Investigating Second Level Students' Perspectives on Western High School Education in China
Info: 31457 words (126 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019
The purpose of this small-scale study was to investigate second level students’ perspectives on western education in my current educational setting. My aim was to find out how a small sample of Chinese students perceive the current education system in China at present and what benefits, if any, there are in opting out of this in preference to a more international approach. Furthermore, I wanted to discover the challenges that students face by dropping out of the Chinese education system which focuses on one major examination; the ‘Gaokao’ in preference for a Western style of education.
A qualitative method was used for this study. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight Chinese High School students who are studying within an American Curriculum, Advanced Placement centre in China. The sample was chosen randomly from three different age groups at three various stages of their education within the centre. The data from the interviews was analysed, and recurrent themes identified. These themes include the participants’ negative views on the Chinese educational system and a perceived view of more opportunities for development provided by the Western system.
The data also showed that the interviewees considered the Chinese system to have flaws indicating these as the primary cause of opting to replace the Eastern school system with the Western education as a more comprehensive and student-cantered model.
As a result of my research I discovered the main theme that derived from the data analysis was an emphasis on the unmanageable pressure that the interviewed students reported because of the Gaokao system in China. Ideally, I would like this research to contribute as a base for future studies in the area of the growth of international education within China.
AEC Asian Economic Community
AP Advanced Placement
BERA British Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research
CHC Confucian-heritage cultures
EU European Union
HEFCE Higher Education Funding Council for England
IB International Baccalaureate
IGCSE International General Certificate of Secondary Education
ISC International Schools Consultancy
UK United Kingdom
USA United States of America
Table of Contents
- Introduction 1
- International Schools 2
- Research Aims 3
- Research methodology 3
- Thesis Structure 4
2.1 Literature Review 5
2.2 Introduction 5
2.3 Education in China 5
2.4 Ascent in demand for International Schools 6
2.5 Contemporary Education in China 8
2.6 The Paradox of the Chinese Learner 13
2.7 Quality of the Chinese Framework 17
2.8 Conclusion 17
3.1 Methodology 19
3.2 Introduction 19
3.3 Methodology –
Comparison of Qualitative and Quantitative Research 19
3.4 Rationale for a qualitative approach 22
3.5 Pilot Study 22
3.6 Participants 22
3.7 Instrumentation – Interview methods 24
3.7.1 Structured Interviews 26
3.7.2 Unstructured Interview 27
3.7.3 Cohort interviews 28
3.8 Procedure 28
3.9 Culture related issues 29
3.10 Western Style Education 29
3.11 Family culture issue 30
3.12 The rationale about instructional practices 31
3.13 Analysis 32
3.14 General perceptive 33
3.15 Ethical Considerations 34
3.16 Reflexivity and Subjectivity 36
3.16.1 Concept of reflexivity 36
3.16.2 Researcher Reflexivity and Subjectivity 37
3.16.3 Ways to maintain researcher reflexivity 38
3.16.4 Subjectivity 38
3.17 Reliability and validity 39
3.18 Limitations of the study 40
3.19 Conclusion 40
4.1 Findings 41
4.2 Participants’ perspectives on Chinese education 43
4.3 Gaokao: test-obsessed curriculum and schooling 43
4.4 Teaching Strategies 45
4.5 Controversial educational priorities 45
4.6 Parental Role in Student Decisions 46
4.7 Potential Challenges reported by the participants 48
4.7.1 Communication 48
4.7.2 Culture 48
4.7.3 Benefits of western education as reported by participants 49
4.8 Discussion 49
4.9 Conclusion 52
5.0 Conclusions and Recommendations 54
5.1 Introduction 54
5.2 Background for the Study 55
5.3 General Perceptive 56
5.4 Research Purpose and Literature Review 57
5.5 Research Procedure 58
5.6 Findings versus Research Question 60
5.7 Relevance of the Findings to Practice 63
5.7 Recommendations 64
5.8 Limitations of the Study 65
5.9 Concluding Remarks 65
Appendix 1 Interview Schedule 66
Appendix 2 Interview Questions 67
Appendix 3 Research Information Sheet and Consent Form 68
Appendix 4 Student Interview Transcripts 72
Since leaving the United Kingdom, over eleven years ago, I have been teaching English Language and Literature within a variety of international institutions ranging from kindergarten through to university. Therefore, my experience has led me to educate students at a variety of different levels of knowledge and experience. Furthermore, I am aware of the differences between working abroad and working in the UK, having had experience of teaching in the UK before relocating overseas. For the past four years, I have been based in China which is why I chose to investigate second level students’ perspectives on Western High School Education in China. According to International Schools Consultancy (ISC) (2016); As of January 2015, the ISC listed China as having 481 international schools and in 2014 there were 177,400 students enrolled in international schools. My company alone has twenty-four centres based within host schools throughout the country. Some of these centres follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, International General Certificate of Education, (IGCSE) ‘A-Level’ curriculum or as is the case with my centre the American Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum. All of these international curriculums hold external exam systems in which students can obtain credits towards their university or college applications in the future.
In this research, I wanted to investigate second level students’ perspectives on western education concerning my current educational setting. Furthermore, I wanted to discover the challenges that students face by dropping out of the Chinese education system which focuses on one major examination; the ‘Gaokao’ in preference for a Western style of education where all classes are taught in English and grades accumulate throughout their course.
Ideally, I would like this research to contribute as a base for future studies in the area of the growth of international education within China. My aim is to find out how a small sample of Chinese students perceive the current education system in China at present and what benefits, if any, there are in opting out of this in preference to a more international approach.
1.2 International Schools
An international school is an institution that offers its students an international education through the medium of its curriculum. Walker, 2015 describes an international curriculum as;
“An international curriculum is the thread that connects different types of international schools be they formally associated with the United Nations; be they state or privately funded, profit or non-profit; be they multicultural in terms of staff and students; be they located in the northern or southern hemisphere, housed in a medieval castle or on a concrete and plate-glass campus.” (Walker 2015:79)
However, with such a diversity of international schools today, it can be difficult to classify their characteristics, although there are some areas in which they are clearly distinctive when compared with national schools. These include:
- Curriculum: They offer a curriculum other than that of the host country in which the school is located. That curriculum could be International Baccalaureate (IB), ‘A-Level’, American Advanced Placement (AP) or Montessori amongst others.
- Students: Their students are frequently expatriates of families living in the schools’ host country although this trend is now changing.
- Teaching Staff: In many cases, the teachers within international schools are also expatriates with foreign education.
- Management: In many cases. International schools have dual management. They tend to employ an expatriate head teacher to oversee the curriculum of education and a local centre director who would oversee the legalities of working within the host country.
1.3 Research Aims
The aim of this research was to investigate second level students’ perceptions on western style education. The specific objectives were to:
- discover the students ‘ views on Chinese education and western education
- find out why they opted for western style education and how they rate the risks of not undertaking the Chinese college exam, the Gaokao
1.4 Research Methodology
The centre I am employed in specifically caters for students aged between fifteen through to eighteen and are studying the American Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum. Eight students from three different grades were interviewed. The interviews were conducted using a structured, qualitative method and addressed some of the topics and issues that are of concern to their educational environment. Due to the time constraints of this research, only students studying within my centre were interviewed but this could be expanded upon in future research by examining more numerous institutions.
1.5 Thesis Structure
This dissertation will continue within the following structure:
In Chapter 2, I will discuss a review of relevant literature, particularly education in China, including international schools and contemporary education in China along with Chinese learning styles.
In Chapter 3, I will analyse outlines on the methods and methodology used, including the research design, the sample, ethical procedures and data analysis.
In Chapter 4, I will analyse the findings from the interviews conducted and discuss common themes described by the participants.
In Chapter 5, I will discuss relevant conclusions from my research and discuss further recommendations.
2.1 Literature Review
The aspiration of this research is to investigate second level students’ perspectives on Western High School Education in China. It will contain references to relevant literature, educational policies and previous research. Furthermore, it will examine and discuss the opinions, challenges and benefits of western-style education in China.
2.3 Education in China
In the past, the Chinese government had dedicated itself in discouraging American culture and the use of English in the country. However, times are changing, this is because, most urban children commonly begin studying English, along with math and Chinese, in the third grade, and it is considered as one of the three core subjects during elementary and high school. In an article written by Dexter Roberts (2014) he suggests that the authority fear that ‘Chinese are losing mastery over their written language’. That is, with the advanced technologies armed with character recognition software, most Chinese lack the need to memorise the strokes for the 3500 to 4000 characters, required by an average high school graduate to know. Over the last decades, English has risen in importance in the crucial ‘Gaokao’ and ‘zhongkao’, that is, the annual college and high school exams held in the mid-year. Some studies assume that the importance of English in the national education system has been complemented by an increase in private language schools and teaching institutes across the country. Further evidence of this is discussed in, ‘Indigenizing the Western Concept of the University: Chinese Experience’ (2013) an article published by Yang, R.
“Since the 1990s, China’s higher education policies have aimed at both qualitative and quantitative developments, including the Program for Education Reform and Development in China (1993), the Education Act of the People’s Republic of China (1995), the 211 Project (initiated in 1995) and the 985 Project (initiated in 1998), and the dramatic expansion starting from 1999. More recent is the “largely imitative rather than creative” quest for world-class universities (Mohrman 2005). The latest policy initiative is the Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development Plan (2010-2020) approved by the State Council in May 2010, which is expected to demonstrate the vision and determination of the Chinese leadership, considering that it is China’s educational blueprint for the next ten years. What it lacks, like its predecessors, is exactly what is required for a blueprint especially for a re-emerging China. The Plan continues to demonstrate prioritized economic considerations in educational policy-making. Economic development is the reference point in every part of the initiative, leaving knotty issues of culture and values aside. It fails to make cultural preparation for China’s more well-round future global roles”. (Yang 2013)
The entire Chinese society assumes that English is crucial for a person who plans to further his or her education and seek a much better career. Most of them agree that individuals who have a good command of English are more competitive that their peers. (Roberts, 2014)
2.4 Ascent in demand for International Schools
During this past decade, there has been a global demand for more international schools. Within Asia alone there has been a significant increase in international schools and franchises. A report in China stated that there is an “insatiable demand in China for an English medium education” (Svoboda, 2015). An increasing number of British schools such as Dulwich College and Harrow are establishing campuses throughout China.
Lin, 2007 has suggested that ‘There is a very high chance that if Asia continues to recklessly engage in the expansion of global schools, the training in the region will be massively affected’ (Lin, 2007). Before diplomats, leaders, and legislators were the only people allowed to attend universal schools, but according to Vincent (2015), professionals in Asian relations also developed a sudden interest in global schools as time went on. The requests for international schools have expanded throughout the years in light of the goals of working class guardians and the deficiencies seen by them of the national training framework.
Currently, Asia is considered to be the largest business sector for global education. That is, about 2.4 million students of the continent can receive training from about 4,181 worldwide schools (Wang, 2003). This implies that it covers about 55 per cent of the worldwide global school market.
The Asian Economic Community (AEC) supports the interest of worldwide schools since English is the key financial alliance’s strong language. Hence, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2012) reports that there is ‘interest for top notch English dialect instruction which has boosted the region’s international schools’.
2.5 Contemporary Education in China
In 1949, the main idea for the Maoist government was to build the state on a foundation of a robust and incorporated training framework (Elman, 2000). During the Maoist period, there was pressure on scholarly ability and communism which reached a peak during the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) when instruction in schools was hugely disturbed and colleges to a great extent stopped to work. Since Mao’s demise, his endeavour to change levels of education has reversed: old qualities have returned and become more grounded than at any other time in recent memory. There are a few explanations behind this. The Cultural Revolution era parents have been resolved to repay through their children for their particular instructive deficiencies. The one child policy dating from 1978 implies that now the venture force of two guardians and, progressively, four grandparents is focused on an individual child. In the meantime, the move from an ordered economy, in which school and college graduates were distributed to employment, to a business sector economy in which landing a position relies on upon the capacity to contend in the commercial centre, has created enormous weights on students and their families to increase instructive achievement (Star, 2012).
The present educational framework in China is as follows: optional kindergarten, obligatory primary education from age six to twelve, and three years of mandatory middle school from age twelve to fifteen. The framework, as in conventional China, is ruled by examinations. Both the school and college structures are extremely various levelled. Freely subsidised schools are partitioned into First class “key” schools and regular schools. The key schools are accessed, either via great examination results or lower results. In addition to money, there have been executive offices and exceptionally active students who overwhelm the Gaokao ‘national college placement tests’ (Lin, 2007:52; Ding and Lehrer, 2007: 199).
The Advanced Placement curriculum creates an added advantage to the quality of higher education in the United States. The curriculum enables the students to choose their preferred educational field and come up with a strong academic choice on the preferred subjects (Pepper, 2010). Thus enabling the students to specialise in the subject and finish the course early. The action also allows the student to come up with the required academic knowledge combined with the skills on the related field. All this takes place because of the specific time allocated in the creation of specific goals and targets of the course and has made the universities and colleges around the United States to distribute skilled labour to the American job market that is qualified to perform the specific tasks allocated to them. Consequently, the application of the curriculum works for the benefit of the country.
