Education in China – Inefficient Class Structure
As noted in the last post about the high school education system in China, many schools have classes with sixty or more students. Do you think students with sixty classmates can learn well?
Classes in China Have Too Many Students
One of the biggest ‘problems’ of the Chinese education system is that students are “taught at”, or lectured on end. They are expected to absorb what they are taught in class and memorize massive amounts of related information in their “spare time” (note: many harder working Chinese students have absolutely no spare time). Largely due to the enormous sizes of Chinese classes, there is little chance for teacher-student interaction of any kind, with Chinese teachers being a strong “authority” in the classroom.
This has some noticeable consequences. One is that students are brought up in an authoritative environment, and are taught from a young age to mindlessly memorize and work on homework for hours at a stretch. While for those lucky enough to attend college in China this trend is partially reversed, it does leave the mass of Chinese people much more malleable to the interests of an authoritarian leadership, or at the very least more willing to work very long hours.
Division of Classes in China is by Overall Ability
Assuming for the moment that test results in China are accurate and fair (and that no one “paid” for the answers), it is worth noting that for the most part, class division in China is done according to a student’s overall ability. A Chinese student with an overall excellent test score will be placed in an excellent class, in which he or she studies all subjects.
The main drawback of this system is that it does not allow a student to truly follow their strengths. A classroom full of sixty students might have about the same average overall test score, but have a range of English abilities from non-existent to the level of someone who has spent a period of time studying in an English speaking country.
While this problem is somewhat alleviated by allowing Chinese students to choose ‘majors’ in their last two years of high school, it causes subjects such as English to turn into fruitless attempts at teaching to all levels of students within one class, an impossibility for any class, but especially a language class where basic knowledge is absolutely essential as a building block for later knowledge.
How to Partially Solve the Inefficiencies Within the Class Structure of many Chinese High Schools
This should be obvious by this point, but there are two simple steps a school in China could take to make their schools far more efficient:
- Cut class size in half while doubling Chinese teacher’s class hours (See here for a description of how little class hours many Chinese teachers have)
- Divide classes according to the students’ abilities in individual subjects, not on an overall basis (this is especially important for language classes)
These two steps, easy to recommend but harder to implement, would have an overwhelmingly positive effect in many middle schools and high schools around mainland China.