Inside the Classroom: 9 Educational Differences Between China and the U.S.

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The United States and China are debatably two of the most influential nations in the world, but each unique country fosters their next generations of leaders in incredibly different ways. These 9 Educational Differences Between China and the U.S. demonstrate how tradition and culture begins in the classroom.


1. Class sizes

China: In middle school and high school, classes are typically around 45 – 60 students. Teachers tend to focus on getting through more material, and students have a larger responsibility to keep up with classwork.

U.S.: Schools try to keep classes smaller, between 20 – 30 students in order to maintain a one-on-one education.

2. Teacher Rotations

China: Teachers typically rotate around classrooms while students stay put in their desks. Chinese schools often utilize “looping”, where students remain in the same class with the same classmates and group of teachers for multiple years in order to build closer relationships.

U.S.: Teachers typically have their own classrooms and rather than moving, students rotate between classrooms for each individual subject. Teachers are assigned new classes and students every year.


3. Storing School Supplies 

China: Because they remain in the same classroom for the duration of the school day, students store their books and school supplies in a shelf underneath their desk.

U.S.: Schools provide lockers for students to store their books, backpacks, and other supplies. Students usually go to their locker between classes.



4. Authority Figures 

China: A head teacher, known as the “banzhuren,” monitors all of the classes and teachers under their department. They are also required to sit in on other classes in order to build relationships with all students. Because of their heavy involvement in the school, they also provide counseling and discipline to the pupils. They sometimes even visit their students’ homes!

U.S.: Counselors, deans, and principles are typically in charge of the entire student population. They oversee administration, teachers, discipline, counseling, and everyday school operations.


5. Curriculum 

China: The Chinese education system utilizes a nation-wide curriculum with a set schedule. There is not much room for additional course electives and change in individual schools.

U.S.: State governments are mostly in charge of deciding upon the curriculum, schedule, and administration. All fifty states and Washington D.C., except Hawaii, further divide their systems into individual school districts that develop their own rules and regulations.


 6. Examinations 

China: Since the Song Dynasty (960 AD), China has utilized standardized examinations to place workers into their appropriate occupations. School systems are geared toward preparing students for their future, using the Gaokao: the national exam that decides if students get into college. Parents and teachers all understand the importance of this test and spend years helping students get ready.

U.S.: Though American colleges place a high emphasis on standardized testing, students can still get into college, even if they do not perform as well on the SAT/ACT. Students try to become more involved with sports, music, and extracurricular activities to help stand out from the crowd.



7. Merit System 

China: Teachers are rewarded for high student academic performance. If their classes perform well on examinations, bonuses can sometimes be as high as 3,000 – 6,000 RMB (nearly two months pay)!

U.S.: Though many teacher unions and conservative education groups have been advocating for this, currently no such system exists in the States.


8. Nationality vs. Individuality

China: Students place high value on national pride and they are expected to respect their teacher, classmates and federal government. Students raise their hands only when they know the right answer, they do not interrupt class, and accomplishments are prided to the credit of the nation rather than the individual.

U.S.: Students value individuality and creativity. Though similar respect is expected toward teachers and peers, questions during class are encouraged and free speech is fostered in order to promote individuality.


9. Schedule

China: Because of the importance and the competitive nature of the testing environment, students spend roughly eight hours a day in the classroom, four hours doing after-school tutoring, and they finish homework during lunch and other breaks throughout the day. (Left)

U.S.: Students spend about seven hours in the classroom, but they do not get to go home in the middle of the day. After school, many students participate in extracurricular activities like sports, music, and other clubs in addition to homework. (Right)














Though incredibly different, each system has its own unique strengths and weaknesses in the manner that it prepares students for the work force:

Overall, by striving toward growth, both societies can continue to learn from the other education system whileworking toward optimizing the classroom environment for all students around the world.

After all, cultivating growth and development is what education is all about, right?


By Justin Poythress



Anderson, Jenny. “China’s Education System Leaves Students Woefully Unprepared for the Real World.” Quartz. Quartz, 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 26 May 2017. <>

Butrymowicz, Sarah. “A Day in the Life of Chinese Students.” HechingerEd. Teachers College at Colombia University, 12 May 2011. Web. 26 May 2017. <>

 Office Of Adolescent Health. “A Day in the Life.” US Department of Health and Human Services, 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 26 May 2017. <>

“5 Differences of the Chinese and American Classroom.” Prométour Educational Tours. N.p., 03 Nov. 2016. Web. 26 May 2017. <> 

“12 Differences Between Chinese Education and American Education.” DALIAN DIARY. N.p., 13 June 2007. Web. 26 May 2017. <>



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