I am a student from China. I received nine years of traditional Chinese education and three years of mixed Chinese and Western education in China. In the traditional Chinese education system, respecting authority and following rules are important values that are passed down from elders to younger generations. When I attended an international high school, the mixed education environment felt new to me because it allowed for more freedom in the classroom. I thought high school classrooms were similar to classrooms in American universities, but after studying for nearly two semesters here, I have discovered many differences.
There are differences in the layout of classroom desks and chairs between China and the United States. Before coming to the United States, I thought that the layout of American classrooms was the same as the layout of Chinese classrooms and that the desks and chairs were arranged in rows to form a rectangle. In China, there is a saying that “without rules, there is no order”, and I thought that arranging desks and chairs in a rectangle was helpful in showing the order of the classroom. When I came to the United States, I found that the rectangular layout of desks and chairs was a stereotype of the layout of the classroom. In the United States, the layout of desks and chairs is relatively flexible, and some professors prefer to arrange them in a circular shape. A circular layout based on small groups can increase interaction between students and better achieve group activities such as group work. In terms of mine, I prefer traditional Chinese education more because it can effectively limit my tendency to get distracted or chat with other classmates during class.
China and the United States have very different views on leaving the classroom during class. In a Chinese classroom, if you want to leave the classroom during the lecture, you must raise your hand to signal the teacher and can only leave with their permission. The relationship between teachers and students determines this phenomenon. Because in the education that Chinese students receive, we need to show teachers enough respect, and teachers hold a higher-class position in the classroom than students. When I came to the United States, I found that students could leave the classroom during class without signaling the teacher. When a student needs to leave the classroom, they only need to stand up and leave quietly. In their view, their behavior should not affect other students, and in their impression, students and teachers are relatively equal. For me, I believe that the American attitude towards not leaving class early is better because I think it is impolite to disturb others for my own personal reasons.
There are differences in the rules for answering questions in Chinese and American classrooms. In Chinese classrooms, if no one raises their hand to answer a question, the teacher will randomly select a person to answer. This is because teachers think that this is one way to test whether students are paying attention in class. However, in the United States, whether teachers use random questioning depends on the individual teacher. Some teachers may use random questioning, but most teachers prefer to simply provide the answer without calling on any student. This is because, in the United States, teachers maintain the idea that they need to fully respect students’ autonomy in thinking, rather than simply focusing on whether they give the correct answer. Therefore, the American teaching style focuses more on students’ thinking and problem-solving abilities, rather than just knowledge acquisition. I prefer the method of American teachers because it can avoid making students feel embarrassed.
Overall, American classrooms are relatively freer compared to those in China. As a Chinese student, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to receive an education in the United States because I experience the influence of a different culture, and I feel very lucky.