Comparison On Higher Education Between China And America Education Essay

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The paper is set out to compare the difference of higher education between China and America from educational ideology. The author points out that the main differences of higher education between China and America from educational ideology are displayed in entrance selection system, teaching method, concept of private and public university, curriculums, evaluation criteria to students, and education on students' personal characteristics and morality. In conclusion, the paper holds that both China and America have to adopt different reform measures to advance the quality of respective higher education. Moreover, the integration of these two different higher educations is also very necessary, especially for the perfection and improvement of higher education of China.

Keywords: Higher Education, Difference, China, America

1 Introduction

China, as one of the Brick Countries, has shocked the whole world by its rapid development in recent decades. America, as NO.1 super power since the end of the Cold War, has remained its hegemony in the world in terms of many aspects, including national politics, economy, science, technology, culture, higher education, etc. Since higher education is the symbol of national strength of one country and a vital way of cultivating its talents for the future, we Chinese ought to compare our higher education system with America's from educational ideology and then take advantage of America's strong points and close the gap. Higher education is the important source of power of social development on the ground that it cultivates talents and provides human resources for the social development. Therefore, only through continual improvement of higher education can China finally achieve the great rejuvenation of China.

2 Comparison of Higher Education Between China and America

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The difference of higher education between China and America can originate from their different historic and cultural background.

2.1 Background of Higher Education

2.1.1 Historic Background

The Chinese higher education of the ancient times is mainly based on Legalist and Confucian ideals. As a matter of fact, Confucius played an important role and has shaped the overall Chinese mindset for the past 2500 years. The mode of Chinese ancient higher education was "The Unity of Higher Education and Politics"-which reflects the combination of government and educational structure. From Han Dynasty, China carried out the "rejecting the other schools of thought and respecting only Confucianism." Since ancient Chinese Empire regarded higher education as the foundation of empowering a country, Chinese held imperial examinations to select the talents regularly. In fact,Imperial examination in Qing Dynasty has formed the integral and tightening system. The Burning of Opium Stocks in Humen in 1839 marked the eruption of The First Opium War and the opening of Chinese modern tines, which, however, ended with the failure of the Qing government and then made Chinese intellectuals discover the numerous western advances in science and technology. This new information influenced the higher education system and curriculum a lot.

It is widely accepted that the first modern Chinese university was established in 1895, right after the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), which shifted the dominant influence in Asia from China to Japan. Beiyang University (now Tianjin University) was established in the city of the same name in 1895, followed by Qiushi Academy (currently Zhejiang University) in 1897, and Jingshi University (now Beijing University) in 1898. By the time the People's Republic of China was founded, there were 227 higher institutions in China.

The Chinese higher education of contemporary times has gone through enormous changes. From 1967 to 1976, China's Cultural Revolution took another toll on Chinese higher education, which was devastated more than any other sector of the country. The enrollment of postsecondary students can be used as example to illustrate the impacts. The number dropped from 674,400 to 47,800. The decline in educational quality was profound. In 1977, Deng Xiaoping made the decision of resuming the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gao Kao), having profound impact on Chinese higher education in history. From the 1980s on, Chinese higher education has undergone a series of reforms that have slowly brought improvement.

The historic background of American higher education, however, is quiet diverse from that of China on account of its much shorter history (only 236 years).

Puritanism was a religious reform movement that arose within the Church of England in the late sixteenth century. In the early 17th century, thousands of English Puritans settled in North America, mainly in New England. Puritans value the higher education very much. Thus, American higher education at that time was certainly the matrix of Puritan thinking. In 1636, Harvard was founded as the first university by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

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The Ivy League is an athletic conference composed of sports teams from eight private institutions of higher education in the Northeastern United States ,which includes Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. The Ivy League, ranks among the top universities in both USA and worldwide, is well known as the symbol of American higher education.

American higher education has gone through a great expansion and democratization over the past several decades. In 1900, only four percent of high school graduates attended college. Nowadays, 75 percent of high school graduates will continue their educations in colleges. American higher education opened to women in 1836.Some of the men school handled a subsidiary of the Women's College, such as Barnard College of Columbia University (1889) and Radcliffe College of Harvard University (1894). The girls gradually entered Medical and Legal vocational schools. In 1969, the Supreme Court mandatorily canceled the black-and-white segregated schools. Congress allocated large sums of money to reward the schools of enrolling both the black and white, trying to change the racial discrimination in education in the past three hundred years. According to statistics, in 1976, the black youths of school age in colleges and universities accounted for about 20% and white youths accounted for about 25%.

