Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why are Chinese kids so smart?

Chinese and other Asian students are often stereotyped as being smart, particularly in math and science. So I took it upon myself to look into what makes these kids perform better than their non Asian peers and why some American universities have to set SAT scores higher for International Chinese students in order to control the number of Chinese students enrolled.
Good bye high school, Hello LIFE!
After almost two years of living in the country, teaching in various schools and other academic settings, as well as talking to many locals both young and old, I have come up with possible reasons as to why Chinese students are so smart and therefore, over populating universities overseas.

So I wonder, could it be because Chinese students spend about 8-10 hours in school daily? A typical school day would start at 7.30am and end at 5.30pm. For boarding school students who live in school, time spent studying is often prolonged with an extra 3-hour study time in the evening. Many schools from primary to high schools offer boarding services for students who live far from school and might not make it on time for the early start time. Also, boarding schools can be for kids with busy parents or out of town students. 
Could it be because high school students go to school on the weekends as well? I first found it strange seeing students in uniforms on a Saturday or Sunday, but now I can see the reason why.
Could it be because they start writing final examinations right from grade 1, making them good test takers by the time they get to high school?
students pouring out their "brains"
Could it be because they are heavily burdened with after school academic activities such as English classes, TOEFL, SAT prep courses, music and sports lessons?
Could it be because they are taught lessons that are a grade or two higher than their current academic level, thus making them more advance and intelligent than other students in other countries? It's often common for Chinese students to be bored in their first year of college because they have learned everything already in high school. So some students will instead catch up on "Life" by enjoying the privileges their high school years had robbed them. And of course enjoy freedom from parents.
A student buried in her books. Students usually keep all their books on their desk for convenience
Could it be because they spend practically their entire high school years prepping for the Gao Kao (High Exam), a college entrance examination which is written by all high school students around the country at the same time? Student's from all social, political and academic background will gather under one roof to pour out all they've learned over the past 12 academic years. The pressure to succeed is even greater for students whose parents had spent lots of money on expensive kindergartens, primary and high schools.
Students writing the make it or break it "Gao Kao"
Could it be because Chinese students have been trained on the "art of memorization" from an early age, which makes it easy to pour everything out on the exams, especially on math and science exams? I once asked a grade 5 student to read a short passage out loud, which she read quite well without looking at the book. My immediate response was an outburst of laughter because I was following along in the book, but she was just staring blankly in the room while "reciting" the passage. It turns out her other English teacher had asked them to read the passage over and over for about 3hours until they had memorized the passage.

And finally, Could it be because parents have high expectations on their ONLY child which makes them put great pressure on the child to achieve his/her best?

And so the next time you might start to wonder why Chinese students are so smart, you should think about one or two reasons above, and hopefully everything will make sense :)


Naija4Life said...

This is a very insightful and educative post.

It may also be that some early history of Maths and writing can be traced back to China.

JenJen said...

Interesting post! As a teacher I like to remind people that the culture of learning is different in every country. In America the latest rounds are "blame the teacher" or "bad schools". America could learn a few things from the Chinese.

Curious Kinks said...

I would need some sort of life Insurance to work in U.S schools, where teachers are beaten up by parents for disciplining students. I think every country could learn one or two things from the Chinese. Especially Canadian schools where the curriculum are made easier and easier each academic year.

Curious Kinks said...

yes, that is very true! it'll be a shame if they don't excel in those subjects

Natural Nigerian said...

There are elements of these that are similar to the Nigerian way. It can't be healthy.