Friday, February 23, 2007

A Chinese teacher on Chinese teachers

By Zhou Zheng Li, China

Regarding "Student Centred Learning", many people still argue whether this concept can really be applied to teaching large classes in China.

In the past, teachers lectured for the whole period with little time left for students to discuss or raise questions. Can it be called "indoctrination" in English? It's so-called "Teacher Centred Learning". The teacher teaches whatever he wants to teach, which can be justified as the teacher has a textbook to finish and some specific goals to achieve.

Compared with western students, Chinese students are more bookworms or memorizing machines than creative thinkers. Many educators contribute all this to improper teaching method.

To produce more creative thinkers, not just learning machines, they advocate teachers should adopt "Student Centred Learning" methods -- encourage student participation in class activities, even let students teach themselves. This method emphasizes that the students are performers and the teacher is, in some ways, a director, another a helper, or a listener, but seldom a lecturer. Some even go to the extreme to say that students are guests, "guests are god", teachers should serve them as actresses serve guests.

All this sounds reasonable. But in reality, all too often, those teachers or schools that adopt this teaching methodology will find they are in a Catch-22 situation: Students are wild and out of control in class; teachers can not finish their syllabus; most students will fail their examinations; parents are disappointed; teachers are frustrated.

I don't know why such a well-intended method should go wrong. Maybe China is different from western countries, culturally and historically. We cannot simply copy others.

One artist once said: Learn from me, you will prosper. Copy me, you will die. How true!

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