Swickard: Parent-Teacher Conferences, Chinese Style

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. A friend recently returned from a visit to her childhood home in Liaoyang, China. She has resided in America for many years and is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at an area elementary school. While home she captured on video some of her former city. Also, her nephew had a parent-teacher conference so she took a video at his school.
     The kids looked almost indistinguishable from kids in America. Some smiled, some were shy, some boisterous, they laughed and played outside the school. Walking into the elementary school the kids spoke to the camera when questions were posed. I was surprised they replied in Chinese to Chinese questions and in English to English questions. Most students in China have some conversational ability in English by third grade.
     The parent-teacher conference was crowded. I asked what percentage of Chinese parents attends parent-teacher conferences. She replied, “All of them.” 
     I pushed for the reasons for perfect attendance in China. “First there is strong parental concern about their children. Secondly, Chinese society informally demands parents participate. People not attending are seen as not caring about their children’s education. There is the perception in China that without parental involvement children will not do as well in school.” 
     The group activity was to review the major test given at the end of the semester. The teacher and the parents reviewed each question, not just the scores of the test. The teacher worked each math problem on the board while the parents took notes. This was so these parents could help their children with the material covered by the test. Read full column