A look at the British Advanced level curriculum is also essential for the research. It is a qualification based on the subject that makes up the General Certificate of Education together with the School qualification of leaving in the education system. Educational bodies within Britain offer the education system (Kipnis, 2011). The system is available to the students that have just completed their pre-university or secondary school. The education system is applied in most countries across the globe owing to the ability of it delivering quality educational standards to learners across the world (Stephens, 2013). Countries such as Zimbabwe and Singapore make up the list of nations that apply the system but in a different mechanism. The obtaining of the A level is essential because it is a basic university requirement that needs to be met by the students.
The application of the education curriculum is entirely different from the ones applied in the United States because the advanced level takes a longer period to determine if the child has passed and qualified to join the universities. The AP program in the United States takes a shorter time compared to the British system (Gu, 2014). However, both of them make up one of the standard educational systems that are applied in the world. They both symbolise the western education establishments This is owing to the impact of the system of education to other countries across the globe comparison with Chinese education system explains the difference that exists between the two educational systems that are used in the country. In conclusion, the understanding of both educational curriculums is a necessary activity that needs to be understood on a broader concept.
A look at the learning techniques applied in the Chinese education system is a relevant activity that needs to be understood. The understanding of the characteristics of the learning styles is an essential activity that is practised (McDuffie et al., 2011). The learning technique relies on the repetitive form of rote learning and various forms of memorization that are applied in the schools. Apparently, the approach does not assist in the solving problem. The technique mostly employs the use proof to focus on understanding key topics. The majority of schools within China apply the learning method in the schools. The application of the technique also uses authoritarian teaching whereby students must listen to what is being taught in the schools. Therefore, rote learning makes up one of the key characteristics of the learning styles applied.
Children in China typically go to full-time kindergarten from the age of two to the age of six when they start primary school. Kindergartens have an instructing syllabus that incorporates figuring out how to peruse and compose Chinese characters, number juggling and general information together with music, artistry and recreations. More prestigious, and costly, kindergartens incorporate established verse and English in their educational module, while some are even bilingual Chinese and English. Since the one child policy was received in 1978, without kin kindergartens have turned into the socialisation preparing ground for these ‘little sovereign’ youngsters, portrayed as spoilt and badly behaved (Star, 2012).
A further element has been the development of non-public schools and public schools. They incorporate now various joint endeavours with remote establishments. Henceforth Dulwich College and Harrow School both have Chinese partners; Dulwich College has six campuses in China alone and Harrow International School having two campuses, one in Beijing and one in Shanghai. Nottingham and Liverpool Universities both have joint-venture grounds in China. Also, an expanding number of Chinese adolescents are taking ‘outside selection tests’ to apply for undergrad places at remote colleges. For the most part, these are weaker; however, affluent students whose guardians need to maintain a strategic distance from the loss of face in sending their child to a low-grade Chinese college. However, this does not have any significant bearing on students applying for postgraduate courses abroad, who are frequently high-accomplishing students (Sharma, 2016).
Many Chinese parents wish to give their children a Western-style education while keeping them close to home. For these families, boarding schools in China are an alluring alternative given their vicinity, as well as the fact that their style of learning is seen as a portal into Western education techniques, which have a tendency to contrast the Asian approach (Spence, 1990. 87). Boarding schools additionally offer a few focal points over neighbourhood government funded schools, for example, smaller class sizes, more assets, better quality learning apparatuses, all the more challenging educational programs, and a variety of extracurricular exercises.
The Western presence in Asia is additionally a component in the development of international boarding schools. According to Svoboda’s review of global schools, we noticed that more than 15,000 British and about 30,000 American expatriates were living in Hong Kong (Svoboda, 2016). As in the frontier past, expatriate local people have a tendency to send their young to schools that hold the educational conventions of their nations of origin. From a legislative point of view, branch boarding schools are likewise seen as gainful (Svoboda, 2016). Asian nations incline towards the hometown education during their developmental years.
In numerous Asian countries, especially those of the previous British Commonwealth, Western style boarding schools have been prevalent. British expatriates sent their children to boarding schools to guarantee that they attained a continuous education inside of the British curriculum. Some of those foundations are set amongst the world’s most prestigious boarding schools (Yumei, 2008. 32).
Western boarding schools’ popularity parallels the rise sought after for first class, name brand tertiary education in nations such as China, where an expanding white collar class are more worried about their youngsters accepting a degree from a particular college. To ultimately execute the state technique, it is important to enhance both the students’ ideologies and the political qualities, and also encourage the structure and argumentation of Maoist determination, so as to help accomplish Maoist modernization in China (Zarrow, and Bailey, 1993. 65). At the point when authorities everywhere throughout the nation dispatched another attempt to absorb popular culture into the school curriculum. What remained unaltered was the vigour with which the state dependably endeavoured to change the mainstream culture into something, including a political belief system or an incorporation of communist and Confucian educational standards (Star, 2012).
The Chinese are the biggest gathering of overseas students in numerous nations, including the UK and the US. So far a significant portion of these are self-subsidized (i.e. family subsidised) postgraduate students, generally taking MA degrees.
2.6 The Paradox of the Chinese Learner
Western educators working in a Western social environment were inclined to take a relatively dismissive view towards Chinese students upon their arrival in significant numbers. Thus there were remarks, for example,
“So far as Far Eastern students are concerned it is a truism that, raised in a conformist educational system, they are happier with memorising and reproducing information than with problem-oriented and more active teaching strategies”. (Harris, 1995: 87 quoted by Ramburuth, 2000: n.p.) moreover,: “This approach, of course, promotes surface or reproductive learning, which is at variance with officially encouraged teaching innovations which utilise participative methods and problem-solving strategies to ensure deep transformational learning” (Harris, 1995: 78).
There was an intense conflict between the Confucian and the Western learning style in the range of English dialect educating. A bigger number of Chinese students started to travel out abroad for the English-style education system, yet it all started with the Western tutors teaching the English language on the Chinese college soils. Western, transcendently Anglo-Saxon, educators believed that the open methodology was the “right” approach to teaching a foreign language, yet they argued that Chinese education was all the while trying to utilise a version of the old sentence structure interpretation strategy (Ramburuth, 2001).
The improvement of this educating was the consequence of some variables from the West. One was that expanded travel set a premium on talking and listening attitudes. Another was the need to make the subject fun so as to persuade a more extensive capacity scope of students to draw in with a branch of knowledge with notoriety for being troublesome. In China, in any case, students did not flourish in this educational environment. There were numerous explanations behind this. They included physical impediments, for example, enormous class sizes of fifty students or more and little equipment.
Aside from such physical confinements, there were more profound social components. It was found that the progressions that had happened in the West after the Second World War had not taken put in China. These sequences can be described as student-focused learning, peer-learning, the improvement of a more casual and “vote based” classroom environment, with advanced education students at any rate urged to consider educators to be “partners” or “companions” and work on a first name premise. Educators got to be facilitators instead of purveyors of information. The absence of accomplishment of eras of students in “troublesome” subjects, for example, arithmetic would be cured by supplanting an educator focused society of information in light of the mindless memorization and utilisation of formulae by a learner-focused society of comprehension in light of personal disclosure. Disappointments in dialect learning were put down to motivational issues: dialect learning ought to be functional, stressing correspondence, not scholarly study established in syntactic examination.
Watkins and Biggs (2001) termed this circumstance the Catch 22 of the Chinese learner as they investigated the reasons why Chinese students appear, to Western critics, to face second rate inputs yet deliver effective results.
Specifically, they explained the paradox as follows:
1. Students from Confucian-heritage cultures (CHC) such as China, Hong Kong,
Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and Japan, are taught in learning conditions that by Western Standards are considered non-conducive to real learning: large classes, expository methods, relentless norm-referenced assessment, and harsh classroom climate. Yet, CHC students outperform Western students, at least in science and mathematics, and have deeper, meaning-oriented, approaches to learning.
2. A particular aspect of this paradox is the relationship between memorising and understanding. CHC students are perceived as passive rote learners, yet show high levels of knowledge. (Watkins & Biggs, 2001: 3)
Various studies around this time looked to examine this Catch 22 through showing perception, meetings and surveys, including Watkins and Biggs, 1996 and 2001, Cortazzi and Jin 1996a, 1996b, 1998 and 2001, Ramburuth 2000, Hu 2002. They discovered noteworthy contrasts in the impression of the part of educators, the part of students, study strategies, and the way of life of learning.
Silent learning makes up one of the learning characteristics that exist within the Chinese educational systems. The students are expected to listen to what the teacher says. The activity involves the adoption of learning features. The activity takes place because of the promoted authoritarian leadership technique that is practised in the school. When the teacher teaches and presides over a class, the students are expected to be obedient and silent in whatever is being taught in the lesson. The application of the technique is not beneficial because it does not create room for student participation in the classrooms. The students are supposed to follow all the teachers’ instructions without asking any questions. Ideally, the teacher might be wrong with whatever choices that the teacher has towards the classroom.
Passive learning makes up another learning technique applied by most schools in the country. The students are expected to be respectful diligent and obedient to whatever is being taught in the classrooms. The learning technique is a way of promoting hard work amongst most students within the country owing to its preferred levels of success that are recorded. The activity depends on the ability of the teacher to come up with a reliable way of respecting the created rules of engagement (Neave, 2012). The learning technique also promotes regular interactions between the teachers and the student. The activity facilitates the students to learn more about specific topics through the regular interactions that take place between them and the students. The approach is quite beneficial because it enables them to reach the specific academic targets of the term in the school curriculum.
2.7 Quality of the Chinese Framework
Chinese are considered to be highly skilled as compared to people from other nations and are far less awed by their educational system. Verging on each time a Chinese instructor talks about the framework here, you will hear grousing instead of commendation. Numerous Chinese gripe viciously that their framework executes independent thought and inventiveness, and they begrudge the American framework for supporting independence and for attempting to make learning energising and not only an errand (Star, 2012).
Some tutors such as Hua Guohong, a science instructor, believes that Chinese students and teachers can gain from American schools and support more imaginations. The reason for most students to travel abroad for English tutorials is because they believe that most local schools in China are “Creativity-killer” (Michael, 2016).
The bigger issue is that the best quality of the Chinese framework is the Confucian respect for instruction that soaks into the way of life.
The instruction of the young people in China includes a high level of behavioural preparation in states of mind towards educators, kindred students and learning. The character-based nature of Chinese implies an orderly character remembrance process in incorporated with the learning framework, and the non-phonetic features of the script imply that every character must be learnt independently: there is no phonetic key to the entire text, as on account of alphabetic characters. The chain of importance and concordance mean admiration appears to instructors, and students do not upset classes, even with the kind of ‘disturbances,’ for example, questions, those Western educators welcome as an indication of interest and input.
Training was meant to accomplish unity with the psyche of the universe and to prove shrewdness and ethical quality among people (Biggs, 1996). Each and every individual is fit to accomplish training through personal exertion. Therefore, this nature perspective may tend to clarify the Western educator’s readiness to acknowledge students’ specific restrictions. It may appear differently with the Chinese instructor’s conviction that is in each student’s brain “the psyche of the universe” if they just created it (Needham, 1954).
Despite the surprising number of learners in China, most Chinese still consider English as a ‘foreign language’, associated with external powers and obvious ways outside the walls of the nation. There has been an increase in the number of Chinese students who have travelled abroad to pursue English-style education system, in the last few decades. English has become the main components of modern Chinese education, alongside learning in Chinese and Math, therefore, Understanding the place of English in the Chinese education system leading up to the ‘Gaokao’ permits us to understand much of the modern progress in English training.
The aspiration of this research is to investigate second level students’ perspectives on Western High School Education in China by intending to outline some of the reasons as to why students are opting out of the Chinese education system. Chapter 3 of this dissertation will describe the methods and the methodology used in research collection. It will include the research design, an explanation of the sample, data collection procedures, data collection analysis, and ethical procedures in relation to the British Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research (BERA) (2011).
Research is a form of enquiry which adds value to our knowledge base, our professional practice and to policy development.
3.3 Methodology – Comparison of Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Qualitative research is a term that applies to “any research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification” (Strauss and Corbin, 1990, p.17). Additionally, Mclean and McMillan (2003) argue:
The quantitative method uses a range of mathematical and statistical techniques to analyse data. To test empirical theories and hypotheses, researchers draw on a broad variety of sources, including qualitative data such as documents, unstructured interviews, and observation, whereas quantitative data derive from sample surveys or aggregate
statistics” (McLean and McMillan,2003).
The principal differences between qualitative and quantitative methods include some of the following:
• Qualitative methods focus on in-depth interviews and reviews of themes whereas quantitative methods focus on more structured interviews and observations.
• Qualitative methods are more subjective and examine an issue from the point of view from the experience of the subject whereas quantitative methods are more objective and study the observed effects of a problem.
• Qualitative methods review a small number of cases and seek more in-depth information whereas quantitative methods examine a larger number of cases with a wider breadth of information.
