The BSM community embraces those from different cultures and communities.

Em Paquette

Classroom culture differentiates across the world

BSM’s community is full of a variety of different students, teachers, and staff from varying backgrounds; some are even from other countries and school systems.

November 9, 2018

 One of the largest topics dealt with by government is the quality and effectiveness of the education system. Often times, the biggest critics of schools in America are the students. Most critiques about the American school system are based on comparisons with other countries’ systems. So, the question is raised, how does the experience of a school in another country differ from ours at BSM?

Time in Class

One big difference between schools in different countries is the class length and the length of the school day. Every school varies slightly, but, in America, most schools have a standard schedule of a 7:30-8:00 a.m. start and a 2:00-3:00 PM end. In Spain, the standard schedule is usually a 9:00 AM start and a 5:00 PM end, with a 2-3 hour break in the middle; other schools will start at 9:00 AM and end at around 2:00 PM, the standard lunch time.

While the school day for the U.S. and Spain are relatively similar; China, on the other hand, is not. Per Center For Public Education, despite having at least a week longer yearly instructional period in the U.S. and Spain, Chinese students attend school for a total of up to 20-30% longer than both. The average school day goes from about 7:00-7:30 AM to around 5:00-6:00 PM with a 2 hour lunch break and, according to Chen Zhang, a senior at BSM, his school (and the majority of schools he was familiar with) had a mandatory ‘study hall’ after school. “Usually the study hall was more like a small quiz or test or practice for exams,” Chen said.

Along with length of the school day, the amount of time during the day where actual instruction goes on differs. Spanish teacher Mr. Eric Luna Martin has experience teaching in both Nicaragua and Spain, as well as a few different schools in the U.S. “Here, there is a constant feeling of being rushed… whenever something ends, something else is starting,” Luna Martin said.

My mom gave me options like whether to continuing learning art and learning music or just study abroad. ”

— Miranda Sun

In Spain, as opposed to the students moving independently throughout the day to their respective classrooms, they remain in one or so classrooms and wait for each different subject teacher to rotate through said classroom. There is also at least a 30 minute to 1 hour lunch break, with a 1.5 to 2 hour time for outdoor recreation. “Spain has a huge culture about moving and sports… students need time during the day to build relationships with each other, instead of just the specific groups or clubs mingling together, recreational time allows for all types of people to interact and learn from each other,” Luna Martin said.

Free time is actually a common attribute in foreign schools. Even schools in China, with their extensive studying and long school days, usually have 1.5 to 2 hours for lunch during the day, whereas at BSM, lunch is 20 minutes. “The lines are so long every lunch that usually by the time people get their food lunch is almost over and they barely have any time to eat,” senior Quentin Struwe said.

Educational Focus

Obviously, there are plenty of schedule differences between educational systems, but what are the attributes of each system that truly define the goals that the students are working towards? What’s the main focus of being educated?

In China, the goal is to move up in society, and the method is going to a good college. The majority of China’s economy is based off of corporate jobs, so, naturally the jobs are similar. This simplifies secondary education in China. “Most people consider education a very good opportunity to end up in a higher class,” Chen said.

The Gaokao is a prime example of this simplification. The Gaokao, roughly translated as ‘Higher Education Exam” is both the exit exam for high school and the Chinese version of the ACT, in simple terms. Unlike in the U.S., where college applications are loaded with GPAs, test scores, extra-curricular experiences, etc., one of the only factors considered in college application processes in China is a student’s Gaokao score. Because of the immense importance of the Gaokao and the fact that it is a once-per-year opportunity, students’ entire high school educations are based on preparing them for the Gaokao.

Regular tests are only given to truly measure students’ understanding of the subject, and homework is given solely as practice for Gaokao material. There is no concept of a GPA in China. One might wonder how students stay so on track and dedicated to their studies with such little official accountability (gpa, test scores). “There is a lot of pressure to do well on the Gaokao, because that might be the only chance of getting into a better environment in their whole life,” Chen said.

Education in countries like the U.S., and Spain, on the other hand, seems to be increasingly leaning away from allowing numbers to define someone’s deservance of opportunities. In Spain, as a sophomore, students can choose to either continue with their studies in some field of education, or opt out of formal schooling, and choose a technical path that teaches life skills necessary for making a living. “I chose humanities, and the last math class I took was sophomore year,” Luna Martin said.

