Studying Mathematics in China — Long Hours, High Scores

China holds the largest education system in the world. According to, 9.42 million students were taking the China’s National Higher Education Entrance Examination ( Gao Kao) back in June of 2015.

In comparison, 3.3 million teenagers where expected to graduate from American high schools this year. China produces over three times the amount of high school graduates then America. How do they compare when it comes to mathematics?

Chinese Kid Studying Maths

In 2012, students around the world took the Programme for international Student Assessment. It’s a test given every three years that allows countries to compare average scores with one another.

The Mean score in mathematics was around 494. There were a few areas in China that were tested: Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Chinese Taipei. Their respective scores were 613, 561 and 560. All were above the mean score of 494. Where did America score? America landed below the mean with a score of 481. China manages to teach three times the amount of kids that America does but still beats them in mathematics in all areas of China tested.

In terms of investment, China spent about $1,593 per student in 2008 while America spent $53,000 per student.

What makes Chinese education good? For one, the Chinese place more respect on teachers than Americans. True, University teachers do have a high place in society in the United States. However, less respect in general is given to the high school teacher.

Second, math is placed before any other subject in the Chinese system. 60% of allocated class time is spent on math and Chinese. This is much lower in comparison with American education system where math may be taught an hour or two out of the day. In Chinese primary curriculum, Chinese and mathematics are the only two subjects on the final exams.

Thirdly, Chinese educators spend a lot of time focusing on the group. The Chinese teach their children to work as team and this applies to the classroom as well. In America, being called in front of the classroom can be seen as demoralizing.

However, Chinese educators use this as a tool to allow the student time to get caught up with the rest of the class. It is generally believed that Americans focus on the individual. However, the Chinese consistently focus on the group. A collaborative learning experience is taught in the Chinese education system.

In America, there is a general attitude that a student should be evaluated and tested to see their “natural” abilities. Once their strengths are pointed out, the student is then taught to work on that talent. In comparison, Chinese believe that every student has the capability to achieve in any given subject given the correct level of work.

Another factor is time. The amount of time that Chinese students spend at school is greater than American students. In some Chinese high schools, they stay over 11 hours at school. The typical time for an American student is about 8 without any extracurricular activities. This provides more time for bonding and relationship building with both the teachers and fellow classmates.

In conclusion, Chinese students are not better than American students because of the level of monetary investment made into the education system. Rather, the students are better scored because the level of investment of time and focus.

Thank you for reading.
And comments welcome this way! Charlie.

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