Chinese Math versus English Math

A BBC News article shows the difference between an entrance exam question into university from China versus England:

Chinese maths test

English maths test

Source: Royal Society of Chemistry  

At first glance, I find this funny and embarassing (for the English University).    After a little bit of thought, I realized that it all depends on the way we look at it. 

 I taught at an international school for a couple of years, where I had the opportunity to teach students from around the world (including China).  The students came to Calgary to study High School, and eventually wanted to go to a Canadian University.  The students from China were extremely hard working and most of them were bright in the Maths and Sciences.  However, after a while living in Calgary, most of them became a lot less studious, and a lot more rebellious.  A few factors could have contributed to this change (for instance, no parents to back them up at home, as most of them stayed with distant relatives or canadian families), but I think the type of schooling (the curriculum, the amount of homework,  the way teachers interacted with students, the types of exam questions) was the big part of the picture. 

Another thing to consider is the fact that in China, it is extremely hard to get into University (too many people and not enough universities), so the exam questions must be killers for the best to get admitted.  But then once they're in, the courses, and content aren't as bad (or so one of my Chinese students told me).  Maybe in Canada, England, States it's the opposite. 

I saw a documentary about chinese jugglers.  They excel at it completely - they strive to be the best in the world, and they dedicate their whole lives to it, spending every minute on practice.  I guess it's the same with math (or science, or gymnastic, or whatever else).  This doesn't happen in Canada very often.  How is it that the Chinese have such dedication, and Canadians don't?

Submitted by bogusia on Wed, 05/09/2007 - 22:23

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