There are six education systems that we looked at in this year’s School Choice Guide. The second system is the Chinese National Curriculum. Find out the reasons why the Liu-Johnson family chose this system. Read about the first system, Advanced Placement Courses and SAT/PSAT here.
The current Chinese educational system is based upon revisions to national education that followed the implementation of the Four Modernizations presented by Zhou Enlai in 1974. These four modernizations – to develop agriculture, industry, technology, and defense – are considered the four pillars of modern education in China.
Who does it target?
When bilingual or merged education programs are available in Beijing, they generally target parents who want their child to be fully immersed in a Chinese-language curriculum in order to understand local culture and emerge from the school system fully literate in Mandarin.
How is it applied?
Divided into a 6-3-3 system (six years of primary school, followed by three years each of junior and senior middle school), the Chinese education system relies heavily on public funding and the designation of “key schools,” which receive greater portions of government funding. These schools are intended to serve the most academically gifted and thus are considered the most prestigious. At the secondary level, “key schools” are like college prep schools in the West. National entrance exams are required for admission into both senior middle school (western high school level) as well as university.
Schools in Beijing that provide the Chinese educational system through a bilingual model usually assess a child’s Mandarin skills before granting admission to the program. Mandarin classes are divided into small groups based on ability.
Why should parents consider it?
The single greatest benefit starts with complete immersion in Mandarin. All subjects are taught in Chinese, thus ensuring literacy and fluency in the language. Additional benefits include an environment in which Confucian ideology provide teachers with palpable respect. Not only do they enjoy untaxed salaries and a national holiday (Teacher’s Day), but students are expected to, first and foremost, obey their instructions making classrooms much stricter than in western schools.
If your child would benefit from more discipline, a Chinese classroom may be the answer. Furthermore, this system reinforces the importance of work ethic through longer school hours and more homework. There is a built-in belief that all children can achieve regardless of their background – as long as they put in the effort. For example, Beijing No. 55 boasts that all their graduates are accepted into the Chinese university of their choice.
How well does this education system prepare students for the real world?
There are more than 100 million people learning Mandarin all over the world. Establishing a child’s language and literacy in Mandarin early can provide them with an edge in their future careers. Foreign students who attend bilingual schools are also provided with cultural and social observation classes in order to better understand the national landscape before entering post-secondary schooling in China or the workforce.
The Liu-Johnson Family (US/Hong Kong)
Clayton Johnson and Yan Liu have two kids: Katherine (age 11) and Andrew (age 9). Clayton is a lawyer and Yan is a consultant. Both Katherine and Andrew attend Fangcaodi International School (FCD).
Why did you choose the Chinese curriculum for your kids?
Yan: When we came to China, we sent the kids to local school because we wanted them to study Chinese. A good Chinese program was at the top of our list. If your Chinese is not good enough to deal with complicated matters, then you will never be able to do business in China. Whether or not they work in China in the future, speaking good Chinese means better opportunities.
We speak English at home, so it’s not a good Chinese learning environment for my children. The international schools in Beijing teach English well, but we don’t believe their Chinese programs are good enough. It’s impossible to strike a balance between English and Chinese teaching. [That’s why] I would never consider sending the kids to an international school.
What are the benefits of this curriculum?
It allows the kids to build a solid Chinese foundation. I want the kids to speak Chinese as well as local children and share the same cultural background so they understand how they think and why they think that way. They learned in school that children must give parents warm clothes in winter and fan them in summer. These rules are quite cliché but by memorizing such things, children come to understand that they should respect the elderly. They’re moved by lessons like that, and they learn something about morality. I can also see the impact of the curriculum in how thoroughly the kids prepare new lessons.
What are the drawbacks of the Chinese National Curriculum?
No school is perfect, but we knew that following the local curriculum would build a stronger Chinese language foundation. That’s their most important task at this point. Also, the spoon feeding [model of education]that prevails in China is quite different. Most Chinese students are not good at critical thinking; I hope studying in China will not change my children’s ability to think independently.
Find the downloadable 2014-2015 School Choice Guide here.
Come talk to the schools offerring this curriculum at the 2014 beijingkids and JingKids Spring School Choice Fair, sponsored by RGF AIR Purifiers at the Hilton Beijing on March 1 and 2.
Photo by Sui