For people tasked with improving educational standards, pointing at China is often a very popular choice. There’s no doubt that in some measures that Chinese teaching methods are extremely successful. Chinese schools are full of well behaved, focused and motivated children studying up to 10 hours a day from a very young age. If you test something like math’s ability it’s likely a Chinese youngster will be far ahead of most western children of the same age.

But for many people, the ‘Chinese’ approach is not necessarily the best way to educate children. For instance, the method is very much based on rote learning, facts, figures and methods are memorized. Repetition and discipline pay an important role, where information is literally forced into the children. Even with the long school hours, children often have extra tuition in order to cope with the highly competitive University exam called the Gaokao.

It is important to remember that the gaokao is primarily a test of memory. But it’s an important test that will decide a child’s academic and professional trajectory through their life. Chinese children take these sort of tests from a very young age and all the teaching is designed around this memorizing facts and figures, it’s hardly surprising that Chinese children score very well in these sorts of environments.

The problem is that although in these sort of tests and assessments, Chinese children rate extremely highly – it comes at a price. There is a growing belief that the Chinese system is too extreme, children have loads of technical knowledge but often lack the ability to apply it. There is also a lack of imagination and interaction in Chinese school rooms.

For example one teacher said that Chinese children will write down anything you say and memorize it. It doesn’t matter what it is, even if it’s plainly ridiculous the children won’t question but merely remember it. There are clearly facets of a Chinese education that are worth emulating but as an overall educational experience it’s lacking in many areas too. The Chinese system encourages conformity and discipline, it doesn’t create great thinkers and visionaries – which is often what a country like China sorely needs. It’s not surprising really China tries to control every aspect of it’s citizens life, from politics to the internet. However even this control is starting to change, Chinese people frequently use vpns and proxies to bypass internet filters, choosing to watch things like the BBC like this video rather than State TV.

The parents and teachers in China realise that they need to instill more imagination in their children so often this is encouraged. Many parents routinely encourage their children to pick up English language skills over the internet and online media sites too – this video is an example of how they emulate filtering technqiues used in the USA to watch the BBC too – more information here.