Education sage shares experience

Updated: 2012-10-26 09:42

By Li Aoxue (China Daily)

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 Education sage shares experience

Rossana Lin is MIT educational council regional chair for Beijing. Provided to China Daily

She started out studying to be an engineer, now she is helping young people engineer their futures

As ever more Chinese students opt to pursue higher education overseas, Rossana Lin argues Chinese schooling is better than many people think.

Lin, regional chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Education Council in Beijing, says China's secondary education helps children build a solid foundation before they go to universities.

"Unlike the US education which gives students a lot of freedom in their childhood, Chinese secondary education is very strict with student assignments so it helps them develop good learning habits," she says.

Lin, 47, an MIT graduate in mechanical engineering and now an expert on children's education in China, came here from California in 2003.

Her three sons attended schools in Beijing and the first earned pocket money by tutoring peers at his international school. She reckons the Chinese schooling helped another son, Kane, improve his time management.

"Chinese teachers at local schools have very strict rules on students' mathematics homework. These rules look boring and doctrinal, but they can be very effective in developing children's learning habits at an early age."

Lin says that because of the workload Kane's primary school teacher put on him, he would get stuck into his homework as soon as he arrived home. This habit lasted until he went to the international school.

"Kane now has more spare time compared with his peers as he is better at time management," she says.

Lin says that the environment at local Chinese schools tends to be "pure", and interactions between students are not as complicated as in Western schools, where students can often be stereotyped as nerds, geeks, artistic types or athletes.

Lin, born in Taiwan and raised in Canada, and who has both Canadian and US citizenship, says that in education no country can be considered "absolutely best".

"US higher education is good, but there tends to be less control on students in secondary education. On the other hand, Chinese secondary education is good, but there are a lot of limitations on the development of its universities."

After almost 10 years in China, Lin has made a name for herself as the author of books about children's education.

"There is a thirst for information from Chinese moms eager to know how to educate their children better," she says.

One book, which talks about the competitive pressure among younger generations, was published in China in June.

However, she says the post-1980 generation has tended to receive less parental guidance, being given freer rein by parents who were over-controlled by their parents when they were young.

"I still believe children should be given a lot of guidance by their parents when they are small, and respecting others, having a sense of responsibility, and obtaining a decent character need to be trained at a quite early age."

Living with her husband and three children in the US, Lin insisted that her sons' classmates call her "Aunty Rossana" instead of Rossana, because she considers respect is a virtue of Asian culture.

"Asian virtue is not rigid and doctrinal, as only when kids learn how to respect others can they get respect from others when they enter into society," she says.

Those on the MIT Education Council have the job of recruiting students for the university, and Lin, as the regional chair in Beijing, says she interviews about 20 MIT candidates a year.

In 2009 Lin and her husband introduced an MIT program to China that aims to encourage students' spirit of invention.

"There is a lack of creativity in Chinese education. By bringing this program to China, we hope we can bring MIT's concept of creativity to Chinese students and have some positive influence on their life track."

Two Chinese high schools (Beijing No 4 High School and Shenzhen Middle School) have worked with MIT to send students to Boston to take part in a one-week program. They are given the chance to present something they have invented and to get to know US students and teachers.

Fang Mingtao, 18, a student of Shenzhen Middle School who took part in the program in June, says it broadened his mind and helped him develop problem-solving skills.

"Previously I was afraid of making mistakes, but now I realize experience is more important than results," he says.

Before entering the field of children's education Lin was a software designer for medium-sized companies in Canada, and when her sons were born she became a full-time mother.

After the family moved to China, she started to provide training on commercial etiquette to employees of multinational companies such as Microsoft and Motorola.

After training people about how to socialize or how to order a drink she realized she could be more influential by providing classes on managing families and educating children.

"A lot of families encounter problems as they reach a mid-life crisis, where they are very confused about their marriage and career."

Apart from interviewing candidates for MIT and writing columns for Chinese newspapers in which she advises mothers with problems educating their children, she offers counseling on the Internet.

"My husband always makes fun of me that although I do not have a full-time job, I am much busier than he is. But educating is very important as it can change a person's life, and I would like to share my experience with people."

(China Daily 10/26/2012 page20)