This ability to choose any path early in life allows students to more easily identify their interests, and to focus on what they believe is the right fit for them, rather than what everyone else believes is. “When kids are feeling like they really don’t like school, they have an option to choose their own path and form their own future,” Luna Martin said.

When kids are feeling like they really don’t like school, they have an option to choose their own path and form their own future.”

— Mr. Eric Luna Martin

The U.S. falls somewhere in the middle of Spain and China in terms educational focus. Many formal attributes of schooling are still emphasized as important: standardized testing, Advanced Placement credits, Grade Point Average, etc. These quantitative values are all still heavily considered during the college application process. These days, however, a 4.0 GPA with a 36 ACT doesn’t make every student a shoe-in everywhere. “At highly selective schools, (outside of academic credentials) applicants most heavily considered are ones that will make (the campus) a more vibrant and interesting place,” guidance/college counselor Heidi Wessman said.

No school is perfect. Every system has flaws that can be outlined if compared with others, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. In fact all students just need to find the place where they want to learn. “I was in the junior high in Beijing, and I wanted to try some new things. My mom gave me options like whether to continuing learning art and learning music or just study abroad. I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to live with art for my whole life,’ so I decided to come here,” exchange student Miranda Sun said.

 

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International Interviews

As members of the BSM community, international students provide insight about their life at home and their life here.

Miranda Sun – Beijing, China

KE: What is your favorite thing about Beijing?

MS: I love the culture there a lot… [The] history of Beijing is more than 5,000 years [old] and some traditions there are really interesting. And the food. And the food!

KE: What is your favorite American food?

MS: Chicken nuggets

KE: What do you like about here?

MS: I think the people in Minnesota are so welcoming, and they will say when they meet you, even though you’re strangers. But for other places I have been to–Chicago, New York, and California–they are not that welcoming and warm-hearted. The people are really nice here. We don’t say hi on the street with strangers in China, we don’t smile to each other.

 

Vy Truong – Vietnam

KE: What is your typical day like in Vietnam?

VT: School: 8-4. Dance Practice: 2 hours.

KE: What do you think of Minnesota weather?

VT: First, thought the snow was pretty but then it got too cold.

KE: What do you miss most?

VT: My family and friends

KE: What are you excited to do here?

VT: Try many different things like music and food.

 

Andie Jia – Beijing, China

KE: What do you miss most?

AJ: The cheap food and drink, and the pleasure of hanging out at night! (Because we banned all the guns through the nation.)

KE: What do you like about here?

AJ: The various food and drink, and the “Minnesota Nice.” I love friends in BSM.

KE: What are you excited to do here?

AJ: Making more friends, get to explore the beauty of the Twin Cities Area, and find the interested major for my college and career.

KE: Would you like to stay in the United States?

AJ: I’m not decided yet, but I assume that I might complete my undergraduate and graduate program in the United States then depend on whether my family have more money for supporting me for the further programs.

 

Tiffany Hou – Beijing, China

KE: What is your favorite thing about where you are from?

TH: How convenient the transportation is and I like the food

KE: What is your typical day like at home?

TH: I hang out with friends, and we go see a movie and have dinner together and I use my phone a lot to chat with friends.

KE: What do you think of the fashion here?

TH: I think Chinese people buy more expensive and branded stuff than Americans do.

KE: What are you excited to do here?

TH: College applications make me nervous but excited at the same time.

KE: Would you like to stay in the United States?

TH: After college, I want to go back to China.

 

Maple – Liuzhou, China

KE: If you had to choose, American or Chinese food?

M: Chinese food is better because there are more choices––spicy or not. Hot Pot: you can put whatever you want in there!

KE: What do you think of Minnesota weather?

M: Really cold for me because I’m from the south of China, so it’s always really warm and humid there.

KE: What do you think of the fashion here?

M: In high school people don’t wear makeup or they have a uniform. Sometimes it was easier to have a uniform because I have more to sleep and don’t have to plan out what I’m going to wear.

KE: What’s your favorite American food?

M: Spaghetti in general because I can always eat a lot of it!

KE: What do you miss the most?

M: My family and the food that my mom made. I typically talk to my family [once] a week when we FaceTime.

 

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