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Academic Exchange - by Chinese student
Edit:shenmin Date:2010-10-28 09:51

Academic Exchange


Eastern education and western education have their own traits because of different cultural background, different language, different region and different knowledge structure. Based on my personal experience, I try to discuss some apparent difference of education between Zhejiang University (ZU) and Simon Fraser University (SFU).


English, Professor, Teacher assistant (TA), Practice


Our first group of 2005 Double Degree Program (DDP) arrived at SFU in Vancouver on a sunshine day, May 1st. And we will spend our brand new college lives here for two years. Now, after two semesters, I would like to make some conclusions according to my experience of different education from these two universities.

1. English is a problem but solvable

Of course our DDP students all passed the IELTS and got good marks, however it is still difficult to use our knowledge of English in practice rather than in test. We confronted difficulties in some cases. Not only to talk fluent with professors and teachers, but also understanding well of the speech given in lectures have become challenges. Especially when we attend a course in which the professor's mother language is not English, we can hardly understand the sentences from their heavy accents. However, we are not beaten by such difficulties; in contrast we study much harder than before. With well preview and review, we can understand the points which we didn't get in the lecture. And in order to solve this kind of problem, we begin to contact more with professor and other classmates by email. So that language problem actually becomes a motivation to prompt us make more conversation with professors, classmates and TA.

2. Professor performs more important character than before

I learned that professor has very strong effectives in the education in the last 8 months. In ZU, teachers often use the same lecture materials and have the similar course plan. Apart from the situation in ZU, every professor in SFU has their own course plan and maybe totally different emphasis to each other. I think this strategy has its advantage but also some drawbacks.

Firstly, professor's personality and charm can be showed more. Of course it will benefit the motivation of professors because they get more chance to demonstrate their own interest and talent. I have been in a course called Multimedia System in which the professor gave really attractive lecture with his humor.

However, I think the different course plan do bring some difficult in the evaluation of studying. For one course, my classmate and I chose different professors in different semesters. We found that the contents were so much different from each other. One was practice orientation with lots of programming and the other included only calculation and memory of basic concepts. Personally, I think it is unfair that for the same course you may learn different knowledge. It will impact the knowledge structure of students and also the learning process of students. In ZU we did not have such problem because all teachers of the same course use same materials in general.

Moreover since the professor takes such big control of the course, the responsibility of teacher gains heavy effects in the process of course. For example, a teacher of one of my courses had been so busy with his research that he didn't have time to mark our homework. It resulted that we didn't get any feedback for our homework after the final exam. And he even reduced the number of assignments from 4 to 3. In this case, we students really could not know how much we learned from the course. Another point I want to mention is that although we have kind of evaluation forms to teachers at the end of each semester, we do not have the right to see the evaluation result. In ZU we have a course selecting system that can show you the average score of a professor given by students and also some comments from students. It will benefit students in selecting course and also it is a way to supervise the professor.

3. Regular assignments are as important as final

In ZU, it is rare to see courses in which the final only accounts from 30‐40%. Final exam usually determines your final mark of the course. It seems that it is a rule in SFU that the final of every course will take about 30‐40% score. Hence marks of assignments become more important. In order to get a high mark of a course, students should pay the same effort through the whole semester rather than make effort at the last moment. In fact raising the percentage of regular assignment and quiz will encourage students to work hard in the whole semester and so that it will reduce the pressure at the end of semester. It is good strategy which ZU shall learn from SFU.

4. We need more help from TA

When we are studying in China, there is no language understanding problem as in Canada. Hence we do not refer to TA very much for help because usually we can learn by ourselves after class. But in the environment of English, we need a person who can explain and induce some issues for us. TA is the best person taking responsibility of this job.

For my experience, although I did not turn to TA for help very much, they really answered my question carefully and in details when I asked them. They really should be praised because of their hardworking and enthusiasm.

5. Individual effort and teamwork are both important

Both universities pay lots of attention to individual effort and teamwork. In the respect of individual, SFU emphasis more in the original and effort, while ZU concentrates more in a general standard. For example, there are numbers of open‐ended assignments of courses in SFU like an assignment asks you to capture a 3 scenes video and make transition by yourself. It is very hard to see such assignment in major courses in ZU.

In the field of teamwork, with almost all the students in class being Canadians who have different cultural backgrounds and language from us, it results that there must be different attitude and idea to the project. However, I did not see much difference but find that we have more things in common. Native students work as hard as us and also will use their spare time as much as possible to make sure we can finish the whole task on time. Although different language leads some misunderstanding between us, we still can make each understood at last, and we have more ways to contact each other like MSN, emails. We become good friends after course and keep in touch with each other.


Above is the difference what I have learnt and understood from the experience of studying in two universities. In conclusion, both universities have their own advantage. I am sure that our DDP students will benefit from both universities and make great achievement in our college life.