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Are you guilty of stereotyping your Chinese students? (2)
Author: EnglishTeacher    2023-01-12


Stereotype three: Chinese students lack critical thinking

I read recently that second-language learners may make the best second-language teachers. This is because they understand the difficulties faced during second-language acquisition.

Students require an opportunity to construct their own individual understanding. As stated previously, Chinese students occasionally prefer to do this silently.

In the West, we often depict the Chinese as being the smartest people on Earth. Due to this, I think we sometimes expect too much from our Chinese students.

Learning is longitudinal, and because of this, it takes time. Corners cannot be cut to extradite this process.

I once met a teacher who informed me, “You cannot save everyone”. In short, some students are beyond help. This has pertinence, because I’m surprised by how many teachers immediately give this label to second-language students.

Truthfully, even low-literacy learners are capable of achieving much. Just because their English skills are not superb does not mean they are not superb in other learning areas. These students hence will draw on anything around them to communicate with.

Again, it comes down to the situation that teachers give to their students. If we do not provide opportunities to foster constructive, creative or critical thinking, our students cannot be held accountable.


Although Chinese students may respect what teachers say, that doesn’t mean they won’t critically reflect. As an example, I recently asked students to draw me a response to a question.

One Chinese girl, however, incorporated writing into her response. I asked her why she hadn’t followed instructions. She referred to a previous comment of mine, ‘rules are meant to be broken’. She therefore took some initiative, believing that mantra fit the situation.

For students to be critical, we must foster this ability. To do so, we must incorporate support, examples and patience, else who are we to expect this from students?

Final thoughts

Some teachers I’ve met, when they stereotype their students, try to justify their opinions. However, these teachers should instead be looking for individual differences amongst their learners.

Regardless of the culture or ethnicity of students, teachers are likely to encounter a variety of different personalities. Yes, some Chinese students may be quiet, though others might be aggressively active.

Some students may be reserved, though others could be outgoing. Some students may be very well-behaved, just like others might be positively rotten. Not every student fits a stereotype, because no two students are the same.

The moment we begin to stereotype our students, we immediately cease to notice them for who they are. When it comes to education, this is quite possibly the biggest crime a teacher can commit.


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