Chinese vs. USA Classrooms


Everyone who works with nonnative English speaking college students understands the cultural differences that comes with living and studying abroad. There are so many adjustments that must be made. Everything is unfamiliar from getting around and using public transportation, buying and ordering food and beverages, dealing with housing considerations, money, social customs, etc.

But another challenge that rarely gets attention is the philosophical and practical differences in the educational system. These cultural differences may ultimately influence behavior in the workplace.

One of our clients shed some light on what he has observed between his education in China and his experiences at Northeastern University in Boston.

- Classes are primarily straight lectures.

- There is no concept of “office hours”

- Students do not ask questions or comment

- Students sit quietly, take copious notes and memorize the material

- Tests focus on what students memorized

- Classes are typically 50-minutes

- Students must seek permission

- Serious atmosphere; no banter or jokes

- Unacceptable to challenge the teacher

- Classes are more discussion oriented.

- Students have regular access to professors for questions, conversations

- Students are encouraged to ask questions and make comments

Students are expected to contribute to the lesson and interpret the material

- Tests focus on making sure students have learned the material and have comprehended and processed what
was taught. Test formats vary and include take-home, open book, and essay formats

- Classes are typically 60-90 minutes

- Students have freedom to leave the room without permission to get water, make a phone call, use the bathroom

- More relaxed atmosphere, jokes and saracasm is acceptable

- Independent thoughts are encouraged
For this client, and many others like him, students need help “fitting in” to the American classroom. It is often useful to address pronunciation, conversational skills, vocabulary and general topics related to culture so that students can actively participate in their education, and enjoy and appreciate their American educational experience. This will also help them as they enter the workforce in the USA.