eLearning Clashes with Culture

Culture is defined as ‘the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group’ (Dictionary.com). When working with a culture that is different from your own, one must be aware of the culture barriers that may arise, as well as acknowledge the customs, traditions, and rituals that culture may represent. From personal experience visiting abroad, I’ve  first hand seen cultures clash. I’ve been a victim myself of assuming the other person understood where I was coming from. However, it was not until stumbling upon an article from Education Week, that I knew culture can also clash with eLearning.

China, one of the world’s fastest growing major economies, as well as one of the world’s most tech-savvy, is putting a halt to incorporating eLearning in schools across China. By 2020, the Chinese government has planned to roll out digital learning in the schools country wide. However, until that date arrives, professors and teachers are skeptical of the idea of eLearning in the classrooms. This is because of culture. Let’s rewind a few steps back for those who are not familiar with the Chinese culture.  Chinese parents as well as professors put a lot of pressure on students to succeed on national exams. Thus, students are bogged down with homework and studying.  In addition, the culture views the Internet as entertainment rather than an opportunity to gain additional knowledge and resources. Mr. Zhou, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Vancouver, Canada-based China Education Resources, states that, “Unlike American students, who have time to socialize with their friends after school, Chinese students typically spend their after-school hours studying and may have only 15 minutes to relax”. Therefore, if a student does have 15 minutes to relax, he/she will use the Internet as a way to socialize or de-stress, not for education.

How will China and the Chinese culture gain trust in eLearning in the next eight years? Andrew S. Torris, deputy superintendent of the Pudong Campus Shanghai American School in Shanghai, believes “there’s a real push in China right now for the Chinese to get kids from the rising middle class and upper class into U.S. universities. That push could prompt some Chinese families to enroll their children in online courses provided by schools or companies based in the United States.”  Although Mr. Torris may think marketing well renowned U.S. Universities will do the trick, I personally believe it will require a change in the Chinese traditional mindset, followed by a rise of Chinese eLearning mavens advocating the benefits.

– Jacqueline Barnes