Similarities between China and the US Education System

Education is one of the most powerful factors in today’s society. Notably, an effective and efficient education system aids in the development of students’ intellect and plays an important part in enabling people to apply their newly acquired knowledge in real-life situations. Every country has a unique educational system. Indeed, because worldwide rivalry is linked to abilities and intelligence levels, the issue of global competitiveness has led to the modernisation of education in numerous nations. The United States and China are two major countries with vastly different approaches to their kids in class. The American education system has undergone significant changes since 1949 to present. In China, owing to the background and the type of education offered, critics have been raised questioning if the system in a nation can help the students to cope up with the growing demands of the international competition and in the entire society. Comparisons and various contrasts are evident between the American and the Chinese education system. Each one of them depicts some weaknesses and strengths. This paper aims at analyzing the education system in China and the US through enumerating their similarities and the differences.

Similarities between China and the US Education System

Both nations grade their student to merit their performance. In china the Gao Kao and the SAP system in the US are used in the in grading to indicate the performance of the students. The American and the Chinese education have some given similarities. Both the china and the US education styles are plagued with inequalities and rampant discriminations. In the American system, the propagated injustices of segregation hugely fall on lines of class and racism. In both nations, the minority and the poor students have a probability of attending a highly segregated school, and these schools are more likely to suffer from lack of adequate resources and the educators tend to be inexperienced (Young 70). Also, the China education system has been accused featuring class and ethnic inequalities. In both nations, education has used a way of gaining international competitive. Another similarity is that the curriculum of education is standardized nationwide in the two nations. Every school is expected to follow the given guidelines in as stipulated in the curriculum. The standardization of the education ensures that there is uniformity in the all the areas of the nation’s education in terms of grading the students and every person knows what is required to go to the next grade level. In both nations, teachers are required to evaluate the students even though the aspect is more emphasized in China compared to the US.

Differences between the US and the Chinese Education System

Quality oriented verses exam-oriented education

The US education could be termed to be “quality-oriented” education system. Wang and Zhou Ascertain that with the offering quality education, the system of education teaches the learners that the process of learning is their responsibility and it does put more care on the way knowledge is used in the community (Wang and Zhou 47). The American education system does provide the students with the chance to make a decision of what they would want to learn in life. Hence, the American students are initiative oriented and happy in their studies. On the other hand, the Chinese education tends to be quite different when compared to the American style of education. The China education system inclines on “exam-oriented education” and the teachers formulate various restrictions on what has to be learned. Due to this, the students have to strictly follow the China education system and what it stipulates in their life. The education is regarded in China to be a utility, and therefore the students will always seek for highest scores in their exams in order to be termed as the best performers.

The leaners associate education to be the matter of the teachers and the parents and therefore they will work hard in the education to please them through scoring high marks. Good grades and more studying are said to be the way of earning a promotion, getting more money in life and living a good life according to the Chinese education. Therefore, the education system evident in China has a tendency of being significant to the primary level of education where foundation is laid. However, it fails to have essential application in future life. Certainly, the knowledge of the students in the class profoundly lacks real life applications. Nevertheless, the education system in America tends to make the students be creative and develop ability in applying the knowledge they have gained in their respective classes to real life (Young 10). Undisputedly, the US style train the students that cultivating creative thinking is crucial whereas that of China is a complete contrast. China neglects the aspects of training its students to fit into the job market and to apply their skills to effectively benefit their lives. The exams of US are also open book tests which aid in nurturing and in mastering of knowledge. The China schools are more exam-oriented and hence reforms need to be enacted to realize quality-oriented education as seen in the US

Student-centered verses Teacher-centered

In Chinese, the teacher is a central factor in the education system, and he or she is superior in the classroom. When compared to America, it denotes a critical contrast. In the US, the student is pivotal facet in the class and the teachers are approachable and friendly. A point worth noting is that, even when a person is more learned and attained higher ranks like being a professors of the university, the students are still pivotal in the class and the teacher will not exercise any form of superiority as evidenced in China. In the US, the teacher and the students are free and equal, and hence interaction between the teachers and the students is highly welcomed in the classes. In China, teachers are rigorous in class and the education system purposes to teach the students that they should not question what the teacher puts across but put faith in everything that the educator says to them (Pu 31). Instead of fostering creativity in the students, students are taught that writing down and listening to the teacher keenly is what is required of then. Additionally, the great emphasis that is put on education in succeeding in life make the parents seek for tuition teachers in almost every subject during holidays and on weekends. A belief holds that having more education through tuition is advantageous. Through the extra classes, the students are thus able to take in more kinds of practical knowledge, and practical skills which put in a high position in the future job market. A parent will want his or her child to become rich, and the rich people in China are regarded to be the educated and a symbol of success. Therefore, in China, education is attributed to success while in America, it is student-centered. The China teaching methods put attention to concepts which is contrary to that of US.

