Thursday, March 7, 2013

Students Compare NHS and WLSA Schools

Yesterday at the local school visiting NHS exchange students were asked to share our experience and opinions about the differences between the American and Chinese education systems. We spoke in front of the 48 WLSA students, their teachers, and WLSA administrators. These are the notes that guided our presentation:

Preconceived notions of Shanghai and China before coming here: 
The image of Shanghai and this high school that I arrived with was that of a large city surrounded by rural forest, crowded classrooms, and a somewhat unwelcoming environment. I also thought that the environment would be cold with very little vegetation. Furthermore, I assumed the living conditions to be less developed. Practically none of these assumptions have come to pass so far. In fact, I am finding many more similarities to New Hampton here than I expected. Every culture has its differences, and I had previously assumed this culture more dissimilar to my own than other foreign countries I had been to. I have found that China (at least in my brief experience in Shanghai) is in no way worse or less important, interesting, or historical than any other foreign country I have visited. In fact, Shanghai is by far the most impressive city I have been to and about a million times more welcoming than I expected. After this trip, I feel China will have earned a place, both as a people and a city, as one of my favorite places.

Of course I had some preconceptions about the Chinese education system, yet after sitting in on some of the WLSA classes at Fudan High School, I feel a lot more educated. In the New Hampton classroom, the teacher and student relationships are very close, a result of the multiple roles both teachers and students play, such as coaches and players, teachers and students, and as house parents and residents. The small class sizes help too. At New Hampton, we want to share our knowledge; there is a lot of dialogue between students and teachers and between classmates. We, as classmates, learn a great deal from one another. Here, it's a lot more of a lecture style dynamic, teachers will randomly select a student and expect an answer; hand raising is uncommon. I also noticed a lot of repetition, and memorization. These differences are quite significant in the education systems as a whole, and therefore may affect the learning outcomes. Despite the similarities and differences between the WLSA and New Hampton classrooms, both approaches appear to be successful in meeting the schools values and mission.  

Before I came to study in the US, I was studying in a similar international programme to FUDAN WLSA. Now I have returned to China with a new perspective. In comparing the Chinese education with the American system, most people’s opinion is that Chinese education is a foundational education, and American education is for the cultivation of students’ creativity and more practical in its nature. China and America have totally different educational traditions and exams. The reason why I chose to study abroad is that I wanted to study beyond the textbooks. Also, I'm more than just an academic, I'm sporty and artistic as well. My interests include football, skiing, and golf, as well as the performance arts and video production. When I came to the US, I felt my school, NHS, could support all of these interests for me. Thus far, I have enjoyed being a part of the varsity football, ski, and golf teams, even receiving the coaches award for skiing. Being a part of the fall music performance and the Mr New Hampton talent show have also been highlights. My school is also teaching me how to become a creative and outgoing person, how to express myself and my knowledge in appealing ways. This has been my experience with the differences between the Chinese and American education systems.  I'm looking forward to seeing all of you in the states. Thank you for being such great listeners and gracious hosts.

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