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Chinese versus US parenting and education

LATELY, the term "Tiger Mom" has indeed created a little stir among students and their parents from both China and the United States. Underneath there lies the fundamental difference of the two countries in the value of education.

To Dr Pamela Trotman Reed, president of Saint Joseph College, "Tiger Mom" represents education going off-track. "This method of education is too pressurizing and puts restrictions on a student's free spirit," Reed said.

She believes that China's single-child policy is in large part responsible for the Chinese parents' zealous drive to drill their children to become overachievers.

In America, parents also expect their kids to grow up successful, however, it is given equal importance that their kids grow up a free spirit and learn to make choices for themselves.

When asked how she would characterize the US college education in simple words, Dr Reed mulled over the question for a few seconds and spoke with assurance, "Valuing curiosity, promoting critical thinking and encouraging problem solving."

In a typical US college, it is made compulsory that a student takes on a wide array of courses spanning different disciplines, from philosophy and history to science and art, before a student decides on a discipline that he or she will pick as a major area of study. "These mandated courses aim to open a student's mind and stir his or her curiosity about the world," Reed says.

The students are also encouraged to bring real-life issues to the classroom and use what they learn to analyze the issue or raise questions.

Education experience in the US: bounty opportunity and ample selection?

"There are over 1,300 universities and colleges in the US and are open to students from all over the world," Dr Reed points out that there is a misconception that one has to go to the Ivy League schools in order to make the abroad experience worthwhile. "The students and their parents must be clear about their objectives and then find a fitting one, and among all these schools, there must be one."

Will a Chinese high school student get used to the college environment and education style, given that the education values and systems are so much different between the two countries? To answer the question, Dr Reed gives the example of herself. "The high school I went to did not encourage curiosity, nor promote critical thinking or problem solving, so I was a little handicapped when entering the college. But emerged in the openness of the college environment, I quickly let go of myself and my spirit was given free rein."

To achieve a quick state of "feeling-at-home," she suggests that Chinese students going abroad should take advantage of the chances offered by the college environment to make as many friends as possible, because this will not only help to overcome initial loneliness but also open up a lot of opportunities in the future.

The language barrier may initially cause discomfort, however, it will pass away over time and besides, one can always seek the warmth and support of the Chinese student organization if one is homesick.

Article by Qiu Kaiyu, a Nanyang Model High School student and a member of the student journalist team of the Oriental Morning Post


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