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Incongruities in the Educational System Between China and the United States

Besides language barrier, Chinese students have experienced some other difficulties while studying in American universities. Several academically related problems can be traced to the differences between the educational systems of China and the United States. Since all of Chinese students were the product of the Chinese educational system, they inevitably had to adjust to the new systems as they began their graduate education in the United States.

In a survey conducted by Perkins (1977), Chinese students perceived “inadequacy of educational preparation” as a more important problem than did students from India. Donovan (1981) elaborated on the “educational shock” experienced by Chinese students. He stated:

P.R.C. students tend to assume that American education is basically like their own. Students from China regularly interpret what they see and hear in the United States in terms familiar to them. This leads the Chinese to expect people and institutions to act in ways that would never occur to many Americans. For example, the central government of China plays a major and direct role in the placement and supervision of all foreign students in the P.R.C. and in the administration of all colleges and universities. It is difficult for Chinese nationals to understand the highly decentralized and autonomous nature of American education. Similarly, schools in China provide a number of services and enforce a number of provisions that have no counterpart in this country. It is natural for Chinese students to assume that the school will provide housing and will specify precisely what courses to be taken-because this is what happened in China. Academic institutions play a very different role in China than they do in the United States, and much of what is done by Chinese institutions is left to the initiative and imagination of the individual in the United States (p. 2).

Empirical findings supported Donovan’s arguments. In the study at University of Pittsburg, Lin (1998) reported that Chinese international students found the “rules” governing their academic experience in America were considerably different to those evident in their previous academic environment in China. Holmes (2004) also observed that Chinese MBA students in business school were unprepared for the interactive nature of classroom communication and had problems interacting in a western academic setting.

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