to Chu, even during art lessons, Chinese teachers happen to shame students for deviating from clear and strict instructions that do not foster imagination (Chu, p. 4). In contrast, individualistic cultures, such as the United States, emphasize supporting school students in becoming independent and creative thinkers.
Another weakness of the Chinese model that is not present in the American system is the risk of the misuse of power stemming from teachers’ unquestionable authority. Chu mentions a series of incidents involving her son that would definitely prompt scandals or even court cases in the United States. Among them are the use of force to make children eat something that they dislike, disproportionately harsh punishments for unintentional mistakes, and exposing students as young as four to extensive political propaganda (Chu, p. 4). In the American model, parents possess more tools to control teacher-student communication and express their discontent, which can discourage teachers from overusing power.
The Best Choice for the Nation
Considering its strong sides and the ability to propel the country’s success through students’ achievements, the Chinese educational model can probably become a helpful innovation for nations with a collectivistic mindset, which is not the case of the United States. Although the American model has considerable drawbacks in terms of effectiveness and is affected by attitudes “that detract from learning,” it appears to be a more appropriate choice for such a multicultural country (Chu, p. 5). In its current form, the Chinese model defended by the author involves giving much power to the teacher and suppressing students’ attempts to differentiate from the crowd, which is absolutely incompatible with the core values of the individualistic American nation. The United States is widely considered as the land of great diversity, and the Chinese model would encourage the suppression of “distracting” intercultural differences. The author understands this conflict of values very well, which is why she never says that all components of the Chinese model can be easily accepted by Americans.
It is, however, possible that the American nation would benefit from finding inspiration in the Chinese model and incorporating some of its components, such as respect for the teacher, into the American approach to teaching. According to the author, the nation expects a lot from the teachers but fails to give them enough autonomy and power, which can stall the educational progress (Chu, p. 5). Thus, she points to the potential helpfulness of the Chinese approach by highlighting somewhat self-contradictory expectations of the parents of school students in the United States.
To sum up, despite its advantages, the model proposed by Lenora Chu does not seem to fit into the cultural reality of individualistic countries, such as the United States. Proper education and the selection of educational models are of utmost significance since they can contribute to the nation’s ability to make new scientific achievements and add to the previous generations’ knowledge. However, approaches to teaching should be aligned with nations’ core values and cultural characteristics. The uniformity demanded by the Chinese approach would be very difficult to achieve in racially diverse countries that celebrate the freedom of expression.
Chu, Lenora. “Why American Students Need Chinese Schools.” The Wall Street Journal, 2017. Web.