2.1.2 Social Background and Culture Tradition

There are three important factors which exert intense influence on American higher education: Individualism, pragmatism, creative humanities. American higher education system emphasizes the actual effect and encourages their university students to expose themselves to social practice, which accounts for the equal social position of white collars and blue collars in America. The American university has set" the progress of economy", "the research of science" and "improvement of life standard" together as three targets of higher education. American universities only set up the curriculums and majors meeting the needs of society. Moreover, students influenced by American higher education boast full creative humanities spirit. For example, the rise of Information Technology marked by some famous corporations in silicon valley such as Microsoft, Facebook , Apple are prominent evidences of the good result of American higher education of creative humanities spirit because all of those entrepreneurs went to American universities, receive the higher education and then establish the corporation by their extreme creativities. With all these factors contemplated, the American higher education, to some degree, has caused America's fast development, high technology and economic level.

Chinese Higher education, however, is more collectivism, formalism and Copinism compared with that of USA. American higher education seeks diversity and individuation while Chinese ones chase unity. Therefore, Chinese students intend to interpret cases according to "standard answers" while American ones adopt "critical thinking". In China, the reputation of one's Alma Mater can cast a great influence on the social position, occupation, even marriage because the brand of university is closely bound to Chinese typical "faceproblem", which easily explain the different social position of white collars and blue collars. Chinese higher education also emphasizes the reform and improvement of higher education to meet the needs of social, economic and scientific development, but it changes so little and blindly copies too much from America's instead of forming a perfect system suitable for Chinese current condition.

2.2 Differences of Higher Education

2.2.1 Different Entrance Selection System

America has no uniform examinations for enrolling students.The five major parts of admission are ACT/SAT scores, GPA, College Application, Essay, and Letters of Recommendation. Not all colleges require essays or letters of recommendation, though they are often proven to increase chances of acceptance. American students can choose their major according to their own hobbies and the plans of development; they may also continuously finish all curriculums in universities or choose to have some gap years outside the campus till they want to come back to school and precede their higher education. To be different from the entrance selection standard of China, America has more flexible and objective one. However, the competition of The Ivy League is very fierce which demands more to students and it is quite difficult to attain the degree of a good university.

On the contrary, China has a uniform system of selecting students for higher institutions by National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gao Kao),once described as〝a powerful army single-plank bridge〞.However, once one step into the gate of a university, it is easy to be accessible to the degree. Being different from the individualism of American students, Chinese students tend to be more of collectivism-which means they would choose their major by the standard of common value of Chinese society in stead of their interest. That's why some prevailing majors such as economics, finances, management require much higher score than other majors.

2.2.2 Different Teaching Method

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In US, teachers' duty is not what they have taught the students, but to help them construct knowledge. The teaching process takes the students' independent thoughts and encourages them to propose something new and different. In the teaching method, emphasizing indefinite teaching methods, teachers encourage the students to participate in the teaching process, and even encourage them to challenge the academic authority. In this kind of free and loose environment, students can be more positive on studies and initiative concretion, applying theory to the practice easily. But in China, many teachers still adopt "force-feed type" teaching method. They teach with sweat streaming, while the students hear drowsily. This kind of teaching method, not only has violated the original intention of teaching and studying, but leads students' comprehensive quality and the lifelong study skills to sell at a discount greatly. Teachers sing "the one-man show" in the teaching process phenomenon, while in the American university this phenomenon is extremely rare. Whether students can make great progress or not, the teaching method plays an important role.

2.2.3 Different Curriculums

In the United States, liberal arts colleges are schools emphasizing undergraduate study in the liberal arts. After four years of full-time study in general, students earned either a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education aims to make students build up social responsibility, strong and transferable intellectual practical skills. Students could also grasp communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in working.

American University's courses are made up of general education courses, professional foundation courses and elective courses. General education courses take up about 35% -50% and elective courses almost 1/3 among the whole courses, which aims to strengthen general education and endeavor to cultivate the comprehensive knowledge and skills to solve practical problems.

Nevertheless, China's higher education, due to the limitation of economic and scientific level, focuses on implementing so-called "the professional education"--in other words, "the employment education". It aims to affect one's value as a tool. Though the structure of course is close, the content and quality are far behind.

General education courses or, we say public courses, including Politics, ideological and Moral class, Military Theory and P.E in Chinese university, are compulsory to whole students with a unified standard, accounting for about 18-24 credits; the applied foundation courses are mainly in English, Computers, Advanced Mathematics, and Chinese, accounting for about 20-26 credits. It is obvious implied that the proportion of general education courses is too low, the novelty is not enough and the system is so messy. Selective courses are neglected or regarded as something unimportant in China, whereas they are necessary and essential in American universities as an approach to getting exposure with other knowledge of other fields or majors. For want of basic attainment and general knowledge, Chinese graduates tend to become "workers" but not "creators". China is globally well known as "World Factory" because Chinese higher education focuses the cultivation of labor skills. If China wants to transfer from "World Factory" to "world Designer", there will be a long way to go for the reforms and improvement of curriculums.

