A mix of US, Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tion best for kids

China Daily (Canada) - - TORONTO -

Pinma means “mom­pe­ti­tion” in English. Specif­i­cally, it means com­pe­ti­tion among moth­ers to give their chil­dren the best ed­u­ca­tion and help them ex­cel in dif­fer­ent fields. The con­cept of “mom­pe­ti­tion” has even trav­eled over­seas and be­gun play­ing an im­por­tant role in chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion in­Western coun­tries such as the United States.

Un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween Chi­nese and US fam­ily ed­u­ca­tion will help the two sides see their re­spec­tive ad­van­tages and use them to make com­par­isons more mean­ing­ful and healthy.

There is no deny­ing that the in­flu­ence of fam­ily ed­u­ca­tion is the most pro­found on a child’s de­vel­op­ment and could de­ter­mine how its life will ul­ti­mately shape up. How­ever, dif­fer­ent from other types of in­vest­ments, ed­u­ca­tion is not some­thing par­ents can harvest from as much as they ex­pect. If par­ents have scant knowl­edge of the norms of ed­u­ca­tion and are mis­guided by wrong ed­u­ca­tional ideas, the more ef­forts they make to get things right, the more harm they might cause to their chil­dren. Hence, a mother’s in­vest­ment in her child’s growth could be fruit­ful only when used with the right strat­egy.

To gain an ad­van­tage in “mom­pe­ti­tion”, some say Chi­nese moms have to be ver­sa­tile. They have to be good not only at house­hold chores, but also at telling sto­ries, teach­ing math­e­mat­ics and English gram­mar, help­ing their chil­dren with com­po­si­tions, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and paint­ing, as well as plan­ning trav­els for their off­spring and tak­ing per­fect pho­to­graphs. This should give an idea of the ex­tent to which many Chi­nese moth­ers in­ter­vene in their chil­dren’s life; some­times they even do their chil­dren’s home­work to en­sure they out-com­pete their peers.

In con­trast, most Amer­i­can moth­ers gen­er­ally de­sist from med­dling in their chil­dren’s life. More of­ten than not, they just of­fer their chil­dren sup­port or guide them, for ex­am­ple, to work as com­pany in­terns or vol­un­teers in some poor re­gion. Even when it comes to help­ing their chil­dren, Amer­i­can moth­ers tend to ac­quaint them with facts and pro­vide them pro­fes­sional aid and/or ad­vice.

Since most chil­dren even­tu­ally leave their par­ents and be­come in­de­pen­dent in­di­vid­u­als, par­ents should cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for their in­de­pen­dent growth rather than oc­cu­py­ing ev­ery cor­ner of their life.

Chi­nese moth­ers al­ways try their best to help their chil­dren as much as pos­si­ble, and even make cru­cial de­ci­sions for them with­out think­ing what the kids want be­cause they be­lieve they are do­ing it for their good. Given these facts, the healthy growth of chil­dren and the ed­u­ca­tion norms al­ways have to yield to par­ents’ will. If a mother reg­is­ters her child for an ex­tracur­ric­u­lar class to raise its chances of get­ting ad­mit­ted to a key school, she will in­sist on it even if the child says “no” to the idea.

In theUS, how­ever, it is more likely to see moth­ers re­spect­ing their chil­dren’s opin­ions and giv­ing them more weight.

The great im­por­tance Chi­nese moth­ers at­tach to ed­u­ca­tion is praise­wor­thy. Yet they should learn from their Western coun­ter­parts how to strike the right bal­ance in par­ent-child re­la­tion­ship when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has on many oc­ca­sions em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of bridg­ing the ed­u­ca­tion gap be­tween Amer­i­can and Chi­nese chil­dren. The dif­fer­ences in the two ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems and the roles of moth­ers in China and theUS are stark. No won­der, Bat­tleHymn of the TigerMother, writ­ten by Chi­nese Amer­i­canAmy Chua, trig­gered heated dis­cus­sions on the pros and cons of Chi­nese andUS ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems, not only in theUS and China but also in other parts of the world.

Judg­ing by the facts, a com­bi­na­tion of Chi­nese moms’ strict re­quire­ments and Amer­i­can moms’ ad­vo­cacy of in­de­pen­dence could bring out the best in chil­dren, and take “mom­pe­ti­tion” to a noble level.

The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the fam­ily re­search cen­ter at China Youth & Chil­dren Re­search Cen­ter.

WANG XIAOYING / CHINA DAILY

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