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'Experience Growth' – A Book on Study Abroad
Yan Hongli, a high school exchange student from Beijing, was at a loss when her teacher sent her off on a class trip to a park by handing her a lunchbox, a ticket into the park and a letter asking for help in case she needed it along the way. In China, Yan Hongli’s experience was that on such a class trip students would be under strict supervision and always with the teacher accompanying them. This is just one example of the kind of educational culture shock that can occur for Chinese who study abroad recorded in Experience Growth – A Report on the Youth Living in the World Community, recently published by the Tianjing Educational Publishing House.

Study-abroad is popular all over the world today. And Yan Hongli is just one student who has experienced big differences in education when traveling to a different country. Study-abroad gives an opportunity -- for people of different families from different cultures, different sub-cultures, or even from the same culture -- to live together. By encouraging students to live with their counterparts from different regions and different countries, study abroad helps them to truly experience what is different about cultures, to enhance their understanding towards other nationalities, and to realize the cultural characteristics of different ethnicities and the common value of being human beings, so as to help establish a healthy international relationship and a harmonious relation among peoples from all over the world on the basis of equality, harmony and co-existence.

To explore the influence that multi-cultural experience has on a young person, China Youth Research Center in March 2000 began its research on those youth who have lived in the world community. Based on this research project, the book entitled Experience Growth – A Report on the Youth Living in the World Community has been completed with the contributions of many researchers.

From details like the voice teachers use when talking with their students to the way other children use their pin money, Experience Growth records the impact on primary and middle-school students who participated in study abroad. Among Chinese students, they were impressed by foreign children’s prudence and their strong sense of environmental protection. They also were shocked when they came face to face with the active class-teaching style of foreign teachers, as well as the way both foreign teachers and parents seemed to treat students as their equals. Chinese students also came to appreciate their own merits, finding in comparison they were more united, energetic and persevering in their studies.

According to Experience Growth – Youth Live in the World Community, what left the deepest impression on Chinese who participated in this program was the respect for the individual’s development found in educational practices in foreign countries. Many Chinese teachers noticed that during an outing, for instance, foreign teachers never reprimand misbehaving students; Chinese teachers also were surprised to find out that very few students were regarded as stupid children, or silly children. Instead, teachers were all striving to find a kind of teaching method to serve different children. For instance, to help primary students comprehend the meaning of “watering,” a teacher gave students several daffodil seeds, and asked them to bring back a daffodil flower back to school after their careful tending of the seed. These Chinese participants also noted the enthusiasm with which foreign students threw themselves into a class project and the innovative thinking resulting from teachers’ enthusiastic and encouraging teaching style. Students were not passive recipients, but active participants who could express themselves freely and ask questions on whatever they wanted to satisfy their curiosity.

Some experts, including Sun Xiaoyuan, think that the activity of study abroad offers a kind of learning process for the young to experience growing-up, and it will definitely play an active role in encouraging them in their later lives to continue to seek and to receive high-quality education.

(新华社 [Xinhua News Agency], translated by Feng Shu for china.org.cn, April 16, 2002)

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