Variations to Approaches to Learning

China and the US nations also have variations in the approaches and methods that are employed in learning. In China, education tends to be “memory-based”, and in the US, it is characterized by understanding and therefore termed to be “understanding –based” (Hutchins 50). The style of education in China teaches that the students should have a right attitude in studying towards achieving their goals. Thus, they have to strive in remembering the knowledge that is taught in class. At the age of three and four, the China parents begin to teach the students the simple ways of calculations and the ways of writing basic things like names. The memory of the China students therefore, tends to be obliged to repeating for remembrance. In the US, the highlighting focus that is put on the need to develop practical application skills in life direct at molding students who understand the knowledge imparted to them.

Students’ Expectations

In the US, the education system disposes the students into becoming independent people in life while in China it tends to cultivate dependence. In US, the parents and the teachers teach the students the usefulness of attending to the entire society and not necessarily themselves. On the contrary, in China, success is attached to achievement in academic and does not care whether the person is happy in life or not. Therefore, the two nations have different expectations on the child while going through the education system. Young reports that “American people pay more attention to children’s originality and independence more than the Chinese do” (Young 51). Child’s self-reliance is a primary value and component in America and that creativity is acquired early in life. Teaching the child using only the hand makes the child be less ingenuity.

Emphasis to Homework

In Chinese, students have to put attention on the homework that is given to them and work on average four or even more hours. They have to intensively review the knowledge that is acquired in the classes and therefore they are given massive homework to finish. However, the American students only spend about two to four hours doing their homework. Additionally, the students in China have no freedom of selecting the subjects they want, and they have to adhere to the program study stipulated under their department of education. This is contrary to the type of education in the US which allows the student to select the subjects that they would wish to study when they reach a certain age in life. The education in the US also exposes the student to wide ranges of activities to choose from including baseball, soccer, and creative painting. The aim of the examination in the two nations also depict the critical differences between the two. In China, there is a standardized educational name which is known as the Gao Kao or the National Higher Education Entrance Examination. However, in the US, the standardized name is called Scholastic Assessment Test (SAP) which is used in the college admissions. Gao Kao tests the academic abilities while the SAP test the ability to apply knowledge and skills.

The China education system has three major levels including the primary, the secondary and the post-secondary levels. The elementary stage consists of the primary level while the secondary level is split into the lower and the upper levels which translate to the middle and the high school. Wang and Zhou elaborates that “The separation of these grade levels usually go 6-3-3, where 1st to 6th grade would belong in elementary school, 7th to 9th in another, and 10th to 12th comprising high school” (Wang and Zhou 14). In America, the 1st -8th grades are recognized with years while the high school together with the college case are identified as “freshman”, “sophomore”, “junior”, and “senior.” In the US, the law does call on the students to remain in school up to the age of sixteen to eighteen while all the students in the Chinese are required to finish at least 9 years of education. From here, the student is free to choose whether he or she wants to continue to the Secondary or Vocational Schools or have a choice of directly entering the workforce (Young 32). The education system of US also provides electives and in China the students are expected to take the same subjects in the entire high school education. In the two nations, the length of school day is also different. In America, the classes start at 8 in the morning and end at 3 in the evening. However, China classes are significantly prolonged due to the emphasis put on the evening class sessions particularly for the students in the middle and in high schools.

The application for higher education in the US is a right to every student and whereas in China, the students are expected to get tested to get into their preferred high school and this is done through passing the entrance exams. Notably, the “The Senior High School Entrance Exams” in China expose the students to encounter various problems and it is also a determination for continuing with education. In the US, the grading of the students is done on various factors including volunteer practices, SAT, GPA, extracurricular activities and according to ACT score (Cai and Feng 20). The student’s contribution to the environment of the school is used as a grading standards in the national exam. However, the “The National Higher Education Entrance Examination” grading system that is used in China based on performance in categories of mathematics, foreign language and literature. The students are accepted into specific universities depending on their performance. Therefore, the Chinese grading system is not as comprehensive as that of US but only base on the academic abilities of the students. In the US, while students earn a degree, proceed to get masters and doctorate honors, they are allowed to apply for the “undecided” college and this aspect is not practiced in China. Critics have been raised on the China education system particularly on the feature of emphasizing tests and exams rather than the application of the education in real life. The system has thus been criticized to producing robot student rather than well-formed learners who are able to appropriately fit into the society. The system is not like that of the US which aims at bringing out all round students that are significant to the society.

