If Asian education systems are so rigorous, why do so many Asian students come to the U.S.?

I’m not sure if this is a GQ or a GD, but as a university student, this question has been burning me.

Both universities I’ve attended have an extremely large Asian student population (especially in the sciences), mostly Chinese and Korean.

Now my understanding is that Asian school systems are some of the most rigorous in the world. Early on the kids must master science, mathematics, music, and language, among other things, and must prove and reprove that mastery again and again. In fact, there exists a stereotype here in the U.S. that the Asian students are so well-educated, they make the American students look bad.

So if the above is true, why do so many Asian students come to the U.S. for college and graduate programs? I would imagine their university programs are better than ours since their grade schools do a better job of preparing them, right?

Far too few places is the reason, I think. They just don’t have enough universities and, as a result standards for admission are near impossible.

Don’t underestimate how highly education is valued in the lower classes of Asian culture. That motivates the kids enormously. Combine that with no sacrifice an Asian won’t make, to secure an education for their child, and you end up with way more kids, wanting spaces than are available.

My father went through the UK school and university system. His opinion was that the UK, and presumably other places where the system was “good”, segregated the college-track students fairly early on, and they learned more material and in more detail. The USA and Canada are notoriously egalitarian and teach the same lower level of detail to almost everyone up through high school.

Once they reach N. American undergraduate level, students specialize and then the University crams into them in 4 years what they should have been learning in the previous 4 years plus all the new material. By comparison, he said, UK university was much less intense because you already knew some of the material.

Graduate level - you ar dealing with some of the best minds in the world (in the right universities) and the interaction and breadth of exposure is what makes them good - not to mention the “snob” factor of a name university.

My impression from the media of Asian teaching (and Feynman also says this about Brazilian university) is that they promote rote learning and cramming. Despite modern “touchie feelie” thought about education, this process is probably best for learning the basics and the elementary material. Once you get to the graduate level, the need to think outside the box, to reason rather than regurgitate, is more important - and this is what the best universities anywhere are best at.

the old saw is that “universities are not teaching you the subject, they teach you to think” - that’s not not too far off the mark.

I have gone to school both in Asia and in the US, and I can personally attest to the rigorous standards of school in Asia, Hong Kong in my case. I remember going from 6th grade US math, which was pretty simple early Algebra stuff to having to learn Calculus in HK in the 7th grade. The Asian students learn material much earlier than the US students.

As for the reason why they come to the US for college, well there aren’t that many colleges for them to go to. I don’t know if it is still the case, but back in the day, in HK for instance, there were only about 3 pretty reputable universities. Getting in to one of those schools was very competitive, and certainly not all qualified students were granted a spot. Where are the rest to go?

Obviously the UK and the US are the most viable options as all the students already know some semblance of English. I went to school at UC Berkeley where the Asian student population during my era was 50%, and is probably higher now. I had a hard time competing against the blokes coming over from Asia, and the sad part was that they probably weren’t even their top students, many of those having remained in Asia.

I think that you are correct in this regard. Whereas the US believes in “No child left behind,” in Asia, the concept is usually the opposite - “No bright child held back by the underperforming children.” The school I went to in Asia separated out the entire class with the “A” level students all together in one class for the entire day, and so on down the line until you have the bottom students in the “D” class. And this was the way they did it from elementary school through high school. You could move up and down in class from year to year depending on your test scores though. Pretty humiliating for the guys in the “D” class, but they definitely do not worry about coddling the kids and promoting their “self esteem.” Its pretty much sink or swim, do it or not.

As people have said, because they can’t get into their local universities.

Also, as a prelude to migration. I think it’s easier to get PR by studying than looking for a job.

Asian schools are considered better at the primary and secondary levels. At the university level, the United States has more premiere schools than any other country.

I’ve heard it described that at the lower levels, Asian schools prepare students better, but at the higher levels, American universities have a better atmosphere for excelling.

