Understanding The Behavior of Chinese Students

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Students are all different. Every classroom, community and country will have students that are different from one another. While each student is unique, a country’s cultures and characteristics can often influence the general student population.There are many factors that influence the uniqueness of a general student population: family circumstances, a country’s many values and customs, how much emphasis a country puts on their education system, etc. These students are their nation’s (and even the world’s) future. As every student becomes more educated about how the world works, every country and community develops their students to be their interpretation of an ideal citizen and leader while also encouraging each student to utilize their fullest potential.

This is also the case for Chinese students. While each student is unique, many Chinese students are known to be respectful, disciplined, and studious. This is because Chinese teachers and parents, often informed by Confucian teachings, may influence and train students to fit their models of productive, contributing members of society. Although changing practices are being incorporated into Chinese education, the core principles of Chinese culture are often evident in the behavior of student populations. Three of the major behaviors of Chinese students could be described as:

Students Hold Teachers in High Regard

The concept of “respect your elders” rings true in the Chinese classroom. The high value placed on education is drawn from traditional Confucian teachings. Education is seen as the means for one to advance, not just in knowledge, but in prestige. Because of this, teachers are highly esteemed and a hierarchy is established in which teachers are simply superior to their students. Teachers are meant to be respected and followed. This typically results in teachers taking the role of disciplinarians of students and influencing the way students behave.

When students address their teachers, they must use the teachers’ surnames along with the appropriate honorifics or titles. And when teachers call on a student in class to answer a question, that student is usually expected to stand. But demonstrations of respect for teachers go beyond polite interactions. Students are not often encouraged question or dispute a teacher’s class material and to obey all the teacher’s instructions. In addition, they usually only speak in the classroom when addressed by the teachers. These interactions may be considered strict, but communities find that it upholds a harmony and power balance that the majority of the Chinese population values.

The Concept of “Face”

If you’ve heard of the saying, “saving face,” then you’re on your way to understanding the concept of “face.” Face in Chinese culture is associated with prestige and reputation as well as societal harmony. For one to “lose face” would not just affect that person’s personal reputation, but would also threaten the harmony and social balance that’s prized in China. While that may sound like a hefty bit of social responsibility for each citizen to hold, it is held with high-regard.

For students, the value of “face” can materialize in particular ways. For example, students may not ask a lot of questions in class. This is because the action of asking questions may suggest that the students don’t understand material, aren’t making an effort to understand material, or are questioning the teacher’s expertise. To ask a question could cause a loss of face on the students’ part (as well as the parents’ and possibly the teacher’s). This may result in students being a little quieter and not as investigative as other students. As one can see, this is not unique to particular cultures, and one can find this value across many countries and in many families.

Studying Toward Perfection

Because maintaining reputation is closely linked to education and maintaining face in the classroom upholds social harmony, Chinese students are expected to excel in school, not just for their own sake, but for their families and their communities. Students are encouraged to be the best. For many classrooms, this is reinforced with student rankings, which is meant to motivate students to be their best and showcase how ideal behavior and academic accomplishments.

With all that in consideration, Chinese students are highly supported and encouraged to develop good study habits.  Many students become masters at memorization and critical analysis and creative thinking aren’t always cultivated early in most students. With an emphasis on hard work and studiousness, students can often spend numerous hours studying and doing homework outside of school. Reports suggest that the number of hours vary widely, but many reports recognize that many students also have extracurricular activities and supplementary classes to attend and excel in too.

Do you find some of these qualities across cultures?  Share in the comments below!