• Qualitative methods seek unstructured or semi-structured response answers whereas quantitative methods seek more fixed responses from participants.
Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods, http://www.orau.gov/cdcynergy/soc2web/content/phase05/phase05_step03_deeper_qualitative_and_quantitative.htm [accessed 10 September 2016].
Even though the differences between the qualitative and quantitative research methods are many, both quantitative and qualitative researchers maintain that they “know something about society worth telling to others, and they use a variety of forms, media, and means to communicate their ideas and findings” (Becker, 1986, p.122). The word qualitative implies an emphasis on processes and meanings that are not rigorously examined or measured, and pertain to quantity, amount, intensity, or frequency. Therefore, qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of the connection of between a researcher and the subject of his/her, as well as the constraints that shape the inquiry. Quantitative research, on the other hand, is grounded on the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes (Denzin and Lincoln 2000). Marshall and Rossman assert that “qualitative research focuses on patterns or process is to explain the “How and why” questions. The methods for gathering information include but are not limited to: (a) participating in situ, (b) direct observation, (c) interviewing in depth, and (d) analysing documents and material culture” (Marshall and Rossman, 2006, p.97). Other relevant qualitative research methods are participant and non-participant observation, research notes, journals, structured and unstructured interview, analysis of documents and materials.
As far as the quantitative methods are concerned, Botti and Endacott (2005) have found that of the guiding principles in data collection is the following. The data obtained are a) an actual representation of a phenomenon, and b) derived in a way independent of the expectations of the observer. The principles that determine the quantitative data collection process are: empiricism, measurement, replicability and objectivity (Botti and Endacott, 2005, p.188).
3.4 Rationale for a qualitative approach
Considering the subject of this research, using qualitative approach seems most suitable and appropriate. The aim of the research itself is to investigate the participants’ motives and opinions, rather than to examine statistical data. The study has also taken into account the participants’ perception of the existing educational problems.
3.5 Pilot Study
As Barrett, et al. (2002) say, most qualitative studies can benefit a lot from a pilot study. A pilot study is a reduced version of the actual study, and it helps in pointing out any issues that may arise from carrying out the study this helps in saving time and resources because once these matters are identified before the actual study commences, they can be corrected. Due to time constraints of the imminent end of the academic year within the Chinese education system, it was not possible to conduct a pilot study for my research.
The first issue was to find the potential candidates to develop a cohort that is as representative of the general population as possible. This was easy because these students can be found within our Advanced Placement Centre. Potential participants were picked randomly, and they had to fulfil some requirements concerning their social-cultural backgrounds. For instance, the students had to be Chinese nationals, not just any Asians. They also had to be those attending a western style high school educational centre within China. Those who accepted the offer to be part of the study were given further information about the study. Information about the location and the time frames of the interviews were provided. Contact information was also acquired by the students to have an easy way to communicate with them once the actual study commenced.
Therefore the participants of this study were composed of high school students who are presently studying within an American Advanced Placement Curriculum centre based inside a Chinese host school in Suzhou, China. As a result, all students are preparing to attend Western Universities outside China in the future. These students were all between the ages of 14 – 18 and included both males and females. Students were informed before and after the commencement of the sampling detailed information of my research and that there would be no impact on their studies within our centre. Furthermore, they were informed that the interview was optional, and they were free to withdraw from the study at any time should they not wish to participate. In accordance with the BERA guidelines, students under the age of 18 were further informed that they would have to gain parental consent to take part in the study. Consent forms were handed out to these students in English and Chinese to be signed and completed before any interview could be held. See Appendix 3. They were selected using a random sampling method to make sure that the cohort is as representative of the general population as possible. The random sampling method used was to put all the students’ names from each class, (four classes in total), into a bag at which point I asked two different students selected at random to draw one name each from the bag. Since this was a limited study with limited resources, the study used only 8 participants for the interviews. As Teijlingen and Hundley (2002) say, in a qualitative study, even a number as small as 12 members are sufficient. This is more so for a study that intends to understand the perceptions of the participants regarding an individual issue. Therefore, because this study is about identifying the perception of Western education among Chinese students, it would suffice to use eight members.
3.7 Instrumentation – Interview methods
The study instrumented the use of semi-structured interviews.
Interviews can be a fitting way to get such information from the participants. However, it was important to consider which types of discussions were needed. Concerning qualitative studies, one can use structured, unstructured or semi-structured interviews. Structured interviews may be convenient and useful in a situation where the right questions can be pre-empted and known in advance. However, in the current study, it is possible that some questions may come up in the context of the interview and which may help in getting more useful information from the participants (Burnard, 2001). In these cases, it would be necessary to make sure that the interviewing context is flexible enough to pursue any issues that may come up during the interviewing process (Crabtree & Bloom, 2006). As a result, the interviews used for this study was semi-structured. This meant that some of the interview questions were predesigned while others were asked as the interview goes on.
Interviews are very different from questionnaires as they involve areas of social interaction between the interviewer and interviewee. Furthermore, they require some training in methodology.
During interviews, a researcher can ask many different types of questions which will, in turn, generate various types of data. Closed questions, for example, will provide respondents with a fixed set of responses, whereas open questions allow respondents to express their ideas in their words.
Therefore, having an interview timetable for your respondents is useful such as a set of prepared questions designed to be asked as phrased. Interviews timetables also tend to have a standardised format and the candidates are asked the same questions in the same order.
The researcher records the interviews and the responses written up as a transcript to be analysed and discussed at a future point.
As an interviewer, special care must be taken when talking vulnerable groups, such as children and furthermore as in the case of my research parental consent obtained.
Furthermore, the language the interviewer uses needs be an appropriate level of vocabulary for the cohort. The researcher must change the language of the questions to match the social background of respondents’ age, educational ability, social class and ethnicity, etc.” McLeod, (2014)
3.7.1 Structured Interviews
Structured interviews are more formal than unstructured interviews. Questions are asked in a specific order and are based on ‘closed’ questions as opposed to ‘open’ questions found in informal interviews.
Strengths of structured interviews
1. Structured interviews are easy to replicate due to the set of fixed ‘closed’ questions used, which are easy to quantify.
2. Structured interviews are relatively quick to conduct meaning; many discussions can take place within a short amount of time. Therefore a broad cross-section of results can be obtained, and the findings analysed.
Limitations of structured interviews
1. Structured interviews are not as flexible. New questions cannot be asked impromptu, and the interview timetable followed to the letter.
2. Answers from structured interviews can lack detail as only ‘closed’ questions posed, lead to quantitative data”. McLeod, (2014)
3.7.2 Unstructured Interview
Sometimes referred to as ‘discovery interviews, unstructured interviews are far more informal.
It is not necessary to use an interview timetable, and they will contain open-ended questions asked in any order with questions added, missed or even expanded on as the Interview progresses.
1. Unstructured interviews are more flexible than structured interviews. Questions can be adapted depending on the interviewee’s answers. The interview can deviate from the original timetable.
2. Unstructured interviews produce qualitative data through the use of open questions, allowing the respondent to answer choosing their words. Thus enabling the researcher to develop a real sense of a person’s understanding of a situation.
3. They also have increased validity as it gives the interviewer the opportunity to probe deeper, seek clarification and allow the interviewee to control the direction of the interview, etc.
1. Unstructured interviews can be time-consuming to conduct and analyse the qualitative data.
2. Interviewers need specialist training for unstructured interview techniques. For example, individual skills may include the ability to establish rapport & knowing when to probe the interviewee. Furthermore, this can be expensive and therefore not as cheap as collecting data via questionnaires. McLeod, (2014)
3.7.3 Cohort interviews
Interviews were held with the participants as a way to get the information from them. The interview questions were designed to suit the need of the study, which is to answer the research question: ‘Investigating the Students Perceptions of Western High School Education in China’. Each participant was asked the structured interview questions while the unstructured questions were asked contextually depending on the responses of the individual participants. To further improve the validity of the information gotten from the interviews, each candidate was interviewed individually as opposed to using a group interview.
The students were contacted at least two days before their interview session and were reminded about the location and informed about the day and time. Once they confirmed their availability, they were slotted for the interview. On the day of the interview, the students were contacted a few hours before the interview to avoid any last minute inconveniences. Due to the age range and linguistic level of the interviewees, the questionnaires have been issued prior to the interview date. This enabled the respondents to comprehend, formulate and prepare their responses. Once this was done, they were engaged in the interview sessions answering the various questions concerning their sentiments about the western education. The questions in the interview were grouped into three major categories as follows;
3.9 Culture related issues
To recognise a major reason why China had for a long time refused and avoided Western education is one of the perceptions that it disrupts the age-old Chinese culture and traditions (Hazel & Shinobu, 1991). Concerning this study, it was necessary to find out whether young people also had the same attitude. The questions for this apart were geared towards identifying whether young people feel that western education is a threat to their native culture. Furthermore, the questions geared towards identifying whether they believe that there is a need for their native culture to be sustained and conserved.
Questions in this study were related to the students’ opinions of the education system in China leading to their reasons for opting out of this and what possible risks were involved.
3.10 Western Style Education
“One thing to be considered about the proliferation of western education in China is the issue of globalisation” (Hu, 2002). Hu goes on to say: “It is significant to consider that globalisation is a formidable force, and most people in the world are feeling the need to be globally competent”. Chinese education may not offer the necessary skills to compete in a global world where English is the de facto language. Apart from just English (note that Chinese universities do not use English as the instruction language), being conversant with Western culture is an added advantage for most people who are not natives of the western world. As a result, the second group of questions were designed to investigate this issue and determine if the younger generation of Chinese students is more concerned with being globally competent. In this regard, the questions looked at these perceptions of the Chinese students about whether they felt that Western education is superior to the Chinese education, particularly when competing in a global world is concerned.
Students were asked their opinion as to what choices of International Education was available for them in China and why they consider the competition of the applications.
3.11 Family culture issue
The third category of questions concerned how the students feel their parents regard western education. Concerning this issue, there are a few pertinent issues that have to be put into consideration. First, there is the issue of the fact that Chinese parents are more overbearing in their children’s life more than western parents. In recent years traditional Chinese-style parenting has attracted attention in the west as being more authoritarian and controlling with some studies coining the phrase, “Tiger mums,” who more likely to use psychological control over their children than Western parents. Recent research suggests that Chinese mothers are more psychologically controlling because their feelings of self-being are tied to their children’s performance. Much research has looked into the effects that psychological control can have on a child’s development. Parents attempt to monitor and direct their children’s behaviour by manipulating their feelings, in such a way, as by guilt-tripping or shaming them when they do not perform well.
“Those kids have emotional problems like depression and anxiety and are overall less happy,” (Pomerantz 2007)
In an attempt to unravel the parenting differences between continents, Pomerantz and her colleagues in China reasoned that specific aspects of Chinese culture tend to make parents base more of their self-being on their children’s performance, extending their tendency to use the psychological control to make their kids perform better in school.
Pomerantz states: “For example, Chinese culture is considered a “face” culture, where people’s sense of worth is highly affected by how much respect they get from others. The more people fulfil their societal expectations, the more respect they get — one such expectation is making sure their children are well developed, especially concerning academics.” (Pomerantz 2007)
In this regard, a Chinese parent is likely to be a major decision maker in the child’s life even if the person has reached the age of a young adult. Secondly, given that these are high school students who are most likely to be dependent on their parents for financial support both school fees and up keep, this can be a determinant factor.
Students were invited to comment on their parental opinion in relation to their choice of Education.
3.12 The rationale about instructional practices
During the interviews, students were also asked questions regarding what they felt about western education. For those who had a positive perception about western education, further questions were elicited on what basis they felt the way they did about western education. The answers were based on issues such as quality, exposure or relevance in a global world. Concerning exposure, the participants responded to questions regarding whether they felt or believed that the western education is better able to expose them to the world.
These two aspects were used to determine how much the students were oriented towards one side, either western of Chinese education. The conclusion is based on the number of students who felt that one system of education is better than the other. For those who are already in such institutions, it would be necessary to identify why they are there as there may be a host of reasons, such as this study, where all students interviewed were already attending a Western style education institution following the American AP curriculum. These reasons may be convenience (such as having a sponsored scholarship, the school being near their residence, or cost), whether or not the students chose to be in that school or were forced to go there because the parent said so, availability of the program they are doing in other similar Chinese institutions and any other reason.
For this research, students were invited to give their opinions on instructional practices, content coverage, classroom resources and methods of providing feedback.
In agreement with the ethical guidelines as set out by BERA, prior written permission of the interviewees and their parents or guardians was obtained so that the interviews could be recorded. These interviews were then transcribed verbatim and analysed for similar and emergent themes.
The analysis involved looking at the responses of the individuals to make a conclusive decision about the issue. Moreover, the analysis part of this study looked at the participants’ responses and then identified the general perspective of the participants. In order to lead to a clear perceptive, it was necessary to group the responses about whether they tended to lean towards a positive or negative outlook on the western education. The analysis involved three major processes as follows;
3.14 General perceptive
Depending on how the participants answered the question, it was easy to determine if the student supports or does not support the western education. The question that was most useful in this part was the one about whether the student thinks that western education at high school level is better than that of Chinese education.