Has there been any study published that compares foreign and American students who attend American universities? It might be interesting although I could imagine that controlling for all the variables to be near impossible.

So if the problem is not enough universities, why not build more? Surely China in its pursuit of status as an economic superpower would sprout schools like weeds. Wouldn’t priority be placed on keeping the best minds in China?

Its easy to build classrooms for students but it’s much harder to build intangibles such as prestige and reputation. It would take a whole generation or more before local Chinese perceive their local universities as equal to (or better than) Stanford, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, etc.

As for 2nd tier non-Ivy League schools, I’m not sure how they’re ranked in relation to the best China universities in Chinese minds.

I have been teaching in China for the past four years.
Many of the parents of my students have told me that they want their children to go to university in a Western country because Chinese schools do not teach children how to think.

Chinese students are discouraged from ever asking their teacher to explain anything that they do not understand. Memorizing facts and figures are important, understanding and creativity is not valued or encouraged.

Chinese universities do not have a very good reputation, and my understanding is that a diploma from a Chinese university is almost worthless outside of China.
Whereas a diploma from a Western university is valued almost anywhere in the world.

This is the main reason. And if you’ve ever had to work with Chinese students who are completely incapable of critical reasoning skills, you know what homer is talking about.

My experience is that about half of the Chinese students I met were able to adapt and worked very hard at the reasoning skills and social skills (like, gasp, asking questions) necessary for a western education. The other half flunked out after a quarter or two.

Okay, so is China too proud to admit that their way of teaching isn’t the best? Maybe they could send a few educators to the U.S. to find out how we do it then bring that method home? Doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.

Changing the way educators and students interact with each other is not necessarily as easy as sending a few people over to observe and then transplant.

Far more expensive, to reform the Chinese higher education system, than to just send qualifying students overseas. Far less disruption and no admitting it’s not ‘the finest’, clearly the better choice.

In my opinion… yes.
Of course there are some benefits to a Chinese education.
My students often surprise me with things that they know about history and geography.
But, it is probably asking too much to try to tell them that an educational system that has its roots in thousands of years of history might be flawed.

Another problem is overpopulation. China has hundreds of millions of students, with huge classes. An assembly line type education will get the students in and out, but does not leave any time for giving the students any individual attention.

But what about Japan? Tokyo Daigaku is, as far as I know, considered a damn good school by any standards, especially in computer and engineering fields at both the undergrad and grad levels. The sheer amount of AI (and not stupid stuff, you’ve seen how good some of Japan’s robots are) research alone coming out of there is staggering.

Now, Tokyo Daigaku is really, really hard to get into (at the Undergrad level at least), hard enough that there are entire manga and anime in Japan centered entirely around trying to pass the entrance exams. But even Kyoto and Osaka Daigaku all the way down through Tokyo Metro are probably on par with most American schools. I don’t think you’d have much of a problem getting hired (even in the US) if you went to Okayama Daigaku vs University of Rhode Island (or whatever).

Yes, it is a cultural thing. China has been essentially autocratic since the beginning of recorded history. Most aspects of their culture are based on indoctrination rather than education. Getting China to embrace the ideal of liberal education is like getting a third-world kleptocracy to embrace liberal democracy. Those values can not be bolted onto a culture with centuries of inertia pulling in a different direction. They have to be earned by a society as a whole and that takes many generations.

Unless they wanted to teach, I don’t know, rocket science?

It is not unusual for an American university to be accused of just “selling diplomas.” Imagine how much worse a problem like this would be in China.

Almost everything is for sell in China.
Many teachers have to pay the equivalent of one years salary, as a bribe, to buy their jobs.
Many students that do not do well on the entrance exam (gaokao) can buy their way into a university.
Students and parents are expected to gift their teachers with money in exchange for better scores, more attention in class, reference letters, etc.

That is why many teachers buy their jobs. The official salaries may be low, but the grey money will pay for their houses and cars.

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