A Snapshot in the Lives of Private School Students

六一兒童節在幼兒園- Children’s Day at the Kindergarten

Noah has been attending Kindergarten here in Dalian for the past few months and him starting school has got me a lot more interested in getting to know more about life for the average student here in China. I have been privileged to teach at both public schools here in China and private schools, though I have not really sat down to speak with students about their struggles they experience day to day particularly in China. Obviously as a teacher, I have spoken with students about issues they experience, but I have decided to actually sit down with three of my top students and ask them some specific questions. For the sake of this post, I will refer to these high school students as: Student A, Student B, and Student C. These are the opinions of three exceptional young students and provides some insight into just some student’s lives here in China. Thank you girls for taking the time to answer these questions! I wish you all the best in your academic endeavors and life! I know you all can succeed in anything you put your minds toward!

Student A-
How long have you been attending an international or private school? Have you ever attended a local public school?

I attend an international school since the second semester of grade 8, so it is been approximately three and a half years. I did attend local public school before I came to the school I am in now.

What is your opinion of the gaokao? Did it impact your parents or your decision to go to a private/ international school?

I think gaokao is a really competitive exam because most students in China will attend this exam and compete together to apply for a good university. Therefore, this causes huge pressure on students because this exam is so decisive. Your future is determined to some extent by the results of gaokao. That is because the university you attend will limit your job placement by what you can choose and apply for. In my perspective, I don’t think it is meaningful to only give students one chance to decide their future. Gaokao cannot represent students’ personal ability (communication skills, cooperation skills…). These are all important factors in judging a students’ ability and is not able to be shown on an exam. I think there are already some changes on the gaokao policy that the final score will be divided to a small exam each year and the combination of them will be the final score. However, the weight of the college entrance examination can still play a decisive role, but I am happy to see the progress and changes that have been made. This teaching program causes students to have to stay up late and study till maybe 1 a.m. everyday, which I think is harmful to teenagers. It is true that gaokao became one of the reason why I choose to change to an international school. I personally will easily get sick and my body cannot support me to stay up that late to study. Also, I don’t like this way of learning as it causes me to loose interest in studying. I like to effectively communicate with my teachers, which I believe is an important way in effective learning. I find myself really adjusting to the way of learning in an international school and although I feel tired each day, I am happy and enjoy life.

What kind of pressures do you think you encounter being a student in China specifically?

First, I think the environment in China is so competitive and this causes many students to have mental pressure. This also can lead to some mental disease in students and mor likely to commit suicide in the future.

Second, some excellent students cannot perform well during this huge exam. A lot of students work poorly under pressure, especially for those excellent students this can cause them to fail at their only chance. They cannot adjust the teaching environment they are currently in, so this can impact students in loosing some talents.

Third, I think the exam rank of students is also stressful for students. I think although some of the schools these days already make changes where they only publicly display the high ranked students name. However, for most schools, the situation still has not changed. This can lead to a blow to a students’ self-esteem and a backlash when parents criticize them.

Fourth, students in public schools need to learn many subjects, and they will receive homework from all those classes. It is extremely difficult to finish up all the homework. Some students are even afraid to attend school, especially for good students because they did not finish all the work.

Why did you choose the country you did to eventually study abroad?

I personally really like Britain, especially London. I love the buildings style there and have always dreamed about living there. However, I had take into serious consideration about the university that I wanted to go attend. There are many top universities in Britian and currently a lot of students in our school applied for those universities. Of course, I have to say that I need to consider about the political situation now so some countries I will not choose to go. However, I always wanted to go to Britain for studying, so this hasn’t influenced me a lot. There are students who changed the country that they choose to study abroad because of this factor, so I wanted to mention about it here.

What do you think is the biggest difference between a Chinese education and a Western education?

I think it must be the way of learning. I think Chinese education focuses on listening during class and always trying to study about knowledge and you must understand it by yourself. However, the western education focuses on practice and group work. I think that these methods will fit different children. Like for me, I would like to have more communications with my teachers during class and have more discussions to share different ideas. Long time of receiving knowledge without practice is not a good way of learning for me. With different study methods and personalities, these two ways will benefit more than the other in different situations.

Student B:

How long have you been attending an international or private school? Have you ever attended a local public school?