The purpose of the study was to get the most reliable information about the general attitudes and perspectives of a small cohort of Chinese students towards western education. These perspectives could be affected by a host of factors ranging from family background to cultural background. For instance, a Chinese student whose parents were educated in the west is more likely to have a positive perspective about western education compared to one whose parents did not go to such schools (Steinberg, et al. 2002). Furthermore, the level of education of the parent, regardless of whether they attended a western or a Chinese institution of education could also affect the students’ attitude as the students are more likely to be inclined to their parent’s perceptions and attitudes. In this regard, it would be necessary to make sure that the cohort will be made of participants with various family; socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds to get the best results. Furthermore, this can be achieved through making sure that the study sample is composed of students from a different school, possibly from both western and Chinese institutions.
The cohort who participated in this research were all students within an Advanced Placement Centre based within a host school in Suzhou, China. All have opted out of the Chinese educational system to complete a western style of education so as to gain college credits to enhance their applications to western universities in the future. All members of the cohort were Chinese citizens aged between fifteen and eighteen from different social and family backgrounds.
All these factors were considered as all were important in not only determining the validity of the data collected but was also useful in the analysis process.
3.15 Ethical Considerations
Despite the fact that this research was occurring in a worldwide setting, outside the EU, where controls are marginally more casual, before commencement, it was necessary to confirm compliance with the Hibernia College ethics policy as set out in the guidelines issued by the British Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research (BERA) (2011). Therefore, an ethics review form was completed and submitted to Hibernia College’s ethics committee to obtain approval on my proposed research. Furthermore, permission was sought and granted by the Director of the institution to carry out the study in the school and the highest standards were still adhered to as per the guidelines.
The BERA guidelines endeavour to cultivate regard for all instructive research conducted concerning the individual, learning, democratic values, the nature of insightful research and scholarly opportunity (BERA, 2011, p.4).
As expressed in the guidelines: the researcher is responsible to all participants in the research study and this specifically identified the students interviewed in regards to this study. All interviewees were required to sign a voluntary informed consent form, and the process of the research explained to them in precise detail before commencement. Students were informed before, during and after the start of the sampling detailed information of my research and that there would be no impact on their studies within our centre. Furthermore, they were informed that the interview was optional, and they were free to withdraw from the study at any time should they not wish to participate. Furthermore, in accordance with the BERA guidelines, students under the age of 18 were further informed that they would have to gain parental consent to take part in the study. Consent forms were handed out to these students in English and Chinese to be signed and completed before any interview could be held. See Appendix 3.
Students were selected using a random sampling method to make sure that the cohort is as representative of the general population as possible.
To ensure confidentiality and anonymity to all included, the school and the interviewees have not been named anywhere in the research. Throughout the remainder of this study all participants are referred to as an alphabetical letter A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H.
Furthermore, given the fact that this study was about two different cultural, educational systems, it was necessary to make sure that the materials used such as the questions did not have anything that was demeaning to either of the two cultures. The questions had to be designed in such a way that they did not insult either of the cultures. More importantly, it had to be done in such a way that it did not offend the Chinese culture or depict it to be inferior to the western culture. As clearly established, the main issue was to determine how the current generation of young Chinese students felt about Western culture. As a result, proper language and wording had to be used as a way to avoid unnecessary barriers that would hinder the efficiency of the study.
3.16 Reflexivity and Subjectivity
3.16.1 Concept of reflexivity
Qualitative research frequently applies the concept of reflexivity. Moreover, in case the research can be validated by qualitative researchers, they accept this method as an appropriate one (Cutcliffe and McKenna, 2002; Pillow, 2003; Kingdon, 2005). Gerrish and Lacey (2006) refer to reflexivity as to a “vital integer of qualitative research” since it enables the researchers to present their thoughts and ideas on the influence of their actions and certain perceptions on the collection and analysis of the data.
Continuous process of reflection is analysed in the research of Parahoo (2006) to show how the collection and analysis of the data depends on the attitudes, ideas, values, beliefs and actions not only of the respondents, but also of the researchers. In addition, according to Morrow (2006), reflexivity may be defined as a strategy that allows researchers to get accurate understanding of what the participants mean as the self-examination method is not reliable because of the numerous assumptions and biases which make an influence on the study. Parker (1999) referred to the aspect of reflexivity from an individual perspective and focused on its ability to allow thinking about one’s own beliefs, opinions, experiences, and ideas from the point of view of their impact on the research through the researcher’s views on politics or social development.
According to Willig (2001), only getting a complete understanding of the reflexivity, researchers can conduct the research thinking over their assumptions. These studies make the foundation for the reflexivity theory. Every research has reflexive practice as an integral constituent part, especially in the perspective of clinical practice aspects which are analysed by the researcher.
3.16.2 Researcher Reflexivity and Subjectivity
According to Strauss and Corbin (1998), a grounded theorist has the following key features:
1. The ability to keep away for a while and do critical analysis of a certain situation
2. The ability to identify the presence of bias
3. The ability to demonstrate abstract thinking
4. The ability to show flexibility of thinking and openness to critical remarks
5. Responsiveness to the respondents’ ideas and behaviour
6. The ability to demonstrate sense of absorption into the process of work and devotion to the set aim. (p. 7)
“Objectivity is an idealism for the researcher to be confident that data and the analysis that emerge from the experience of the participants and are reasonable and rational interpretations of the data. In constructivist grounded theory, the researcher does not strive for objectivity but instead aims to be transparent about the subjective approach and interpretations made through the research process with the participants”. (Charmaz, 2000).
Brown et al. (2002) refer to a researcher as to a data collector of data who also does the appropriate analysis in a qualitative inquiry. Doing the research, I fulfilled my function of a participants’ selector, collector of the data, transcriber, interviewer, and analyst of the collected data. My key role was to make thoughtful decisions about the choice of the data to be collected, and I was supposed to be open to every new experience, reflective to what I was doing, and transparent in all my actions within the study.
3.16.3 Ways to maintain researcher reflexivity
According to the explanation of Jomeen (2006), the aim of the reflexive notes is demonstration of the appreciation in a theoretical and methodological perspective that is done openly with thorough awareness and understanding of the relationships and interactions between the participants and a researcher. Reflexivity can be effectively maintained with the help of taking notes, keeping journals, and writing memos (McGhee et al., 2007).
The definition of subjectivity presents it as the way of shaping research with the specific interests, ideas, and history of the researcher. Subjectivity can be referred to as bias if it makes the study findings invalid (Colwell, 2006, p. 213). However, subjectivity can be beneficial for the conducted analysis in case the researcher involves into a study and gives unique insight that other researchers lack. At the phase of designing, it is recommended for the researchers to reflect over the potential impact of their professional or personal background on their views necessary for the research, and the view other researchers have of them. They should also think about the possible bias or involvement which they can cause working on the topic of the research (Colwell, 2006, p. 213). At the phase of writing, it is obligatory for a researcher to make a decision regarding the extent of inclusion of their personal views and relationship with the participants in presenting their research findings.
3.17 Reliability and validity
Although the interviews were a suitable way to carry out this kind of qualitative research, many issues were likely to come up and affect not only the validity but also the efficiency of the study (Seidman, 2013). Information gotten through interviews can be subjective enough to thwart the merits of the study and the end results (Ratner, 2002). As a result, there are a few pertinent issues that had to be considered through the planning and the execution of this study. First, it was necessary to come up with a way to avoid ‘politically correct’ answers and create a situation where the interviewee felt comfortable to give his/her opinion as opposed to saying what he or she felt to be what is expected of him/her. This was possible by giving the students open-ended questions so that they could have a way to explore their opinions as opposed to being limited to a yes or no answer.
It was also necessary to avoid misunderstandings and have precise questions while avoiding ambiguity.
3.18 Limitations of the study
There was a number limiting factors connected with this research. Firstly, all eight students were members of the same institution, studying the same syllabuses, albeit of different grades and ages. Secondly, due to the academic calendar within China and the timing of my research, there was no opportunity to design and implement a pilot study. However, the interviews were designed to be probing and in-depth to reflect an accurate perspective from this particular cohort. Both of which lend themselves to the debate on the popularity of western style education in China.
Due to the nature of the research question, ‘Investigating Second Level Students’ Perspectives on Western High School Education in China’, a qualitative methodology was adapted as the most appropriate style to obtain answers.
An interview was produced, and questions were selected to elicit students’ perceptions of western style education establishments in China concerning the Chinese school system. Eight interviews were conducted with a cohort of randomly selected students from within my advanced placement centre. The research aimed to analyse the reasons as to why parents and students are opting out of the Chinese system in preference to the western curriculum.
A discussion of the information received from the interviews follows.
The chapter presents an overview of the findings obtained during the set of interviews with eight Chinese students in the context of this study. The section is guided by the central research question, namely, investigating second level students’ perceptions, as well as identifying the challenges that exist among the target population concerning the western educational system in China. All the in-depth qualitative interviews were recorded utilising a digital audio device and transcribed for further analysis of the information as summarised in Appendix 4. The personal information of the interviewed students was concealed, and their names coded for privacy issues as a way to ensure the ethicality of the research process and data interpretation.
In order to analyse the results comprehensively, thematic analysis was the primary data analysis tool incorporated in the investigation procedure. The method relates to a theoretically flexible technique that aims at identification of specified meaning patterns across the data set (The Auckland University, n.d.). As aptly noted by Alhojailan (2012, p. 39), this framework is one of the most favourable approaches to evaluation and interpretation of the qualitative data that enables no particular distinction between data collection and interpretation as there is ‘an overlap of analysis and interpretation to reach a conclusion’. Although the thematic analysis technique has several algorithms for data handling and interpretation, this research utilised the data management strategy introduced by the Auckland University as presented in figure 1 below.
Figure 1. An algorithm of thematic analysis applied in the study (The Auckland University, n.d.)
In line with this model, I followed all the steps to ensure the data integrity and unbiased interpretation of the obtained results.
Therefore, the findings are summarized below in accordance with the main and supplementary themes detected in the scope of the data set. This categorization is based on (a) the most frequent thematic patterns identified, (b) their correlation with the previous studies in the field, as well as (c) the emerging themes that were not identified in the context of the literature review on the topic, thus are likely to require additional research for a more holistic consideration and accumulation of the research data. The data analysis is extended by discussion with relation to the earlier research in the field.
4.2 Participants’ perspectives on Chinese education
The main theme that emerged on the grounds of the interviewing was the ‘Participants’ negative views on the Chinese educational system that bears numerous difficulties and challenges for learners. Based on the findings, the issue has become one of the key drivers for the interviewees to opt for the Westernized educational style as it was specified by all eight students across different grades. On a similar note, this major theme comprised of several sub-themes because the students identified distinct root causes of the drawbacks for their dissatisfaction education in China.
4.3 Gaokao: test-obsessed curriculum and schooling.
According to the findings, all eight respondents felt that the education system of the country was created to facilitate examination passing as a key driving force to learning. The Chinese curriculum focuses on the earning high scores on Gaokao rather than academic knowledge. The systems view the passing of examinations as the vital factor that is needed to create room for academic excellence. Learners are forced to believe that this exam is ‘a kind of turning point in their life’ (Student A) and ‘one chance to change their destiny and life’ (Student E), or as specified by Student F, ‘the systemized education to just work for the examination’. As a result; ‘students in China follow the same process, and they need to attend the same course to achieve a certain score in their Gaokao’ (Student A). In this context, Student F asserted that ‘students often study for a long time just prepares for an exam, and the exam can decide students’ future. I think it is unfair; some students may study so hard but failed the exam just due to some special situations’.
Moreover, a few more concerns have been linked to the Chinese educational system that caused dislikes and dissatisfaction in students. In particular, Student B expressed the detrimental effect of Gaokao system on student’s health as they ‘might spend too much time studying’ and ‘do little exercise’ meanwhile. Student G asserted the existence of excessive pressure on students as they had to ‘care about the score very much’ and ‘need to do a lot of preparations before Gaokao’. Stress and boredom were among other disadvantages (Student F).
In addition, according to the answers of the eight interviewees, the education system in China is not able to identify the early education potential of students in the country or do it on equals. For example, five of eight students feel that the education system is unable to recognise the academic potential of each student at an early stage: e.g. “Gaokao system only wants to discover the students who are good at all subjects” (Student D). On the other hand, Student D identified the over focus on Gaokao as a source of discrimination between different student groups across the country. For instance, the interviewee stated that ‘If a student in Jiangsu wants to go to top university in China, such as Tsinghua and Beida, maybe he/she will choose to get to about 90% of total score. However, a student in inland Beijing will only dream to get about 70% of his total score. The exam in Shanghai, Beijing and another province may be much easier than Jiangsu’ (Student D).
Finally, ‘Gaokao’ obsession has related to a potential of stigmatisation of an individual within the social context as one of the responses explained. Specifically, Student A indicated that ‘if you fail that test, you may not get into any college. Many people will think that your life is a failure and you cannot get any chance to get into a college or get a good job. Moreover, you may not just be shut out every time in your life.’
