Teaching styles and curriculums vary all across the world and there is a noted difference between western and eastern educational systems. Private international schools located in China employ different teaching methods and offer an alternative western approach to education when compared to traditional Chinese methods. The difference between these methods is quite striking

Chinese Education – An Overview

Eastern education has a very strong focus on a child’s future prospects, specifically helping them to get the best possible job when the time comes. As a result, students in the Chinese education system are given large amounts of homework and pressured to excel on an academic level almost exclusively.

The ethos behind this style of teaching is to craft students into diligent and focused individuals that are capable of memorising and recalling facts and are respectful of authority figures. For example, in a Chinese classroom the teacher is the final word when it comes to learning; students are discouraged from questioning what they learn from them.

Critical thinking and creativity are minimised quite considerably in Chinese schools as these skills are not seen as conducive to effective learning or practical to real life. Academic performance is much more important under this system and students are consistently assessed through examinations for every significant stage of their life, including entrance to university.

The memorisation method, otherwise known as rote learning, has been heavily criticised for its impracticalities in a real-world context. In the west, it’s acknowledged that this kind of learning can be useful in the short-term for learning key pieces of information but it is largely seen as ineffective. The reasoning behind this is simple: this method results in children regurgitating information for examinations only to forget it later.

The pace of learning, too, has been scrutinised with teachers often having to rush through their textbooks in order to prepare students for their monthly examinations. This is a very high-pressure way to learn and can often lead to students being stressed and overworked due to the heavy amounts of work being given to them outside of school as well.

While this method of learning is a good way to get results in terms of grades and numbers, it also leaves students lacking in crucial life skills such as problem-solving and organisation. To some, this approach to education is rather rigid and conformist, though it is ideal for learning tasks that require quick, precise thinking.

International Schools – An Overview

International schools such as Nord Anglia Education employ the western style of education and learning and are often preferred by expat families living abroad that want their children to retain these values.

The implementation of western teaching means that there is more focus on encouraging creativity and individualism in its students, helping them to better retain information and apply it practically.

While Chinese schools focus on developing recall and the memorisation of facts, International schools instead help children to come up with their own answers by using the information they’ve already learned.

They are also encouraged to question things constantly, effectively opening their minds up to many possibilities, learning to communicate effectively and learn for themselves. As a result, the teaching styles of a Chinese school and an International school vary wildly.

The role of a teacher in a Chinese school is fairly rigid, tasked to ensure that the students are memorising the relevant facts. In an International school the role of a teacher is more involved and more flexible in their approach.

International schools actively encourage students to take part in the learning process through group discussions and in-class activities. Assessment too is different; while Chinese education is geared towards exams International schools instead employ continuous assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses to be worked on. Mistakes are seen as simply another opportunity for growth.

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They key difference is that students at International schools are given more opportunities for personal growth than Chinese schools, where the focus is strictly on academic success. For example, International schools are known for their language programmes, which have been proven as beneficial to a child’s developing mind.

Learning more than one language effectively helps children to think differently, leaving them more open to critical thinking and the development of problem-solving skills. This can be advantageous in a country like China, which in recent years has been embracing the benefits of a bi-lingual society, as well as being advantageous to the students themselves.

International schools also encourage creativity and personal development to a much larger degree than a Chinese school, usually offering a broad spectrum of extra-curricular activities where children can explore their passions and develop new skills and interests.

While the goal of a Chinese school is for a student to achieve excellent grades and succeed academically, the goal of any good private International school is for a student to be able to apply their knowledge on a practical level with confidence whilst being given the opportunity to develop as an individual.

There are some negative aspects to sending your child to an international school, however. With a year’s tuition costing between £5,000 – £20,000 depending on the school, year and scholarships many parents are dissuaded by the cost compared to a traditional Chinese school, for example, and obviously this is something that needs to be carefully considered before making any major decisions.


Some criticisms of the western style of learning suggest that too much focus is put on creativity but not enough on academia, which may result in lazier, less driven students. However, it is also widely regarded as an altogether more effective method than the rote learning method employed in traditional Chinese schools, with critical thinking and problem-solving being at the forefront of an International school curriculum. It is clear that these different approaches to education have their advantages and disadvantages, but on the whole International schools seem to offer a more enriching experience for all aspects of development.