I went to a foreign language international school in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, because I am not a Dalian local. It’s similar to this school, which has a primary, middle, and high school. I stayed there for nine years.

What is your opinion of the gaokao? Did it impact your parents or your decision to go to a private/ international school?


Yes, not only because of gaokao, but also because of the student’s final exam in middle school that might determine a students’ future. I wasn’t particularly gifted in math, but I excelled in liberal arts. My parents did not want me to be limited by the Chinese school system or rely on it to determine my future, so they put me in this school.

What kind of pressures do you think you encounter being a student in China specifically?


To begin with, the Chinese school system, particularly in Hebei Province, is rife with restrictions. We must cut our hair because we are not allowed to have long hair. Any form of entertainment is seen as a sin that is unrelated with study. It’s also crucial to have good relationships with peers and teachers. Some of the students enjoy showing off and laughing at someone assomething funny. Poor students may even be subjected to bullying at school. Every student in China has enormous learning constraints. They don’t have time to relax or have fun. Every second counts, and a student’s mind can be broken down by a mountain of homework.

Why did you choose the country you did to eventually study abroad?


I chose Britain, because the requirement of Britain when applying university was easier than others. The British gentleman style and architecture is very attractive to me. Edinburgh is also in the top 10 of the world’s most beautiful cities. So while studying, I can also experience the beautiful scenery.

What do you think is the biggest difference between a Chinese education and a Western education?


I think the difference is an open teaching model, and the focus on practice. Western teaching does not restrict students too much and does not define them. Grades are also relatively confidential and are only available to that student alone. This is very beneficial to students in terms of their personal growth. Chinese teaching is too strict and as a test-based education system, it places too much of a heavy burden on students, leaving them unable to freely develop extracurricular activities and hobbies. In addition, emphasis on practice in Western teaching allows students to learn from practice, rather than simply knowledge from textbooks and memorizing it by rote memorization as in Chinese teaching.

Student C:

How long have you been attending an international or private school? Have you ever attended a local public school?

Till now I have attended an international school for 11years. I started to go to this school in grade one, and I have never attend any local public school before.

What is your opinion of the gaokao? Did it impact your parents or your decision to go to a private/ international school?

I don’t like Gaokao only because I think it is meaningless, and Chinese parents only focus on their children’s grade in the Gaokao, but not the growth or experience of their children. They make Gaokao seems like a child’s only entry of success, for me that is a wrong perspective. My parent never bother me, so I’m super appreciative of their respect. I have a brother who went through Gaokao three years ago. Apparently, my parents knew how hard it was going to be for students who are facing the Gaokao, so they listened to my opinion, and didn’t send me into public.

What kind of pressure do you think you encounter being a student in China specifically?

I think the biggest pressure in being a Chinese student is related to stereotypes and profiling, which I think it’s a common phenomenon, but basically a wrong conclusion. This is the way in judging whether you are a good child or not, just by looking at your score, and nothing else. This idea is such a shame to have.

Why did you choose the country you did to eventually study abroad?

I want to go aboard to the US, UK or Canada because I feel it can open my mind in doing things, and prevents me from being swayed by traditional Chinese thinking. To be honest, I choose go aboard because I like English, it let me feel free. Same with language, the places I choose can also allow me to have freedom, and experience different cultures.

What do you think is the biggest difference between a Chinese education and a Western education?

The biggest difference between Chinese and Western education is that China tends to be theoretical; teaching how to solve problem on test paper. Western education tends to be more practical, and wanting student to solving problems in real life, and how to use it in daily life.

~ by branhow on June 28, 2021.

2 Responses to “A Snapshot in the Lives of Private School Students”

  1. The students interviewed are very mature. I enjoyed their insight on the differences of Chinesse education vs Western education. I see that testing causes much anxiety as it does our students who take college entrance exams. I think (don’t know) that maybe the Chinese test is more grueling.
    Good luck to the interviewee’s on their future academic achievements.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Mrs. Bonilla! Yes, I agree! These have been some of the most driven students I’ve ever seen in my 8 years of teaching. I also thought that part was interesting, it’s been some things I’ve personally noticed after having to evaluate my Chinese peers, both in public and private schools.

      Liked by 1 person

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