4.4 Teaching strategies
Based on the interviews, the students’ answers also indicated that they disliked the educational system in China due to the teaching strategies that limit student engagement and active participation in learning. For instance, Student F explained the process of knowledge acquisition as ‘teacher just roar behind you and ask you to handle your homework’. Similarly, Student F emphasized that teaching in China ‘is kind of high quality, but it is just fast [as there is] no so deep requirements of student self-thinking’ while ‘teachers put everything into the students’ brain.’ To compare, teaching English also appeared to be an ineffective framework as evidenced by several responses. For instance, Student C stressed that, ‘. . . in junior middle, school we just used to write English and listen to English. We never– we seldom spoke it. In high school, I have difficulty speaking to my teacher.’
4.5 Controversial educational priorities
The interviewed students expressed that they feel like the system makes them focus on writing down what has been taught and what is printed in the textbooks allowing no room for their individual preferences or abilities. The point can be summarized in words of Student H, who explained that,
I don’t like the education system in China. Every student just knows the knowledge in textbooks. No teacher will focus on student’s activities and abilities. They just care about their grades. I attend Western education in order to improve my ability of study, how to use knowledge instead of the ability of how to memorize that knowledge.” Student A “I am more likely to study.
By the same token, Student F noted, ‘we just need to know the answer, not concepts.’ In contrast, the western education was mostly praised by interviewees for allowing students having ‘free time’ and doing ‘something [they] are interested in’ (Student G), or ‘activities outside or the things [they] love’ (Student A). Similarly, some interviewees expressed the diversified set of priorities of the western education as compared to that of Chinese: e.g. ‘improved thinking way and methods of studying’ (Student F and Student H), openness of the educational system, personality development, ‘work in a team,’ leadership skills (Student E), development of individual interests (Student C), to name a few. Additionally, Student B specified the drawbacks in student-to-teacher communication culture: ‘In Chinese school, we don’t pay much respect to teacher [sic]. We sometimes we just call their full name and we don’t add Mister or teacher, but in this western style institution, we need to pay more respect to teachers and we need to call them Mister or Sir’.
4.6 Parental Role in Student Decisions
The second major theme in the context of the data set was linked to the parental influence on students’ decision-making when weighing the choice of either Chinese or western educational system. The opinions of interviewed students varied in this respect. To illustrate, Student E expressed the concerns of unfairness of the Chinese education and possible implications of corruption through the parental involvement. Specifically, the interviewee asserted that,
‘Most of the Chinese parents want their children to study in a good school. If the children do not have a good grade, then a little bit of the parents will use money and their interpersonal relationships to help their children go to a good school. So I think it is not fair for all the students and a little part of the students in the universities, they just play games or have parties with friends has made the quality of undergraduate discrete’.
On the other hand, some responses reflected sufficient parents’ influence on actual preference of western education as contrasted to the Chinese one. For example, Student B stated, ‘And my mum said, “You might be suitable for the Western educational system”. So I went to this school’. In contrast, Student A revealed the presence of mediators in decision making on the topic:
“My parents really support me for all the time and they actually gave me a lot of advice during my choice in schools. They firstly wanted me to go abroad because many friends around them, they send their child go outside to study and to get a good job later. So my parents think that it might be a good chance and a good opportunity for me to learn more and study abroad and so we think together and discussed to– choose to go”.
A similar perspective was highlighted by Student C:
‘Actually, I was aiming for a– in China traditional high school when I am in grade nine and many often the children [sic] of my parents’ friends are studying abroad and they got a very high income have a good life. So, my parents told me that and they– I think it will be a better choice for me to study abroad.’ Nevertheless, there were responses that clearly showed student’s individual preferences as compared to parent’s advice or standpoint. For instance, Student D emphasized that ‘parents respect all my choices, especially in education’.
In this context, a certain-degree obligation based on financial factors was also traced among some of the responses. In particular, Student B asserted that,
‘If I find out that western education is not suitable for me, I cannot quit and go to the Chinese school. Even if I quit the Western education, I will waste my money and time. And the other risk I think is about money because the Western education is very expensive in China. If my parents can’t give me financial support, I cannot continue my education’.
4.7 Potential Challenges reported by the participants.
In the scope of the interviews, the respondents outlined language barriers and shortcomings as the key challenges for students who tend to choose the western educational model. As Student C noted, ‘I am too shy to attend [a western school] to communicate with my teachers and also we are the minority who attend the international high school. There might be some discrimination from students in a traditional high school.’ On the other hand, Student A, Student B, Student E and Student H specified that communication with foreigners, though challenging, is a favourable language acquisition strategy that is likely to enhance language proficiency with time. Thus, with these experiences, students are more likely to become ‘more outgoing’, ‘more international’, and ‘have the bravery to talk with any foreigners’ (Student A).
To the most part, the interviewed students explicated cultural differences as a challenge for Chinese students involved in the western educational style (seven out of eight interviewees). However, Student G emphasized culture clash as an opportunity to development: ‘I can know more different culture than the students in the common middle school and that’s for me to better adapt to my future study.’
4.7.3 Benefits of western education as reported by participants
All interviewees specified that western education is positioned in their mind-set as an opportunity or a tool for more successful life and career chances. For example, Student F stated that with the western educational experience, one will, ‘not just work on the academic things’ but ‘can find work that is my passion truly’ and ‘do what I like’. Student E made a remark that, ‘Chinese like retain us more and more and the big companies, they like the workers who study in foreign countries’. Similar assumptions were made regarding general personality development: ‘I will study the news and best information in the world and it can help me to do more contribution to society’ (Student E); or ‘be a leader’ and ‘improve myself’ (Student F).
Summarizing the results of the study, it is necessary to note that these findings cannot be representative of the prevailing opinions of the general target population within China due to the small sample under study. Nonetheless, the identified themes suggest important implications to consider in terms of possible shortcomings, inefficiencies and challenges of education in the country. Based on the findings, the data from the interviews confirms the opinions found in the literature review with a linkage to the previous research as well as the thematic patterns of emerging trends in the field that will require further, more in-depth and large-scale studying. Moreover, the interviewing of a team of eight Chinese students in order to collect the required set of results was appropriate (Krieger & Research and Education Association, 2010). Due to the fact that specific ideas were repeated by different students, one is able to make actual determinations about the reliability and integrity of the whole research process. On the other hand, this factor allowed identification of the niches for further investigation on the topic.
Primarily, the greatest driver that enticed the interviewed students to opt for western rather than Chinese educational style was a view of a fundamentally flawed system of education as a whole, with numerous contributing factors. To a great extent, the interviewees attributed these drawbacks to the mandatory ‘obsession’ with Gaoko. The earlier studies have also explicated these controversies. For instance, without a particular focus on Gaoko, Harris (1995) and Ramburuth (2000) along with Star, (2012) have revealed a conformist nature and standards of the Chinese approach.
Additionally, the interviewees have specified the unproductive character of teaching in Chinese Education . This factor can be correlated with the findings by Watkins and Biggs (2001) who have emphasized that the Chinese education makes students ‘non-conductive to real learning’. ‘The Chinese education system does not specialize on different skills. Ideally, it fails to diversify into other relevant fields that are essential to the education of a learner’ (Fingar et al., 2012). Instead, the students in the scope of the current research expressed a certain degree of oppression experienced in Chinese classrooms, such as overreliance on textbooks and the existing theoretical knowledge among other aspects. As specified by previous studies, domestic educators tend to concentrate on Catch 22 paradox, (a self-contradictory situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules), including such issues as passivity of learners, obedience to teachers, authoritarian style of teachers, and exhausting memorization of the material, to list a few (Watkins and Biggs, 2001; Neave, 2012; Star, 2012; McDuffie, 2011). Michael (2016) has also classified this education as ‘creativity-killer’. Therefore, correlation with later research allows confirming the reliability of these findings.
In contrast, the interviewees informed of more opportunities for development provided by the Western system of education. Neave (2012) has emphasised similar findings, such as regular experiments on the material learnt in the classroom together with other dominant activities. The ability of the western education system to provide room for practical work also makes students prefer the educational system (Gu, 2014). What is more, the researched sample showed their appraisal of personality development. At the same time, Yumei (2008) and Yu (2012) have articulated a significant role that western institutions attribute to meeting the individual needs of students. In this regard, Pepper (2010) has specified that students are allowed to choose the subjects according to their interest which was also indicated by the research participants.
Apart from that, the findings helped in identification of specific challenges the interviewed Chinese students experienced when adapting to the western education structure. For instance, the students emphasised low-level language proficiency as an initial barrier that encourages them to learn more dedicatedly and improve their skills. In this respect, Gu (2014) also noted the likelihood of the challenges experienced when using the language. By the same token, this difficulty can be of twofold nature. In particular, the interviewees emphasised the previous inefficient English learning experiences as they read and wrote in English only and had no opportunity to talk. On the other hand, Ramburuth (2001) has asserted that the approach to understanding the acquisition of the English language is flawed at its core as it is rather ‘Easternized’, namely, perceived from the Chinese language perspective to a great extent. The students have difficulty in understanding the language and the issue reflected in the reading of textbooks and other essential books.
The interviews also explain how the parents of the students play a major role in the decisions made by the students in regards to the educational system to choose. Indeed, since internationalisation and globalisation of education in China has been a long and continuous process in the country (Yumei, 2008; Svoboda, 2016; Spence, 1990; Stephens, 2013; Adamson, 2014), an assumption concerning the influence of parents’ transformational worldviews should not be underestimated in this context. Similarly, it seems relevant to mention the factor of stereotypic beliefs in this respect, as aptly specified by the research participants during the interviews. Nonetheless, the literature review revealed no studies that would have considered this point as well.
In summary, the study findings are based on the interviews conducted on eight Chinese students who attend different classes of the explored setting in China. Of course, the results of the research are related to a very small sample and cannot be ample evidence for making generalizations on the research topic, as previously specified. However, the primary task of the current investigation was to collect the qualitative proofs that would have provided avenues to explaining why western education is popular among the high school students in my centre. In this regard, the findings demonstrated that the students involved in the research were under overly pressure of the Gaoko-obsessed education within China. Moreover, the interviewees showed dissatisfaction with a limited scope of the educational curricula and teaching frameworks that altogether tend to epitomize the role of a teacher and minimize the role of a student. At the same time, the interviewed sample contrasted their fragmented experiences in Chinese schools with those offered in an international setting that promoted their individual characteristics and preferences as one of the positive implications. Finally, some other findings referred to parents’ involvement in education-centred decision-making along with ideological perception of ‘better opportunities’ allowed by the western education. The findings were mostly consistent with the previous research on the topic.
5.0 Conclusions and Recommendation
This chapter draws conclusions based on the research procedure and findings. In particular, this section refers to the analyses conducted in the previous chapters and relates the discussion to the research aims, objectives and questions to trace whether the guiding drivers of the study have been utilised appropriately and the goals have been achieved. Also, the chapter explicates the conclusions reached from the data analysis and their capability to answer the set research questions. Apart from that, the connection to the theoretical background of the study is clarified. Furthermore, the chapter shows a reflective nature of the research. In this way, it is possible to reveal the significance and applicability of the findings to the educational practice concerning my individual experience as a teacher in the analysed context and setting. At the same time, the section outlines and justifies several recommendations for further research in the area as well as the topicality of the results. All the above points are thoroughly based on the investigation procedure and derive from its content. Ultimately, the limitations of the study are presented along with the conclusions, which articulate the importance of these findings.
5.2 Background for the Study
According to the in-depth analysis of the information obtained in the process of the research, scholars have long acknowledged the influence of the western educational style on the Chinese education. The previous studies considered in the context of this investigation have mostly highlighted this influence in light of opposition and criticism of both philosophies or referred to the comparative analysis of the two. For instance, western entrepreneurs have enriched and diversified the educational infrastructure of the country by introducing new types of school that affected the development of education in the long run (Hwang, 1965; Diwaker, 2007; Hayden, 2006). Moreover, researchers have linked the westernisation of Chinese education to the broadened scope of the English language and its increasing usage in the area (Hayden, 2006). However, since the historical presence of western educational institutions in China has been a continuous phenomenon, its significance and long-term effects on the student mindset and choices of the educational path should not be underestimated.
In this respect, my literature review did not identify any research that focussed on the students’ perceptions therefore I decided to address that niche. However, the findings of the earlier studies were a valuable contribution to the understanding of the educational environment and characteristics in the country, as well as laid out the theoretical underpinning for the study. On a similar note, as an educator in an international centre in China with professional experience in different institutions, I have noticed the growing interest and preference of the western educational establishments among local students as compared to domestic options. Hence, the contemporary scholars and my observations as a specialist in the given context altogether comprise a sufficient foundation for conducting the research on the topic.
5.3 General perceptive
Depending on how the participants answered the question, it was easy to determine if the student supports or does not support the western education. The question that was most useful in this part was the one about the students’ views on western education at high school level in relation to that of Chinese education.
