Same Equation, Different Culture: Exchange student faces new outlook on educationMonday, April 24, 2006 By abraham swee & amelia holcomb
At 2:44 p.m. students pour out of the school doors and dash to their cars like mad cattle, only to find themselves caught in a web of traffic. It seems like a normal time to rush home for an after-school snack or to kick back on the couch. But at 2:44 p.m. in Hong Kong, students and teachers are still trudging through their school day. Ho Chung Ki, is a foreign exchange student attending Albert Lea High School. Her native country is China and her home is in Hong Kong. Known as Rita by her American peers, she is accustomed to ending her school day at 5 p.m. With more free time and less schoolwork, Rita finds her time easily managed. “I enjoy [school] here. It’s easier,” Rita said. “In Hong Kong I’m very bad at math, but here I excel.” Excelling may be an understatement for Rita, as math in America comes easily for her. With little use of calculators and an extended school day, Rita’s schooling in Hong Kong has more than prepared her for our curriculum in America. “I see my classmates [here] use a calculator for easy math,” Rita said. “We’re not even allowed to use a calculator in primary school.” Rita’s math teacher for this term is Mr. Neil Skaar. With her unique talent in math, Skaar quickly recognized Rita’s unusual ability. “She has math skills like a calculator or machine,” Skaar said. “It’s all from memory.” After being drilled for countless hours, Chinese students generally execute processes faster and grow to appreciate these skills in their daily lives. Rita has come from a culture which simply values their education more than an average student in America. “With seven million people and only eight universities [in Hong Kong], we really value education,” Rita said. Rita and her peers started school at the age of three. With the willpower to succeed in their schooling, students are generally more serious about learning. China’s focus on education is opening new doors for their ability to become a world power. “I think it has everything to do with discipline. They have a whole different attitude,” Skaar said. “You can blame anything you want…It’s just that we don’t have the focus in education.” Despite China’s emphasis on a rigorous education system, Rita doesn’t have plans to further her post-secondary education in China. “Although China will always be my home, I have plans to go to college here in America,” Rita said.