The Other Classroom – Qingdao University: Academics

It’s why students go to college right?

It’s always bothered me that in the U.S. that we call it “going to college” when it seems like the rest of the world goes to “University”.  I think I can leave my theory of why there is an obvious distinction, but people go to University to get an education, or at least that’s what we’d like to think.  I like the saying that a Senior told me my freshman year in College,  ”I’m here for a diploma, not an education”.  He’s now a successful chiropractor.

Is it much different in China?  Are students there actually trying to learn or wanting to just move on so they can have a better and career when they leave University?

Well I can’t speak for every student there, but most students that I talked to were similar to student in the U.S. in the fact that they wanted to graduate so they could have a better job and as I heard them say over and over, “a better life”.  I’m not going to argue whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  I’m just gonna state the facts and the things that I found interesting.  Because I have a very firm stance on the state of “education” in higher education.

A good portion of the system in China for careers is based off of a test.  If you want to be a lawyer there is a big law test you take, If you’d like to work for the banks in China, there is a test you take; and if you wanted to become a translator or work for the government, there is a test that you take.  Much of Chinese education is based off of “The Test”.  This of course means that on the whole, the Chinese population are very good at taking tests.  Some better than others,  but when the system is based on doing well on a test your outcome is how good are students when taking a test.

The testing system has been around in China for years.  Even back to the dynastic periods when there was a test to find out who would govern the people of China.  So, in short, testing is one of the things that the Chinese have been used to for a while.  I would say it’s not too different to the way that testing is done in the U.S., however I would say that the way that students are taught is much different.

When I was there I got to sit in on some classes that were specific to International students.  These classes weren’t like all of the normal classes that domestic Chinese students would take, but it gave me a small insight into education and the style that the Chinese preferred.  Which in a language type class it is much more interactive than that of general classes or subject.

One thing I kept on hearing from the domestic Chinese students I talked to about their classes was that they would worry more about memorization.  They would learn the information for the test, and not really take the information and try to actively learn it.  The students I were talking to were above average and we’re able to recognize the difference between actively learning something and learning something in order to just take a test.

I remember from my own University classes how I had classes that I did just learn to take the tests.  One example of that is Calculus.  I don’t think I could tell you a thing about derivatives or how to find one anymore, but I have 4 credits for taking a Calculus class and receiving a B in it, and by the standards of the University I have earned a credit.  I think that’s the fair distinction.  Learning and earning are sometimes one in the same, but not always together.

When you learn you also earn, but earning doesn’t always mean you learned it.

There are obviously differences in the level and instruction on the academic side of Chinese Universities compared with U.S. Universities.  However I would say that overall China and the U.S. probably have similar amount of students, whom at their respective University, are actually there to learn. Most students are in College just to earn, and then get a job.  Therefore, very few students in China and in the U.S. are in University to actually learn and be educated.

This similarity is not one that I wish was apparent for either side

I wish I could be more positive about this issue, but this is one that I see as a major issue in Universities and Colleges today.  Worldwide there needs to be a change in our education systems and students that they are at Universities to learn.  Student come to college for a variety of reasons, but a diploma should not be the major one.  A diploma should be the residual effect of students coming to prepare themselves for life after college, whatever that means to each individual students.

I can hope that students like those I’ve met in China, and others worldwide who are striving to better and learn rather than just earn, will find a way to infect other students and the world with their fervor.  Because the world needs fervor for excellence in education.

We need it now.


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