A noticeable difference between the education styles offered in the US and China arises from the size of the class. A teacher in China attends to 55 to 65 students on average while in the US a class has a maximum number of 25-30 students. Additionally, teachers in China utilize their free time to grade the student’s papers and prepare for classes. China employs the cohort system in its education where the grouping arrives at after finding the test scores of every student. However, while the US stipulates that the cohort system is innovative in aiding academic performance, the students are not grounded in the grouping system. The concept of the cohort is also carried to the university level in China. The China students typically stay in the same classroom, and the teachers come to them while in the US the students change classes periodically (Pu 39). Additionally, the China education is based on what the US term to be “looping.” With this, the students are followed by the same teachers to their next grade level of education. This is contrary to the US education system where the student meets a new teacher when he or she goes to the next grade. A significant difference is also built on the meriting the students. China believes that the merit of the students plays a very crucial part in the evaluation of the student performance which is contrary to the American system. The students in China are more disciplined compared to those in America. This arises due to the minimal student supervision that is done on the American students compared to those of Chinese in the classroom.

The reasons for the differences in education system between America and China

The differences in the nations’ historical background attest to the differences in their education system. The US is well known to be an immigrant country whose individuals majorly come from Europe. According to Hutchins, the American nation is fundamentally influenced by multicultural and the multi-value aspects (Hutchins 67). On the other hand, Chinese history could be traced back to more than 5000 years ago. The Chinese nation has a history of old cultural influenced build on the idea of feudal farmers. Undoubtedly, the culture of China tends to be conservative. Its people are well-educated, and they are fictile followers. The variances in the economic patterns also explain the differences in the education system. The US is a commodity economy, and it is characterized by high development along with productive forces. A person can secure a job in America in many ways. The pressure arising from challenges of living is small, compared to that of Chinese. The commodity economy is also changing which is also leading to a transition to the job market. In China, the economy is relatively still under development, and thus the pressures of living are higher compared to that of US. Also, the evidenced differences in the traditional cultures in the two nations have a great influence on the education system.

The China tradition puts more emphasis on the comprehensive abilities of the child. Also, the nation greatly considers the behavior of “normalization and self-condition, they against the independent consciousness” (Pu 45). The education system teaches the students that they have to take part in teamwork for them to quickly adapt to the society. However, in the American society, the tradition of education focus is driven at being creative and developing hidden potentials in the students. China does pay more attention to the general character while the US attaches significant importance to the personality of the person. Also, a tradition in China regards a student to be the private property of the parents. The parents thus have a significant influence in shaping the overall personality of the child. This has an impact on the child’s construction. It helps the child in paying attention to his or her dream and works hard in education to achieve the dream. In the US, the civilization of the nation takes the child to be the primary subject, focus on the quality and the respect of a person’s rights (Hutchins 56). The American society does regard the children as being equal members of the family and therefore have the right to give suggestions irrespective of the child’s dignity and personality. The child is thus left to choose independently and think freely about his or her. Advocating for the development of the child and self-respect is fundamentally important in the US (Young 30).

The different ways of thinking depicted in the two nations are significant in shaping the education system. Notably, the US encourages rationalism, and China encourages affection. Thus, it evidences that the American education system highly emphasizes rationalism and many of the parents take into consideration the role of raising children to be similar to the responsibility of the entire society. On the other hand, parents in China have expectations that the child being the sole property of the family, the parents have the role of developing the talents of their children.


Indeed, the style of education is a cultural phenomenon which is a reflection of the country’s cultural connotations. While China and American education system have some similarities, the two depict having many differences in their education style. Due to the differences, every style of education denotes some advantages to the students. However, recommendations are that the China nation should adopt the student-centered education system to help in producing all-round students that will fit well into society. It should seek reforms of modernizing the education payment to translate into knowledge and skills to the students and learn to develop talents in their student.

Works Cited

Cai, Yingqi, and Xiaoxia Feng. “Reconstruction Of The Financial System In Early Childhood Education In China.” Frontiers Of Education In China, vol 2, no. 2, 2007, pp. 250-258. Brill Academic Publishers, doi:10.1007/s11516-007-0021-z.

Hutchins, Robert M. “”The American Educational System,” Robert M. Hutchins [1933].” American Journal Of Education, vol 91, no. 4, 2009, pp. 480-486. University Of Chicago Press, doi:10.1086/443712.

Pu, Jinfeng. “An Economic Analysis Of The External Constraints On Reform Of The Higher Education Admissions System In China.” Chinese Education & Society, vol 46, no. 1, 2013, pp. 51-63. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.2753/ced1061-1932460105.

Wang, Chengzhi, and Quanhua Zhou. “Basic Education Reform In China.” Education Policy Analysis Archives, vol 10, 2010, p. 15. Education Policy Analysis Archives, doi:10.14507/epaa.v10n15.2002.

Young, Crawford. “The Higher Education System: Academic Organization In Cross-National Perspective. Burton R. Clark.” American Journal Of Education, vol 92, no. 3, 2011, pp. 380-382. University Of Chicago Press, doi:10.1086/443764.

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