A Comparative Guide of Elementary School Between China and the United States


A Comparative Guide of Elementary School Between China and the United States















 By: Yujia Guo & Sarai Yang

Miami University Fall 2018

 1. Major Differences


1.1 Size

A typical Chinese elementary class has 40-60 students, which is about double the number of students in an American elementary class. Depends on different region and school, elementary school normally are 5 years or 6 years; there could be from 3 to 20 classes in each grade, classes are name by number (eg. Grade #1 Class #1).


1.2. Classroom Setting

In Chinese elementary school, teacher’s platform usually be placed in the front of students’ desks, right behind the blackboard or whiteboard. Teacher sit on his or her table or anywhere else during class is considered as an inappropriate behavior.



1.3. Teacher

In China, students have their own fixed classroom instead of teacher. Student do not change classrooms for different classes; teachers come to the different classrooms. Outside of class time, head-teachers stay in offices which are usually categorized by grades, other teachers’ office are sorted by subjects.   


1.4. Special Education

Chinese elementary school do not push inclusive classrooms. Students with learning disabilities, such as ADHD, normally take elementary school in general classroom. Parents of students with physical disabilities, such as visual impairment, usually send their kids to Special-education schools.

(Teaching sign language in special school)

1.5. Dressing Code

In Chinese schools, from elementary to high school, students are required to wear school uniform all the time.


(Elementary school students with English teacher)


1.6. Classroom Technology https://www.techinasia.com/chinese-schools-beating-technology-integration


1.7 Cleaning Classroom

It is student’s responsibility to clean their own classroom, including sweeping and mopping the floor twice a day, cleaning the blackboard or whiteboard after each class. Students divided into groups, take turns to clean their classroom each week.


  2. A Typical Day












 (an example of student daily schedule in Chinese elementary school)

2.1 Eye exercise & Recess

2.1.1 Eyes exercise is a set of massage methods aimed at promoting students’ awareness of eye-protection, improving blood circulation and relaxing muscles in ocular region, relieving asthenopia and preventing myopia.[1] It is based on a combination of traditional Chinese medicine theories about Meridian and modern neuromedicine and theories from medical gymnastics.---- Wikipedia
















 (steps of eye-exercise)

















(a school nurse is teaching new elementary students steps of eye-exercise)

2.1.2 After each class, there is a 10 mins break.

2.1.3 During one of the big recesses, students will do a recess dance in order to maintain enough physical exercise daily.














2.1.4 In the other big recess period, students play with each other under teacher's supervision.

















2.1.5 After both big recesses, students are required to get together in units of class, then go back to classroom in order.  































 2.2 This figure above is an example of a 1st grade class.

2.2.1 In some school, English class begin or become more in the 3rd grade.



Above is a video by Lauren teaching a class at a Primary School in Wuhan, China.


Below is an example of English final exam on 3rd grade. (First part is the listening part.)




































2.2.2 Class meeting is held once a week, leading by the head-teacher, talking about recent performance of the class, and current hot social topics.   















2.2.3 Self study classes are under supervision of teachers.

2.2.4 Normally on Wednesday or Friday, school day in elementary school finishes before lunch break.  


 3. Special Activity

        3.1. Weekly flag-raising ceremony

Normally, a half an hour themed school meeting will be held in every Monday before class starts. All students have to wear school uniforms and wear red kerchief, which symbolizes the corner of Chinese flag. This meeting begins with flag-raising; then the school principal will give a short speech to highlight theme and activity of this week; a chosen well-performance student from last week will give a speech after the principle.















3.2. Teachers observe all class activities and cleanse of classroom, adding or taking off scores by student discipline and performances. Schools will have weekly and monthly competition based on those scores. School will use these marks to appraise and elect.

     Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPGTYwdyL_Y


       3.3 Extracurricular Activity

3.3.1 Art Festival

Art festival usually happened once a year, it is an opportunity for students to show their various artistic talents outside of class.




This is a video of poem reading during the art festival. Students were exhibiting their project.


3.3.2 Annual Sports Meeting

Students compete both in person and in units of class.



4. Academic Resource

Cai, J., & Jiang, C. (2017). An Analysis of Problem-Posing Tasks in Chinese and US Elementary Mathematics Textbooks. International Journal of Science & Mathematics Education, 15(8), 1521–1540. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-016-9758-2


Hartley, K. A., & Plucker, J. A. (2014). Teacher Use of Creativity-Enhancing Activities in Chinese and American Elementary Classrooms. Creativity Research Journal, 26(4), 389–399. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2014.961771


Yeung, P., Ho, C., Chan, D., & Chung, K. (2013). Modeling the relationships between cognitive-linguistic skills and writing in Chinese among elementary grades students. Reading & Writing, 26(7), 1195–1221. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9411-6


Tang, X., & Shao, F. (2014). On the Evolution of a Lesson: Group Preparation for Teaching Contest as Teacher Professional Development Activity for Chinese Elementary Science Teachers. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 23(2), 252–266. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-013-9454-8


Hartley, K. A., Plucker, J. A., & Long, H. (2016). Creative self-efficacy and teacher ratings of student creativity in Chinese elementary classrooms. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 22, 142–151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2016.10.001


Chan, S. M., & Oi Poon, S. F. (2016). Depressive symptoms in Chinese elementary school children: child social-cognitive factors and parenting factors. Early Child Development & Care, 186(3), 353–368. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2015.1030635