Debate at Confucius Institute in London: “Differences between Chinese and Western Cultures and their influences on Education”

The differences between China and the West regarding culture are better known from the perspective of the national culture

November 03rd, 2016
Dragos Marcu, CD News

The educational system in China, as in the West, reflects the national culture. Its structure includes three aspects: value orientation, thinking mode and national spirit. Based on these gaps between the Chinese and Western educational systems, we can create a comparative distinction through which both systems can be developed.

The history of education in China began in the 16th Century B.C, during the XIA dynasty (1523-1027 B.C). Education in these days was considered a privilege, reserved only for the elites of society. Later Confucianism appeared on the scene, having probably the greatest impact on the Chinese educational system. As a result of the influence of Confucianism, the public education system was introduced in China. Now not only elites had access to education, but also common people.

Nowadays the system is a reflection of Chinese society. The best examples are people who have worked as English teachers in China, who themselves understand and can better explain the differences between the Chinese education system and Western systems. The Western system promotes “thinking outside the box” and independence, in comparison with the Chinese system, which is by “learning by rote”. As one can see, the clearest difference lies in the methods that the Chinese teachers prefer. They are in favor of “repetition”, which has its benefits given the fact that the Chinese language has around 50,000 words.

Parents also play different roles. For example, it is not uncommon for Asian parents to encourage and also occasionally apply pressure to their children, in order to ensure strong academic performance. Western parents, in comparison, often emphasise the beauty and fun of school. The reward system is also different. The Western system prefers the “carrots” mentality, ie. rewarding good work. In the Chinese system, mistakes are punished with metaphorical “sticks” and good work is rarely praised.

Overall, the differences as we see are in traditions: the ethics standard versus the personal standard, intuitive thinking versus analytic thinking, and harmony-thinking versus pragmatism (USA and Europe). 


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