The purpose of the study was to get the most reliable information about the general attitudes and perspectives of a small cohort of Chinese students towards western education. These perspectives could be affected by a host of factors ranging from family background to cultural background. For instance, a Chinese student whose parents were educated in the west is more likely to have a positive perspective about western education compared to one whose parents did not go to such schools (Steinberg et al. 2002). Furthermore, the level of education of the parent, regardless of whether they attended a western or a Chinese institution of education could also affect the students’ attitude as the students are more likely to be inclined to their parent’s perceptions and attitudes. In this regard, it was necessary to make sure that the cohort was made up of participants with a variety of family, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds to get the best results. Furthermore, this was achieved through making sure that the study sample was composed of students from different class grades, within my institution.
The cohort who participated in this research, were all students within an Advanced Placement Centre based within a host school in Suzhou, China. All have opted out of the Chinese educational system to complete a western style of education so as to gain college credits to enhance their applications to western universities in the future. All members of the cohort were Chinese citizens aged between fifteen and eighteen from different social and family backgrounds.
All these factors were considered as all were important in not only determining the validity of the data collected but was also useful in the analysis process.
5.4 Research Purpose and Literature Review
Therefore, the aspiration of this study was to investigate second level students’ perspectives on Western Education along with challenges that students are likely to encounter when opting for the international educational model. In order to explore the issue comprehensively, a selection of relevant scholarly articles were evaluated. The findings of the literature review demonstrated the long-term scholarly competition of the western and eastern educational styles both within and outside the Chinese borders. Moreover, the studies showed that an international English-based education was commonplace in today’s China and the number of such schools has been growing extensively because of the increasing demand (Svoboda, 2015). This trend has made a clear impact on the national educational system as an education business model (Lin, 2007; Ding and Lehner, 2007; Wang, 2003). The scholars attributed expansion and popularity of western institutions not only to the famous names of the establishments but, also to the unique learning experiences that the Chinese students were able to have. For example, western schools in China incorporated teaching strategies that were not concerned with little repetition techniques (McDuffie, 2011), but that broadened the scope of curricular and extracurricular student-cantered activities (Svoboda, 2015), as well as offered continuous education (Yumei, 2008) among other benefits.
On the contrary, the researchers, whose contribution was analysed in the study, have distinctly positioned the Chinese education as ‘other’ in comparison with western style. Specifically, eastern approach to teaching was found as conformist, reproductive and inadequate for real-life learning even concerning the English language acquisition (Watkins and Biggs, 2001; Ramburuth, 2001). The system which has appeared to make the students predestined for memorising in silent and passive learning. What was an integral part of the daily routine had eliminated any individual qualities of a learner and was detrimental to their creativity or other forms of individuality (Watkins and Biggs, 2001; Star, D, 2012; Neave, 2012). Thus, parents enticed their children to refer to western education (Gardner, 1989). With this brief insight, students’ perspectives were not considered in the decision-making process. Nonetheless, the literature revealed the sharp contrast between the two educational systems that have positioned the western education in a more favourable light.
5.5 Research Procedure
Apart from helping clarify the gaps in the available research on the topic, previous academic findings were useful in developing the research instrument, namely, a set of interview questions. To explore the research question in a holistic manner, the study focused on a qualitative methodology that allowed investigating the actual experiences of the target population on the grounds of the structured in-depth interviews. For this reason, the central research question incorporated a range of important subthemes that were articulated through a list of issues as a scenario for the interviews. In this way, it was possible to clarify the details of the research topic. In the analysed context, the critical issues involved questions about the potential parental influence on the students’ choice of the western educational style. Moreover, the interviews aimed to detect the root causes, which enticed Chinese learners to withdraw from the national school system, and the benefits and challenges observed within both educational domains. As a result, the intertwined research design and methodology provided a multidimensional perspective on exploring possible issues in the field.
The research tool used to solve the research problem was an international centre that engaged Chinese students aged fifteen through eighteen years in the comprehensive development and acquisition of the English language through the American Advanced Placement Curriculum. Eight students of different grades were recruited to participate in the study and were used to trace the opinions of the diverse target population and find answers to the research question. All stages of data collection, analysis and interpretation, were planned, organised and implemented with adherence to ethical frames of the research process. This approach ensured the validity and integrity of the information generated in the scope of the study. Through the application of the thematic analysis of the obtained data set, the materials of the interviews were distinguished into themes and subthemes and were organised in a way that assisted in structuring the findings to answer the research question within the study constraints.
5.6 Findings versus Research Question
For the most part, the data collected during the investigation procedure allowed answering the research question. Regardless of the small sample size, the findings presented some recurring thematic patterns. This feature to a certain extent demonstrated the validity of the study results. In this respect, the interviewees suggested that the old fashioned teaching methods and numerous drawbacks in the Chinese educational style as the primary cause of opting to replace the eastern school system with the western education as a more comprehensive and student-cantered model. For instance, the main theme that derived from the data analysis was an emphasis on the unmanageable pressure that the interviewed students experienced because of the Gaokao system in China. Hence, this theme was identified as the main reason for the popularity of the western style in China. All interviewees specified that this aspect of the national education was the greatest difficulty they encountered that enticed them to choose western education instead. Thus, this theme was common among the participants of the study. Therefore, an assumption that Gaokao teaching in the country can have detrimental impacts on students’ beliefs and behaviours seems more than justified concerning the studied sample.
Moreover, the identified theme entailed a more detailed insight into the problem and offered a more thorough understanding of the research problem. The findings evidenced that the interviewees’ dissatisfaction with Chinese educational system was not only concerned with the main national examination but also with other perceived shortcomings in the policy framework. In this respect, the collected student opinions varied according to their individual experiences. Nonetheless, the findings were still significant as they explicated the factors which should be taken into account by both scholars and practitioners in the field. To illustrate, three out of five students explained the old fashioned teaching strategies as a serious drawback of the national education as noted in the previous studies. The interviewees expressed a specific concern regarding the limited opportunities to learn English. In particular, the teachers permitted them only to read and write, while oral communication was allowed only to teachers, namely, students were forbidden to speak in English on their own.
Similarly, the interviewed students articulated the opinions regarding many positioned priorities in the Chinese educational system, what is an additional reason to prefer the western schools. For example, the participants criticised the excessive focus on ‘right answers, not concepts’, memorising not understanding, academic disciplines and high scores not extracurricular activities, to list a few. In contrast, the interviewees praised the western style education for prioritising the diversified teaching strategies and learning activities, individuality as opposed to collectivism and conformism, as well as a universal culture and respect to both teachers and students among other issues. To a sufficient extent, these findings from the eight interviews were mostly consistent with the previous studies, but with a more detailed perspective of the students on the issues. Nevertheless, as noted by the findings of the researchers in the field, the results of the study once again showed the sharp contrast between the two systems, what clarifies the popularity of the western education in comparison with the possible declining popularity of the Chinese educational system.
Apart from that, the answer to the research question was further clarified by relevant details, as the findings showed the specific role of parents in choosing the international rather than national educational model. All the students interviewed expressed a varying degree of the parental influence on their educational decisions. Specifically, a greater number of participants expressed a clear impact of parents on their choice, as well as their individual beliefs or prior experiences of their relatives and friends who studied abroad. Moreover, the interviewees appreciated parents’ involvement and viewed financial incentives as a sort of obligation to follow parents’ will. While this theme was mostly omitted from consideration of the researchers, it should be acknowledged as an additional contribution to the knowledge on the topic.
Finally, a few more aspects answer the research question, including identification of the challenges in the educational context. To be more precise, the findings of the study revealed communication and culture to be primary challenges for the interviewed students. Once again, the students derived the linkage between the opposing worldviews as explained by the earlier studies. At the same time, the last notable theme in the scope of the research findings was concerned with the differences as strong drivers of student decisions and behaviours in the analysed context. Indeed, the data set demonstrated that the interviewees’ choices of the western education were driven by the belief that such education could offer them better life chances. These differences were common or imposed by parents, but they were notable in this respect. None of the earlier studies reviewed supported this perspective. Thus, it can be noted as another contribution to the existing knowledge on the subject matter.
5.7 Relevance of the Findings to Practice
As it was previously specified, the idea of current research derived from the context of my individual observations and experiences as an educator in China. Therefore, the research outcomes and findings are important for me, as a practitioner in the field who performs duties on the verge of the two distinct cultures. For the most part, the research findings were in unison with what I observed during my teaching practice. In other words, the interviewees demonstrated that Chinese students are under the constant pressure of multifaceted nature. First, the pressure comes from the strong differing misconceptions. Primarily, these beliefs are concerned with the confrontation of east-to-west institutional frameworks, which are positioned as flawed versus correct accordingly. Second, these differences are based on the parental worldviews about ‘better future’. Third, while the interviews have not identified this pattern, I assume that the other set of ideals can come from the promotion of the western education. Finally, there was the issues of communication and culture that the students experienced by transferring into a Western Educational Institution. Communication within my centre and most possibly other international institutions is viewed as favourable language acquisition strategy that is likely to enhance language proficiency with time, whereas, culture was viewed as an opportunity to develop and adapt future study. On a similar note, none of these perspectives has been scientifically grounded or proved with evidence.
Summarising the findings of the study, a set of recommendations can be made regarding both theoretical and practical domains of the field. Foremost, the results showed a need for further in-depth and large-scale research that would thoroughly study the research problem and question considered in this paper, namely, the popularity of the western educational style in China. Undoubtedly, the results of this investigation cannot represent the opinions of the general population. However, the themes derived from the context of the data set evidenced both the topicality of the issue in question as well as relevance to the previous research in the field. Thus, these results can be used as independent variables for a qualitative research with a large sample size. In this way, it will be possible to clarify if the themes are similarly important to the larger target population, thus, test the generalizability of the findings for possible policy updates in the sphere. Also, the emergent themes can be studied in the scope of either qualitative or quantitative studies, including the themes of parental influence, challenges of communication and cultural barriers, along with Gaokao specificities. On the contrary, there is an evident necessity for a paradigm shift in reshaping the discourse of the topic that explores east-to-west educational patterns through opposition and criticism. Moreover, innovative practices and interventions can combine the best practices of Chinese and Western educational traditions to test a possibility of culturally sensitive and comprehensive teaching and learning.
5.9 Limitations of the Study
The study had several limitations. First, as noted earlier, one of them was a small sample size that comprised of the students of the same educational centre. While this factor might imply sampling biases, the study recruited a diverse sample (as far as it was possible) and adhered to the appropriate ethical codes for data integrity and validity. Second, there was no opportunity for piloting the interview guide. Nevertheless, the questions were developed based on the literature review and the information obtained through the interviews allowed answering the research question. Finally, even though the findings do not permit an opportunity for generalisation, the identified themes are consistent with the earlier research and contribute to filling the knowledge gap. Therefore, the significance of the study results should not be underestimated.
5.10 Concluding remarks
Of course, I cannot make generalisations on the topic due to the small sample size under study. As specified by some of the interviewees, there is a clear cultural distinctiveness between the analysed educational systems. However, there is no need to categorise either one of them as inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In the era of globalisation and multiculturalism, which are thoroughly rooted in social mindset, there is an absolute need to learn mutual respect towards one another as well as learn from each other’s experiences. Both systems of education have rich practices and traditions that have been crafted for ages. Thus, there should be no place for contradiction, eradication or abandonment but improvement with a key focus on the learners
Appendix 1 – Interview Schedule
For my research I intend to conduct interviews with two students from each grade I teach in our centre; those being grades 10 through to 12.
As my Grade 12 students are preparing for their final AP exams and are due to graduate on Friday 20th May 2016, I intend to conduct these two interviews during the week beginning Monday 2nd May 2016.
With grades 11 and 10 I can allow more time. Therefore, I intend to conduct my interviews with these four students during the weeks beginning Monday 30th May and Monday 6th June 2016 respectively.
Appendix 2 – Interview Questions
- What is your opinion of the Education system in China?
- Why did you opt for Western Education rather than Chinese Education?
- What are the risks, if any, for opting out of the Chinese Education system which focuses on the ‘Gaokao’, College entrance, exam?
- Our centre focuses on the American ‘AP Curriculum’. Why did you choose this Curriculum as opposed to the International Baccalaureate or the British ‘A-Level’ Curriculums?
- How much parental opinion was involved with your choice of Education?
- What challenges, if any, do you experience through having all classes taught in English Can you elaborate?
- What are the challenges, if any, attending this institution?
- What are the benefits for you, if any, attending this institution?
Appendix 3 – Research Information Sheet and Consent Form
RESEARCH INFORMATION SHEET & CONSENT FORM
|Title of Study:
Investigating the Popularity of Western Education Establishments in China
|Outline of research study:
This research aims at investigating students’ perceptions regarding Western Education in China. For a long time, China has been opposing the prevalence of western education and culture. This research, therefore, will seek to identify a small sample of students’ reasons for availing of Western Education.
Objectives of the project
The objective of this project is to discover students’ perceptions regarding Western Education in China and how they relate to the Chinese Education system.
What would I need you to do?
