Western students in China ‘very disappointed with teaching’

Students claim that ‘asking questions is not appreciated by most local teachers’

September 10, 2018
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Western students at Chinese universities are “very disappointed with the teaching quality” at their institutions, according to one of the first studies to examine the experience of these learners.

Shuiyun Liu, associate professor of education at Beijing Normal University, conducted in-depth interviews with students from Western countries enrolled in both Chinese- and English-language programmes, and said that the findings show that international students in China face as many challenges as Chinese students do in Western nations.

Teachers dominated the “teaching-learning process”, the students said. Those interviewed said that “asking questions is not appreciated by most local teachers”, and they made clear that they were “very disappointed with the teaching quality”, according to findings presented at a seminar at UCL’s Centre for Global Higher Education on 6 September.

Students also reported that they made little effort in writing assignments, that grades were “very generous” and that there was no formative assessment.

The 30 interviews were conducted between March and August 2018 and included participants from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and several countries in Europe.

According to China’s Ministry of Education, the country hosted a record 489,200 international students in 2017 – an increase of more than 10 per cent from the previous year – while the number of overseas students seeking a degree grew by 15 per cent to 241,500.

Despite this rapid growth, the “experience of Western students in China has not been fully discussed”, Dr Liu said.

Although some students gave positive reports of the teaching and learning, the findings show that “Chinese universities need to prepare very well before they try to recruit more [international] students to China [by making] the education quality more attractive”, she said.

Dr Liu added that the Chinese government was encouraging universities to develop more English-medium programmes, but international students still found the classroom experience to be “quite Chinese”.

“We try to follow the Western model, but it is hard to make it work very well in Chinese schools and universities,” she said.

However, she said that the interviews found that the “younger generation of teachers are open to dialogue in the classroom and teachers with international experience are…very good at the Western way of teaching”.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (4)

“ quite Chinese” “We try to follow the Western model, but it is hard to make it work very well in Chinese schools and universities” Imagine a Chinese international student in the UK irked because a. the classroom is “ quite English” b. UK schools are not following a Chinese “model” . The scholastic thrill one would think should be in heterogeneity of styles , pedagogical or cultural, so long epistemological sanctity is through it all preserved.
It just seems another way of saying, "We're all in favour of cultural diversity so long as we're not confronted with new ways of doing things even when we actively seek them out." Rule No.1 of foreign travel: If you want things to be done the way they are at home, stay at home.
And of course the assumption being made here is that the Western way is infinitely better.
They’re used to being the centre of the universe. Actually, in china it’s pretty much like it is elsewhere, barring the uk, aus and some universities in the us. uk academics in particular are implored to bend over backwards to ‘engage’ and entertain students in order to keep them ‘satisfied’. It’s more like a holiday camp than a learning environment, especially given the threadbare syllabuses and soft assessments. Problem is that there is a significant number of students are never satisfied. More examples, more feedback. No matter how much they get. The irony is that they never even look at the material, it’s just a knee jerk reaction. The good ones tend to be more mature and appreciate a challenge, even look forward to it. The troublesome group don’t want to work and/or are incapable of doing the work. It’s easy for them to blame others for their own inadequacies or lack of effort, and by treating them as the centre of the universe, universities encourage them to moan and complain about every little thing. So of course they do.

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