Are Chinese students really math geniuses, or is this another Hollywood stereotype?
According to the latest evaluation from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment that measures students’ literacy in reading, mathematics, and science every three years, Chinese students ranked No. 1 worldwide.
So, what do the Chinese know that the rest of the world doesn’t? Is there a science to their academic success?
In this article, TertFinder explores four reasons Chinese students are academic superstars.
- Number System
As a result of language, the Chinese Number System is quite different from how we count in English. The Chinese employ a more logical counting method where eleven is ten-one, twelve is ten-two, and so on.
This irregularity allows Chinese students to count and process numbers faster than anyone who learned to count in English. A simple test is the addition of these numbers: fifty-seven and twenty-two. In the time it would take an English student to convert the sum to numbers (57 + 22), a Chinese student reading five-tens-seven and two-tens-two already has the answer as seven-tens-nine.
2. Short Vacations
Students in the West enjoy long summer vacations for up to three months and, consequently, shorter school days. The Chinese don’t. For them, long holidays mean the students have too much time to forget what they have learnt. So, the longer they stay in school, the less time the students have to forget what they have been taught.
Apart from their short vacations, students in Asian countries generally spend up to twelve hours in school on school days.
Take a leaf from athletes. They practice until they become masters at what they do. Asian education requires the same from students. They repeatedly practice until they can complete tasks without thinking. Then, they move on to bigger tasks and gain mastery as they advance.
4. Culture and Values
In 2014, the United Kingdom’s Department of Education started an initiative to employ 50 math teachers from China to build the standards of English students. Why? It is common knowledge that the Chinese uphold traditional values of hard work and diligence and instill these values to students in and out of the classroom. Students are surrounded by practical examples of these values from parents to teachers.
The Chinese have a history of hard work, especially in agriculture, where results are based on input. Simply put, your harvest is only as good as your hard work and dedication to your field. Here are some popular Chinese proverbs:
- “No food without blood and sweat.”
- “If a man works hard, the land will not be lazy.”
- “No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”
The average Chinese student holds STEM subjects in high regard as there is a powered cycle for STEM skills in the global labour market. Academic success in STEM gives any student an edge in technology and STEM economies, and the Chinese are working overtime to stand out.
* Credit to Malcolm Gladwell and his book titled Outliers.