By J1 Reporter Scarlett Henery
Marian’s world language department recently welcomed a new mandarin teacher, Mrs. Wenli Rapkin. Being an international teacher, Rapkin said that Marian has been significantly different from not only public schools, but the schools she’s experienced in China. “This is a totally new experience for me,” she said.
Many Marian students are accustomed to growing up in private schools, experiencing a very similar education system as Marian. With these comparisons made by Rapkin, Marian students can better understand their lives as students in direct comparison with those living in other countries, specifically China. Student life in America could be described as stressful, social, and often either the best or worst years of your life. It is interesting to see how other countries value their students and the education they provide.
Starting off, Rapkin gave a basic understanding of what these schools in China are like. She explains that the schools where she lived are separated into elementary, middle and high school, just like America, but by different grades. Elementary is first through sixth grades, seventh through ninth is middle, and 10th through 12th is high school. All of the 12th grade year is focused on review from past lessons and teachings. This year is extremely crucial for the students. It is entirely dedicated to preparation for the college entrance exam. Unlike America, students in China can only take these entrance exams once, and that score is what will decide their future in college. If they don’t get their score they’d hoped for, it is still the score they will submit to colleges.
These differences do not only lie in the structure of their schools’ grades. The classes also include noticeable distinctions. Chinese schools focus heavily on academics. There are rigorous classes all students must take, and there are few opportunities to take art, music, or home ec. classes. The students take the core classes, focusing only on their school work. At Marian, it’s obvious there are many opportunities to be involved in the school, other than strictly academics. Marian involves girls in clubs based on their interests, sports they can excel in, and classes which they can further their talents. Schools in China do not offer these clubs, but rather they instead challenge students through extensive academic courses. The priority of these schools is to educate the students and prepare them for college.
There is also a major contrast of homework within these schools as well. Homework loads at Marian can be seen as overbearing and exceptionally heavy in our student’s perspective, but as to Rapkin’s knowledge, the homework loads in Chinese schools are, “very heavy, where each subject has plenty of assignments that students usually finish until midnight”. Now you may be thinking, “I’m up till midnight every night doing my homework!”, well these students don’t have a lot of the extracurricular activities most Marian students participate in. This indicates that this spare time they may have from not being in clubs, is instead spent doing these enormous amounts of homework.
One other aspect to compare would be the social life in these two schools. Marian provides a variety of social events for students to participate in such as dances, retreats, ice cream socials, intramurals, and so many more. In China, schools similarly have these social activities, but significantly less than what Marian has here. They have annual sports competitions (since there are no in-school sports), and also celebrate their important cultural holidays, like Chinese New Years.
Although there are many lingering differences, Rapkin highlights some of them she has noticed when first teaching here. She says, “Marian cares more about students’ spiritual world, academic success, and positive relationships.” “I think American schools are more friendly to kids in order to prepare them to become citizens…whereas Chinese high schools are more for preparing students to take tests,” she said.