Kristin Lynch: China and the U.S. have DIFFERENT Education-styles

I recently emailed a few questions to Kristin Lynch, the program manager at EduBoston: an international organization that connects (F1) [0]    Chinese-exchange students with host families, education, and a whole bunch of other programs in America.  (You can read the full interview here).

Annually, the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. has grown.[1]   Clearly, these students must see some value in American education, otherwise they would not be arriving in such large numbers.

Lynch points out, “Perhaps the main reason parents want their children to study here and students want to come, is the different educational philosophy. Education in the U.S. is interactive and student-centered.  It is designed to encourage student inquiry, curiosity, analytical thinking, and a love of learning.”  Meanwhile, China has a “more rigid, teacher-centered education system, the signals can be confusing” which emphasizes listening, memorization and formal exams.

These views run contrary to news headlines.

Popular criticism: the U.S. education system is “lagging” behind China’s.2

Those who rank the world’s top school systems each year have concluded that America’s school system has fallen behind those in other countries during the past few years.  This assessment has sparked education reform and Common Core policies throughout the U.S. [3]  

However, the ranking systems’ metrics do not measure self-esteem, self-efficacy, creative thinking capacity, and other qualitative types of “brains.”

When American news perpetuates the fear that China will “overtake” the United States with their superior education system, they neglect a crucial fact:  If a student fails the Gao’Kao, China’s college-entrance standardized tests, they will not receive their high school diploma.  The Gao’Kao does not allow for second-tries or do-overs, so students face intense pressure from a young age to succeed, as failure means “no degree, poor job prospects and a life full of regret.”  This system has some nasty side-effects on the psyche of young students. [4]   

Many parents in China view America’s holistic education favorably.

Lynch notes that U.S. education places more emphasis on the individuality of each student: “[In America], many assignments involve choice, exploration of one’s own interests, and expression of one’s own ideas.”  Also noteworthy, participation in Chinese classrooms is discouraged while in the U.S. participation and class discussions form a portion of a students’ overall grade.

According to Lynch, more and more teachers are also using project-based learning to get students using academic knowledge and skills to make real things and solve real problems, “creating a stimulating, memorable, and confidence-building learning experience.”

The focus on the well-being and self-esteem of students’ compels many to pursue American schooling, even if China’s schooling yields higher test scores. “Many Chinese parents also recognize the value of sports and clubs… and they want their children to can participate in them.”  She also adds in that “activities, such as sports, clubs, music, and volunteering, allow students to explore, discover, and develop their interests and talents.”

So, what do you think? Feel free to email me at or leave a comment.


If you are interested in EduBoston’s programs or hosting an international student, check out their website:

[0]  An F1 visa, which differentiates from a J1, allows for a fuller, more long-term educational experience in America.





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Ice Water, Culture Shock, and Bodily Functions

Getting Into Hot Water:

“Jesse, how come Americans drink their water cold with ice? Its chilly enough outside, I just don’t get it.” This Freshman exchange-student found something so monotonous and unquestioning by Americans frankly baffling.


To which I replied, “I don’t know. Never really thought about it. How do the Chinese drink their water?”

“Hot,” she remarked, “Always hot, just like tea. Doesn’t matter when in the year either.” We began giggling together, as if we shared a secret unbeknownst to everyone else.

Then she commented: “Oh, and 中医 (Chinese-style medicine) holds that boiling hot water to drink helps a ton with menstrual cramps.” Too much information… thanks.

Food & Cultural Shock:

In her first week in the U.S. she barely could stomach a single American meal. Each spoonful made her stomach even queasier. This is a pretty interesting phenomena, and she is not alone. Many, such as myself, have trouble acclimating to the food in a new country. For example, I once went to Israel and lost my appetite very quickly. After a few days, I began vomiting, had excessive diarrhea, and experienced acute abdominal pain. I journeyed to the ER, but astonishingly, my peers who were eating the same food felt perfectly fine.

My friend Samuel K., of UMass Amherst, holds a degree in Molecular Biology and offered an explanation in lay-men’s terms:

What is even going on, here?
What is even going on, here?

“So, basically, the bacteria from the foods you eat live in your stomach. Each geographical region has its own kind of bacteria in their food. So when you travel to a foreign country, new bacteria gets into your system that your body is not used to. As the old bacteria and new bacteria fight for the space in your digestive system, your body eventually adapts.”

How Much Does Culture Shock Affect Biology?

The psychological symptoms alone of sincere culture shock may include anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. However, the realization that Culture Shock also affects the body opens up its own field for research. An interesting question: How does culture shock affect blood pressure? or Does culture shock affect one’s sleeping patterns? Or appetite? Personally, these questions peak my curiosity. I hypothesize that culture shock does substantially affect biochemistry, especially in terms of sleep, nutrition intake, and even heart rate.

If scientists can establish the potential biological symptoms associated with culture shock, then tourists, politicians, and exchange students all can reap a great benefit. Those with healthy bodies will better enjoy their time abroad and connect easily into other cultures.

And you’re now more culturally aware than you were!

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