Your participation in the study would be greatly appreciated; however you are free to withdraw from the study at any time, without giving a reason for withdrawing, and without your withdrawal having any adverse effect for you. If you agree to participate your involvement means engaging in a recorded interview. Your name and the name of the school will not appear on any documents; all personal identifiers will be removed. Everything you say will be kept strictly PRIVATE and confidential.
CONFIDENTIAL. The results of the study may be published but you will not be identified in any way. I will be happy to answer any questions you have.
What is the purpose of this research? The purpose of this research is to discover students’ perceptions regarding Western Education in China and how they relate to the Chinese Education system. Furthermore this research is to write a minor dissertation as part of the award of the Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning in Hibernia College, Dublin, Ireland.
|Title of Study: Investigating second level students’ perspectives on Western High School Education in China|
|Consent (To be completed by the participant)
Have you been fully informed/read the information sheet about this study? YES/NO
Have you had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss this study? YES/NO
Have you received satisfactory answers to all your questions? YES/NO
Do you understand that you are free to withdraw from this study at any time without giving a reason for withdrawing and without your withdrawal having an adverse effect for you?
Do you agree to take part in this study the results of which are likely to be published?
Have you been informed that a copy of this consent form will be kept by the researcher?
Are you satisfied that any information you give to the researcher will be kept confidential? Your name or the name of the school will not appear in the research report. YES/NO
|Name of Participant (printed)
(signature)________________________________________ Date ________________
Name of Parent / Guardian (Printed)( If under 18 years of age)
(signature)________________________________________ Date _________________
|Signature of Researcher: __________________________ Date:|
Appendix 4 – Interview Transcripts
Mr. MacMillan: This is an interview for Mr. MacMillan’s MATL dissertation investigating educational practices in China. The date of the interview is 28th of April 2016 between Mr. MacMillan and Student A. Good afternoon, Student A.
Student A: Good afternoon, Mr. MacMillan.
Mr. MacMillan: What is your opinion of the education system in China?
Student A: I think that the education system in China is kind of a rigid system, because the students in China follow the same process and they need to attend the same course, in order to achieve a certain score in their Gaokao. And it is true that Gaokao is not at the most important period in their time and they need to work really hard and many parents and teacher they say that Gaokao is kind of a turning point in their life. So I think that Gaokao system is not simple or real simple for me because it limits my ability to do other stuffs [sic]. I can’t do activities outside or the things that I love in my free time.
Mr. MacMillan: So why did you opt for the Western education rather than the Chinese one?
Student A: Firstly, I wanted to go abroad to study, to jump out of the comfort zone and exploring something new and different. And actually I do not like the Chinese education system, like I said before. Not to be really critical, but I feel like it might not be a really good type for me because I am more likely to study other things sometime, instead just focusing on the Gaokao.
Mr. MacMillan: What are the risks, if any, for opting out of the Chinese education system?
Student A: I don’t think there are a lot of risks. If there is any, I think this might be the culture differences between the Chinese ideas and foreign ideas that we may experience in some courses. And it is not really easy for me to adjust to the Western environment real quickly and I think that it is the only risk.
Mr. MacMillan: The Chinese educational system focuses on the one main exam, the Gaokao. Is that a risk coming out of the system?
Student A: Yes, because I think that Gaokao, like I said before, is a turning point in my life and if you fail at that test, you may not get into any college. Many people will think that your life is a failure and you cannot get any chance to get into a college or get a good job. And you may not just be shut out every time in your life.
Mr. MacMillan: In our centre, we focus on the American AP curricula. Why did you choose this curriculum as a post to the International Baccalaureate or the British A-levels curriculum?
Student A: It might be a common sense for me because I firstly chose the company for me and then because my home town is Suzhou so I searched some schools in Suzhou and I chose Suzhou experiment high schools for me to study. I’m not really subjectly [sic] to choose AP but I will like to choose different company.
Mr. MacMillan: How much parental opinion was involved with your choice of education?
Student A: My parents really support me for all the time and they actually gave me a lot of advice during my choice in schools. They firstly wanted me to go abroad because many friends around them, they send their child [sic] go outside to study and to get a good job later. So my parents think that it might be a good chance and a good opportunity for me to learn more and study abroad and so we think together and discussed to– chose to go.
Mr. MacMillan: What challenges, if any, do you experience through having all your classes taught in English?
Student A: It might be that I wrongly convert some Chinese words or something into English when I need to write or read something and it might be really time consuming work for me and when I have all the classes in English, I think that sometimes when I lose my mind and I did not really concentrate, I have a very hard time to understand the course. And also I think that for some classes like attempt English or AP US history I think this course require a lot of reading and writing. I am not a native speaker, so it might be really hard for me to read and write a lot. I need to work really hard to achieve something that a native speaker need to do.
Mr. MacMillan: What challenges were there, if any, attending this institution?
Student A: I think that, if I may just say, I think the cultural difference is the most important thing that I experienced and I need to adjust to the Western system, because in China a lot of people that focuses on points and scores so that they emphasizes a lot. Instead of the scores, so what the Western education system that they emphasized about the– way around of human being. Thus I need to do more work, I need to attend a club or explore something that I may not [unintelligible 00:07:18] new and outside my comfort zone. And secondly, I think that when I attend some classes and some of jokes or speakers, some native speaker told us, I may not really understand. For example, when I take AP micro-economic class, there are some questions really related to American culture that if I am a Chinese student it might be a hard time for me to solve out.
Mr. MacMillan: What are the benefits for you, if there are any, by attending this institution?
Student A: I become more outgoing, I become more international and I think that now I have the bravery to talk with any foreigners, so I think that if I go to universities I will not fear to do a lot of reading and writing because I have experienced it a lot here and I think that during the three years, because of the curriculum I learn how to be a way around students. I took part a lot of interesting activities, I did a lot of presentations thus I practice my speaking skills and I think that I really found something that I will like to do and I will like to concentrate on in my future.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, thank you very much.
[end of audio 00:09:04]
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. The date is the 28th of April, 2016. This is an interview between Murray Macmillan and student B for the MATL dissertation module on education and learning. The dissertation is about investigating the popularity of western education establishments in China. Are you ready?
Student B: Yes.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. My first question is what is your opinion on the education system in China?
Student B: As we know in the Chinese educational system students takes the exam and colleges admit the student based on their performance in the exam. So I think a test, its disadvantages and advantages. On the good side I think it is fair because students can show their ability in the exam and the colleges admit students based on their scores. However, I think it also has disadvantages because students might take too much time– might spend too much time on their study and they do little exercise. It’s bad for their health.
Mr. MacMillan: Why did you opt for the Western education rather than the Chinese education?
Student B: At first when I was choosing my high school I saw that I might not be suitable for– I might not be so good at taking exams. So even if I have a good score in Gaokao and I enter good college a in china, I might not have a well paid job in the future because there are just too many people competing in china so I choose [sic] the Western education.
Mr. MacMillan: What are the risks, if any, for opting out of the Chinese system which focuses on the Gaokao?
Student B: There are definitely some risks for example if I found out that western education is not suitable for me, I cannot quit and go to the Chinese school. Even if I quit the Western education, I will waste my money and time. And the other risk I think is about money because the Western education is very expensive in China. If my parents can’t give me financial support, I cannot continue my education.
Mr. MacMillan: Our centre, it focuses on the American AP curriculum. Why did you choose this curriculum as opposed to the International Baccalaureate or the British A-level style curriculum?
Student B: As you have said AP curriculum is for America and A-level is for British and I want to go to America in the future, so I went to this centre.
Mr. MacMillan: And how much parental opinion was involved with your choice of education?
Student B: I think there is about 50% parental opinion was involved. I always don’t really have a strong preference in choosing of education. And my mum said, “You might be suitable for the Western educational system.” So I went to this school.
Mr. MacMillan: And what challenges, if any, do you experience having all your classes taught in English?
Student B: There are a lot of challenges. The best one I think is about the language because before I went to this school I only studied in Chinese in my middle school. When I first entered this school I found that I can hardly understand and communicate with teachers. I think language is the biggest challenge.
Mr. MacMillan: And what challenges, if any, did you have attending this institution?
Student B: In this institution I think that maybe the cultural difference is one of the challenges because the culture the Chinese culture and the Western culture are different. In Chinese school we don’t pay much respect to teacher [sic]. We sometimes we just call their full name and we don’t add Mister or teacher. But in this institution we need to pay more respect to teachers and we need to call them Mister or Sir. I think culture difference is one of the challenges.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the benefits for you attending this institution?
Student B: There are a lot of benefits the biggest one I think is this institution provides me a good environment to learn English. And also this institution has excellent counsellors and so they help me to choose good colleges for me. That’s all.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. Thank you very much.
Student B: Thank you.
[end of audio 00:05:37]
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. This is a recorded interview for Mr. Macmillan for his MATL dissertation in education in China and students’ perceptions on western style education in China. The interview will be conducted with student C and he will be referred to as student C throughout the interview. So, student C what is your opinion of the education system in China?
Student C: The basic education in China is very good I think, for example a primary student in China can do some geometry and algebra problems. But when they graduate to junior middle school or high school they’re kind of have–
Mr. MacMillan: Sorry about that.
Student C: –they’re having tough school work they need to– they won’t finish their homework until 11 or 12pm. But in university the school work is too little. They just hang out and have fun. They seem not study at all.
Mr. MacMillan: Interesting, Okay. Why did you opt for the Western style education rather than the Chinese education?
Student C: Like I mentioned last question, the school work in China, education is too tough and I want to develop my interests.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the risks if there are any, for opting out of the Chinese system which is focused on the Gaokao, the college entrance exam?
Student C: Opting out the Chinese education system means I won’t attend the universities in China. So if I failed to apply to the universities in foreign countries, I will just have a high school degree which means I will not get a high paying jobs [sic] in China. Because Chinese is very focused on what would you get, what is your academic degree.
Mr. MacMillan: Interesting. Our centre here, which you are studying in, it focuses on the American AP curriculum. Why did you choose this curriculum as opposed to let’s say the International Baccalaureate or the British A-level curriculums?
Student C: First of all I want to attend in American universities and AP course is aiming for American universities so I choose AP courses. AP courses are quite– I think it’s challenging. So it will be– I think it is better to have some pressure in my studies.
Mr. MacMillan: So you believe they’re more challenging than International Baccalaureate or A-level?
Student C: Maybe.
Mr. MacMillan: Maybe, okay. And when you were searching for your future high school education in China how much parental opinion was involved?
Student C: Actually I was aiming for a– in China traditional high school when I am in grade nine and many often the Childs [sic] of my parents’ friends are studying abroad and they got a very high income have a good life. So my parents told me that and they– I think it will be a better choice for me to study abroad.
Mr. MacMillan: And what challenges, if any, do you experience by having all your classes taught in English?
Student C: When I am– at the beginning of the grade ten, I have a difficult– I have a hard time to listen to the teacher and understand what they were saying. And in junior middle school we just write English and listen to English. We never– we seldom spoke it. In high school I have difficulty speaking to my teacher.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the challenges, if you have any by attending this institution?
Student C: I sometimes I am too shy to attend to communicate with my teachers and also we are the minority who attend in the international high school. There might be some discrimination from students in traditional high school.
Mr. MacMillan: Interesting. And what are the benefits for you by attending this institution apart from university in America?
Student C: Obviously I get some improvement in my English and I never wrote essay or a paper before and by attending this program I get my language improved. And also I can– I am very shy before but now I can stand on the stage and talk to the whole class.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, thank you very much.
Student C: Thank you.
Mr. MacMillan: That’s the end of the interview with student C.
[end of audio 00:06:17]
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. Good morning this is going to be a recorded interview between Mr. Macmillan and student D for Mr. Macmillan’s MATL dissertation research for Albania College in Dublin. The interview will be conducted on May the 27th I believe –I can’t remember. Okay, we will go straight into the questions with student D. So, student D, what is your opinion of the education system in China ?
Student D: I think it is very strict because children only have one chance and if they didn’t pass it they will don’t have chance to go to a college. It may be unfair because of different regions such as in Jiangsu and the exam paper was the most difficult in China. If a student in Jingsu wants to go to top university in China such as Tsinghua and Beida, maybe he/she will choose get to about 90% of total score. But a student in inland Beijing will only dream to get about 70% of his total score. The exam in Shanghai, Beijing and other province may be much easier than Jiangsu.
Mr. MacMillan: With the Chinese system which is focused on the Gaokao, are you trying to tell me that different provinces have different levels?
Student D: Yes.
Mr. MacMillan: Why would that be?
Student D: Because they think Jiangsu is maybe richer and developed than any areas such as Tsinghua and Tibet. And many children in China in Jiangsu are just help but other children maybe the ethnic group but even the ethnic group children study in Jiangsu here in extreme max in Gaokao.
Mr. MacMillan: Apart from that are there any other risks by opting out of the Chinese education system which is focused on the Gaokao.
Student D: May be they just focus on the academic and not anything else.
Mr. MacMillan: Why did you opt for western style education rather than the Chinese style?
Student D : Because at first I think it gave me more chance because I can choose TOEFL, IETLS, SAT or ACT. It is much better than the Chinese system. Because no matter choosing our subjects they all just take SAT or ACT there are very similar — there are not much difference such as between Chinese Gaokao.