2.2.4 Different Concept of Public and Private University

America boasts more than 1500 public universities and the number of private ones is up to 1600. Chinese public higher institutions take up 87﹪, whereas the private ones is as low as 13﹪.

In USA, the most prestigious schools are almost private ones such as Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Duke University and Stanford University. China underestimates the position of private universities because the enrollment mark is comparatively low. However, for want of high qualified private universities, China confronts intense obstacles in the path of the strategy of strengthening the country by education on the ground that private universities possess the flexible management, sufficient funds, free academic surroundings and excellent faculties which are exactly the shortage of public universities.

The income of America private universities is mainly form four channels: the tuition, the government funding, the sponsorship of alumni and the sales and service of patent. The sufficient fund and free academic surrounding make it easy for American private universities to support scientific research, establish the new subjects and attractive great masters in each field. Moreover, private universities are not only successful educational institutions but also the cores of industries. The rise of Silicon Valley depending on Stanford University and the boom of high-tech industry around Boston attributed to IMF can be illustrated as two good examples.

2.2.5 Different Evaluation Criteria to Students

The standard of inspecting the students of American high institutions is the capability to analyze and solve the problems, but not the ability of mechanical memorizing, which means American students do not need to cram up before final examinations. Chinese universities, however, adhere to the principle of learning everything by rote, especially for preparation of final examination. What is far worse is that high score becomes the one and only standard of evaluating students in China. It can be predicted that this kind of one-sided evaluation criteria has written off lots of students' creativities, enthusiasm and desire to do better.

American students are allowed to take some pieces of cards in the fixed size recording intricate expressions and theories to attend the final examinations. The aim of examination is very clear in American universities: it is "practice" but not "memorizing". Some expressions would even be listed on the paper because reciting of expressions is not required, which is so incredible in China. As long as students work out the questions correctly, they would attain the due score. In China, the situation turns out to be opposite. As a matter of fact, the examination emphasizing mechanical memorizing has seriously ruined the students' enthusiasm of studies, leading to excessive attention to pure theory and neglect the real practice of knowledge.

The score of final examination accounts for different proportion in GPA between Chinese universities and American ones .GPA stands for Grade Point Average and it is a standard method of measuring academic achievement. The way of calculating GPA in American universities is distinct from that of China. The GPA of American universities are made up of many parts and the final examination is just one of it. One wouldn't get low GPA even though he or she plays below par as long as the assignments have been finished perfectly according to the teacher's requirements, because the score of final examination only occupies 35% in the calculation of GPA, however, which closes to 70% in most Chinese universities. The standard of American universities is more objective and fair as the evaluation to students.

It is high time that China abandoned the old and ossified evaluation criteria to students. There is still a long way to go before rote learning and test-taking turn into innovation by far.

2.2.6 Different Education on Students' Personal Characteristics and Morality

In America, volunteering and community service are two important standards of measuring one's personal characteristics and morality. Though technically not a requirement, many colleges make community service an unofficial requirement for acceptance. However, some colleges prefer work experience over community service, and some require that their students also continue community service for some specific number of hours to graduate.

American universities encourage students to participate in the social and through which raise their citizen consciousness. Volunteering is also an essential part while enterprises employing new staffs, so American students are very willing to be volunteers. Certain academic honor societies such as Delta Epsilon Sigma have rejected 4.0 GPA students that lacked community service experiences on their applications because they honor community service so much.

In China, volunteering and community service are not as important as in America. Chinese universities have never set the time of volunteering and community as one of the requirements of getting the diploma. However, the awareness of volunteering and community has increased by leaps and bounds. For example, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and 2010 Shanghai World Expo has witnessed the function of volunteers, and most of them are university students. In order to continue the volunteering sprit of 2010 Shanghai World Expo, Shanghai has set up many city volunteers service stations in the tourist attractions to provide the service for tourists, which offer a good opportunity to university students. Rare as social activities are in China, Chinese university has endeavored to improve the personal characteristics and morality by making more volunteering chances.

3 Prospective of Chinese and American Higher Education

3.1 Reform Measures for Chinese Higher Education

Education reform in China has reached a new and crucial stage. The driving force is the need to produce an increasingly knowledgeable workforce equipped to handle the challenges of an economy that is not only growing extremely rapidly, but also becoming increasingly diversified and sophisticated.

The latest reforms are outlined in a comprehensive plan formally called "State Guidelines for Medium-to-Long-Term Education Reform and Development Plan between 2010 and 2020," otherwise known as the Development Plan.1 A second round of national discussion of the Development Plan has just been completed, and more than 30,000 suggestions were collected, reflecting national involvement in such an important issue. This plan is enormous and comprehensive, and is based on studies of various educational models.

