Overview of Higher Education Comparisons between China and United States

As explained by Jinju Feng, vice president of Nankai University, a country’s social institution, education policy and administration have fundamental influence over the characteristics of the higher education institutes in that country.

The most significant difference between the universities in China and those in the U.S. is that the former most adhere to the socialist education system, as rooted in China’s socialist system. However, higher education institutes in China now must consider their individual characteristics. First, market is playing an increasingly important role in the allocation of education resources. Schools are granted more autonomy in administration. Second, pursuing higher education has become a common trend in China. Students are actively seeking higher degree. Finally, the society’s need for talents is becoming more diverse and demanding. At this time, higher education institutes must establish their unique characteristics.

David Baltimore, the president of the California Institute of Technology says that establishing unique characteristics and maintaining traditions have become a scared ritual in many universities in the United States.

From the curriculum development to school administration, there are much more we can learn from the universities in the United States. Many believes that the main difference between the curriculums in United States and China is free elective. Problems in China higher education will be solved as soon as the amount of free elective students can take increases. However, the college curriculum in the United States is unique not only in its design but also in its management.

The college curriculum in the United States consists of general education, major/minor and free elective. Students do not enter their major study in their first two years. Instead, they must complete required courses in certain fields to fulfill the general education requirements. Students enter their major study in the third year. In the meantime, students can choose free electives, including sports, music, dance and theater based on their interest.

The college curriculum in China revolve arounds the major with general courses, major basic courses and major courses. While the college curriculum in the United States, which is in adherence to general education, focuses more on the courses outside of the major. It has a complete and unique curriculum system.

Higher Educational Systems Comparison

1. Undergraduates in the United States can register for courses freely. The university doesn’t have a general study plan. Prestigious universities and other universities apply differentiated instructions. The school provides a wide range of courses for students to select. College curriculum in the United States consists of required courses, electives and free electives to cater to undergraduate students’ diverse need. Students can individualize their study plan based on their interest, depth of learning, and major.

2. Undergraduates in the United States does not chase higher education blindly. Contrary to the widespread belief in China that good students need to continue their study to graduate school right after undergraduate school, Americans do not hold this belief. Undergraduates who go straight into graduate school in the United States are those who major in medicine or engineering and want to pursue a career in academia. Undergraduates who are more socially active and seeking a career in management and organization usually work for few years before going to graduate school. According to report, the average age of students in Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School is 27. Students usually come to graduate school with work experience. Students with work experience are also more likely to get into top business schools. It is clear to say that after few year at work, people are more likely to know what they need to learn, instead of wasting money and time.

3. Undergraduates in the United States have more intern and work opportunities. Universities in the United States want to break the boundary between college campus and the community at large by fostering experimental learning. Harvard University and Yale University are two great examples. They operate even without a gate. As long as students take advantages of extracurricular opportunities, including student organization, work-study, and summer internship, they can gain work experience every year. They will not face the dilemma of not having enough work experience when apply for internship in junior year and full-time position in senior year.

4. Undergraduates in the United States have more channels of activity funding. While attending Harvard University, I found that undergraduates had more sources of funding to finance their activities. As long as you engage in a protentional and valuable activity and you are good at selling the project, you will be able to find funding. Thus, undergraduates in the United States are more actively participating in extraocular activities.

5. Students in China work day and night in order to get into college. While they are in college, they do not make any effort any more. Students in the United States work day and night in order to graduate from college. Their academic journey begins when they enter college. This is why college in China is known for strict enrollment and high graduation rate, while college in the United States is known for open enrollment and low graduation rate.

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