Mr. MacMillan: Our centre here focuses on the American AP system. Why did you choose this curriculum as opposed to the International Baccalaureate or the A-level British curriculums?
Student D: At first I go to this school, just I know this school has a centre we can study abroad in America, Canada or other countries. I don’t know it will focus on AP and while I am take part in this centre, I know it will focus on AP and it is very academic which is quite different from other centres in Fuzhou and I think it will benefit my education in the university.
Mr. MacMillan: How much parental opinion was involved with your choice of education?
Student D: Maybe very little because my parents they respect all my choices especially in education. If my idea is not amazing or legal, they will all scold me.
Mr. MacMillan: What challenges do you experience or did you experience through having all your classes taught in English?
Student D: I can’t remember when I was in Britain maybe the first semester I just can’t understand a little of the teacher’s lecture. When some colleges gave speeches I can’t understand why the grade 11 and 12– why they cannot answer. But after one month or two month I think I can know more better and maybe involving this situation.
Mr. MacMillan: What challenges are there by attending this institution?
Student D: I think first is the language because English is not my first language and there are many things about it and first I attend this institution and later will study in the USA. We have different cultures I think maybe I need to spend a lot of time to understand their culture and respect it.
Mr. MacMillan: What are the benefits apart from going to college in America what are the benefits by attending this institution?
Student D: First I don’t need to take in Gaokao which is very difficult in China which means I will have more choices because there are many good universities in USA. Because I think USA’s education is the number one in the world and when I go there I can get higher education which will help me in my future life and maybe I can find a well paying job .
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, thank you very much. Thank you. That is the end of the interview.
[END OF AUDIO 00:05:54]
Mr. MacMillan: OK. This is a recorded interview between Murray Macmillan and Student E as part of his MATL Dissertation in Education in Western Style Education in China. Is student E ready?
Student E: Yes.
Mr. MacMillan: Speak up a little bit, Okay? Student E, what is your opinion of the education system in China?
Student E: I think the education system in China is not very good now. Because in China every student just has one chance to change their destiny or life. However most of the Chinese parents want their children to study in a good school. If the children do not have a good grade, then a little bit of the parents will use money and their interpersonal relationships to help their children go to a good school. So I think it is not fair for all the students and a little part of the students in the universities, they just play games or have parties with friends has made the quality of undergraduate discrete.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. Thank you very much. And so, why did you opt for Western Style Education rather than Chinese?
Student E: As we know, the Western Education is much open than the Chinese Education. They give students more time in their favourite things and do some activities. They also like students to work in a team and I think that can improve the students, the leadership and the separate of the teamwork’s. So, if my family can able for me to study abroad, I think that is good.
Mr. MacMillan: So, you opted out of the Chinese Education system, what are the risks of doing that because it focuses on one exam, the Gaokao?
Student E: I think that was okay because nowadays, Chinese like retain us more and more and the big companies, they like the workers who study in foreign.
Mr. MacMillan: And our centre focuses on the American AP curriculum. Why did you choose this curriculum as opposed to the International Baccalaureate or the British A-level curriculums?
Student E: Because I think AP curriculum can convert the college aggregate and as it can help my parents to save more money, and for me, it can help me to find a good university and graduate there.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. How much parental opinion was involved with your choice of education?
Student E: Before I quit 8th of Middle School, my parents told me some information about the foreign schools and they asked me, “Do you want to go study abroad?” and I said I want to prepare enough and I want to study university in America and they said, “Okay, you should make a decision.” And then, I told my parents yes. And I think I should study in High School in Mainland China because my English is not very good and they always support me with my plans.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, thank you. And what challenges, if any, do you experience through having all of your classes taught in English?
Student E: When I first come to the school first I couldn’t understand what other teachers are talking about. But after a few months, I can know what did they say and I can learn knowledge about them. Now I think I can learn and understand about 80% about the teachers says in class. And talk with the foreign teachers is also a good challenge because in my Middle School, we just have the foreign teachers just have one class in every week, so I didn’t talk with the foreign teachers always before. But go along with the time, I can talk with them.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the challenges, if any, by attending this institution?
Student E: The English is not our first language so we need grasp another language then we can know what they are saying and can learning something. I think the advanced placement is also challenge to us. It is too difficult to understand very clearly so we need to spend much more time to study and review.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the benefits for you by attending this institution?
Student E: Although studying foreign classes is a big challenge for me, I also think it’s very good for us just like what I said before. Western Education is better than Chinese education so I will study the news and best information in the world and it can help me to do more contribution to society.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. Thank you very much.
[End of Audio] [00:06:20]
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, so the date is the 1st of June 2016. This is a recorded interview between Mr. MacMillan and Student F for his MATL Dissertation in Western Practices of Education in China. Are you ready to do that?
Student F: Yes!
Mr. MacMillan: So what is your opinion of the education system in China?
Student F: I think nowadays education in China is about the systemized education just work for the examination so it’s kind of high quality but it just fast not so deep requires so student self-thinking but just like teachers put everything into the students’ brain so I don’t think it’s a very good way and to me it’s boring and stressful.
Mr. MacMillan: Why do you think it’s boring?
Student F: Because we just don’t know the answer or we just need to know the answer not the concepts, so like we draw a lot of questions and wrong or right so Marcus they are — so we don’t have that feeling of study just like right or wrong.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, and so why did you opt for Western education rather than the Chinese Education?
Student F: Because I think in Western Education there are more chances for me to like success and it require my other personality like I should work as a group and it can improve my thinking way and the method of study not just to work on the academic things so I can find work is my passion truly on and so I can do what I like.
Mr. MacMillan: Thank You. And what are the risks if any for opting and of the Chinese Education System which as you mention focuses on the downtown?
Student F: Like just few months ago I think there is a count of students attending university for like Sudrol high level educational city they are a lot of students counting their local university and it is kind of as in torture because in Sudrol its education is very good and students here are worked very hard but they can’t just because other cities students need to height education so they can have the position so I don’t think it’s very good and once — just once if you pass you will have a good university if you not you can’t study again but not that good I don’t think you are find the – find your ideal university, I don’t think so.
Mr. MacMillan: Our centre, it focuses on the American AP curriculum. Why did you choose this curriculum as oppose to the international Baccalaureate or the British a level curriculum?
Student F: I think one important is about the time of the – and cost and I think it is why the others. And since this is the experimental high school and my sisters all study here in the centre and I think it’s a good way and two is the very advantage because I just live near two blocks away. So, it’s a distance.
Mr. MacMillan: And, how much cur rental opinion was involved with your choice of education?
Student F: I think it’s a lot because since I was six, not six — grade six, I already think about how to go abroad because I think China education is good but maybe not xx.
Mr. MacMillan: And what challenges do you experience through having all of your classes taught in English?
Student F: Like in the first time just enter the centre and they’re all foreigner teachers and although there are some Chinese lessons but I think it’s hard for me to understand sometimes. And I think I fixed it after about three months.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the challenges, if any, attending this institution?
Student F: I think it’s about my personality because I think I was too shy and not good at being leader but I think after one year, I think I can be better and we have a lot of group work and sometimes I can be their leader and it improved myself. And I should focus on my study by myself not like the Chinese style, teacher just roam behind you and ask you for handing your homework, like that.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, and what are the benefits for you by attending this institution?
Student F: I think it’s good for my future because if I choose the Chinese one, I’m in like in the middle. And In the middle doesn’t mean that’s not that good but lost also a lot of chance but if I enter this centre I get more chance that maybe I have one skill that is perfect and I can make it brilliant and this is good for me and for my future and if I study in the US it’s like improve myself a lot.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay, thank you very much. Thank you.
Student F: Thank you.
[Sound Cut 00:06:25]
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. So the date is the 1st of June, 2016.This is a recorded interview between Mr. Macmillan and student G for his MATL dissertation in western education in China. Are you ready student G?
Student G: Yes.
Mr. MacMillan: So, what is your opinion of the education system in China?
Student G: I think the education system in China is Okay for me. But I think compared with western country [sic], the obligatory education is with 9 years. As in this 9 years we need to learn more and we have much better basic knowledge than the western country. But in the middle school and the college it seems that western education is better.
Mr. MacMillan: And so why did you opt for a Western style education rather than the Chinese education?
Student G: Because I think in the period of Chinese middle school the pressure on students was very heavy, we need to do so many exams and the we also care about the score very much. In western education we have more free time and we can do something we interested it [sic].
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the risks, if any, for opting out of the Chinese education system which focuses only on Gaokao, your college entrance exam?
Student G: I think the risk of the Gaokao is you only have one time to take this exam and if you get a very bad score you are not have [sic] a good college to enter and that was very bad for many students. To reach with their targets they need to do a lot of preparations before Gaokao. Yes, and they need to– and this is their pressure before it and I think there is the most of risk [sic].
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. And our centre focuses on the American AP curriculum? Why did you choose this curriculum as opposed to the International Baccalaureate or the British A-level curriculums?
Student G: Compare with these two curriculums, AP curriculum needs less time to finish and I think if I get a good score in AP test we can get enough deposit for the college and it can save money for us. Yes.
Mr. MacMillan: How much parental opinion was involved with your choice of education?
Student G: I think about 70%. Yes, with 30% is I want to go outside too.
Mr. MacMillan: Why was that?
Student G: Because I think to go to choose another different kind of education system can make me learn more and know more about that world.
Mr. MacMillan: What challenges, if any, do you experience through having all of your classes taught in English?
Student G: I think because English is not my mother language, I think it is a little bit hard for me to have classes in English in the beginning. I need more time to review my thesis for every day.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the challenges, if any, attending this institution?
Student G: Yes for English institution we need to study in English. As a Chinese student English is not my mother language and we need to know different cultures. Because we need to know more about different cultures and this is make some preparation for our future.
Mr. MacMillan: And what are the benefits for you by attending this institution?
Student G: I think for me I can know more different culture than the students in the common middle school and that’s for me to better adapt to my future study. And I know more and I can adapt the study in western education system more quickly than these who study in the middle school. Yeah, in common middle school.
Mr. MacMillan: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you.
[end of audio 00:06:06]
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. This is a recorded interview between Mr. Macmillan and student H for his MATL dissertation for a Hibernia college in Dublin. The dissertation is on; Western style of education in China and students’ perceptions of western style education in a Chinese environment. Are you ready to proceed student H?
Student H: Yes.
Mr. MacMillan: Thank you. What is your opinion of the education system in China?
Student H: Actually, I am not totally very into this education system in China. Students often study for a long time just prepare for an exam. An exam can decide a student’s future. I think it is unfair. Some students may study so hard but fail the exam just due to some special situations.
Mr. MacMillan: Why did you opt for the Western education rather than the Chinese style of education?
Student H: As I said, I don’t like the education system in China. Every student just know the knowledge in textbooks. No teacher will focus on student’s activities and abilities. They just care about their grades. I attend Western education in order to improve my ability of study, how to use knowledge instead of the ability of how to memorize that knowledge.
Mr. MacMillan: What are the risks if any for opting out of the Chinese education system? Which as you said focuses on the Gaokao, the college entrance exam.
Student H: If you choose to attend this kind of international program, we will put all our effort to improve the English and the courses which are different from the — that learned by a normal student. However, we are not sure if we can overcome the difficulty of language, if we can’t, we have no transfer to keep doing since we can’t compare to normal high school.
Mr. MacMillan: Our centre focuses on the American AP curriculum, why did you choose this curriculum as opposed to the international baccalaureate or the British A-level curriculums?
Student H: Because I want to go the United States not United Kingdom. AP is a great college courses in the United States and the external exam in the US. I think it would be more helpful for me than A-levels.
Mr. MacMillan: How much parental opinion was involved with your choice of education?
Student H: Not a lot, my parents often show their respect to my decisions. They always brought me because they think it is me who should my life and the future.
Mr. MacMillan: What challenges if any do you experience if you’re having all of your classes taught in English?
Student H: Language is really the biggest challenge personally, because before I attend the international program, I also have English lessons but it is much easier than I learn now. Sometimes I will confuse to what teacher said and I have some problems while communicating. I have to give a lot of effort to understand the lesson and what teacher said.
Mr. MacMillan: What are the challenges if any by attending this institution?
Student H: Because it’s a new school for me, I will meet a lot of new classmates and all of our teachers are foreigners. As I said, language is a very big problem because I can’t understand the lesson sometimes. I think it’s a very big challenge for me.
Mr. MacMillan: What are the benefits for you if any by attending this institution?
Student H: I think I can be improve [sic] both in academic and in activities and hobbies. I feel more relaxed after I attend such an international program and have more time to improve my hobbies. I also have a great progress on my English communication ability, because I will have more opportunities to talk with foreigners and practice my English speaking.
Mr. MacMillan: Actually, you are going to go to America next year to complete your high school first. Has this centre benefitted you in any way or prepared you?
Student H: Of course, this centre can give me a very good chance to have lessons with foreign teachers; maybe I can adopt the class in America everywhere when I get there.
Mr. MacMillan: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you.
[Audio ends 00:04:30]
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