Two aspects for higher education reform are key: a relaxation of central control, and opening up of the college admission process. The Development Plan specifically calls for the government to release central control, give universities autonomy, and allow presidents and faculty to run their schools.

The Development Plan states that it will change from the "one-exam-decides-all" method to a thorough evaluation of a student as a whole person using multiple tests and factors.

The plan is divided into four sections. Each section covers several chapters and each chapter includes numerous issues. Section One describes the plan's overall strategy. Section Two lays out missions to accomplish and goals to achieve. Section Three outlines the reform of the educational infrastructure. Section Four provides measurements to ensure implementation. Six chapters are devoted to specific measures, which include the following: strengthening the quality of teaching faculty; increasing the government funding of education to 4% of GDP by 2012; completing education laws and regulations; and ensuring every step of the reform meets the laws and regulations. In order to accomplish these missions and goals, the Development Plan encourages educational institutions to design their own reform programs and policies. (Guo-hua Wang ,April 20,2010)

3.2 Reform Measures for American Higher Education

In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last - an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values. As an important part of keeping the American promise alive, the President called for a comprehensive approach to tackling rising college costs. In today's global economy, a college education is no longer just a privilege for some, but rather a prerequisite for all.

Reforming student aid to promote affordability and value: To keep tuition from spiraling too high and drive greater value, the President will propose reforms to federal campus-based air programs to shift aid away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down, and toward those colleges and universities that do their fair share to keep tuition affordable, provide good value, and serve needy students well. These changes in federal aid to campuses will leverage $10 billion annually to keep tuition down.

Creating a Race to the Top for college affordability and completion: The president will create incentives for states and colleges to keep costs under control through a $1billion investment in a new challenge to states to spur higher education reform focused on affordability and improved outcomes across state colleges and universities.

A first in the World competition to model innovation and quality on college campuses: The president will invest $55 million in a new First in the World competition, to support the public and private colleges and non-profit organizations as they work to develop and test the next breakthrough strategy that will boost higher education attainment and student outcomes

Better data for families choose the right college for them: The president will call for a College Scorecard for all degree-granting institutions, designed to provide the essential information about college costs, graduation rates, and potential earnings, all in an easy-to-read format that will help students and families choose a college that is well suited to their needs, priced affordably and consistent with their career and educational goals.

Federal support to tackle college costs: The president has already made the biggest investments in student aid since the G.I Bill through increases to the Pell grant, and by shoring up the direct loan and income-based repayment programs.

This reform will reward colleges that are succeeding in meeting the following principles:

Setting responsible tuition policy, offering relatively lower net tuition prices and/or restraining tuition growth.

Providing good value to students and families, offering quality education and training that prepares graduates to obtain employment and repay their loans.

3) Serving low-income students, enrolling and graduating relatively higher numbers of Pell-eligible students.( The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, January 27, 2012)

4 Integration of Chinese and American Higher Education

China launched curriculum and teaching reform in the 1990s, resulting in great interest in studies of American university curriculum reforms and instructional systems. When China launched the "211 Project" and "985 Project," this served as a great spur to Chinese studies of American research universities.

New York and Duke University are building campuses in Shanghai, offering full-time programs to students there, and executive education courses are already a proven success, Harvard's Senior Executive Program in Shanghai among them. There have been many joint venture programs with American colleges on the campuses of Chinese higher institutions; however, the trend toward larger-scale initiatives seems clear.

In the mean time, America should also learn from China. America has always taken a laissez-faire approach to higher education-in many ways, with excellent results. But it may wish to consider whether new competition justifies a new approach. China may soon outpace the United States not only in the number of university graduates it produces, but also in the world-class universities it creates. From 1995 to 2000, levels of the Chinese government invested about $20-billion in select universities to improve their facilities and curricula. In the following years, 38 of those universities received additional money. For example, two top institutions, Peking University and Tsinghua University, each received $225-million from 1999 to 2003.

American college leaders should prepare themselves psychologically for a world in which a key success factor will be partnerships with Asian universities. The good news is that Asian institutions welcome such new partnerships.

5. Conclusion

Higher Education is the backbone of a country on the ground of sustaining its development through fostering talents. Without any shadow of doubt, both China and America lay great emphasis on higher education, by different form and method, though. China, as one of the emerging power in the Asian-Pacific region, ought to learn a lot from America, including higher education, in terms of entrance selection system, private universities, the position of higher educational function, evaluation criteria to students and the education to students' personal characteristics and morality and campus culture .Both these two countries shoulder great responsibility to higher educational reform in the future to confront the fierce competition.