Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Education in Europe vs Asia

I saw someone asking somewhere, how education systems differ in Asia and Europe? I intend to share my experience here.  

Few months ago, I had an oral exam; one of the exams I must pass in order to get my PhD degree. In Germany, if you are an international PhD student, there is a different rule. They look at your previous qualifications and depending upon which department you have enrolled, if there are modules in their list you haven't done before, you have to pass that in order to be fully enrolled. 

Oral exam is more popular than written here. Obviously, there is written exam and in some cases, presentation exam too but most of the examiners prefer oral exam because they believe that it is the only way to know if the students have actually understood the materials. So, if you want to get a decent result, you cannot skip a single chapter or part. You have to master everything. 

First of all, oral exam, the name itself was stressful for me. I had never done it before and I was as scared as hell thinking what it will be like. It won't be like a written exam where you can have some time to think about the questions. Plus in written exam, if you don't know one question, you can choose to come back to it later. I didn't think it would be possible in oral exam while two examiners are staring and waiting for you to answer. I was really really nervous. I am not even joking. 

So, in oral exam, I already mentioned, there are two professors. One to ask questions and another to write down whatever you answer. The professor in charge of writing can also ask questions in the middle.  

After spending 2 years in Germany, I know for sure that education here is all about understanding. Students are very knowledgeable. They certainly know what they are doing because they value education more than grades. Here, I have to confess that I struggled in Germany during my first few months as much as I did when I came to UK from Nepal. 

My memories from Nepal is, we were memorising all the time. We even used to memorise 2 pages of essays and by the end of it, we knew where all the full stops and commas were. The students are highly competitive there. Getting high scores in the exam is more important. Whether you understand or not, but if you score high, you are smart enough. Oh, there is also a good thing. The students are more disciplined. And my God, they are studying all the time (I mean the serious ones).

In the UK, for my subject, it was all about understanding the application without memorising. You don't have to understand the theory as long as you know where and how to use it. As an Engineering student, I learnt a lot about working in a group and communicating well because at the end of the day that matters a lot wherever you go.

UK vs Germany:
In the UK, its extremely competitive to get into University. The ranking of the University is very important. Higher the rank of the University is, more difficult it is to get in. On the other hand, from what I hear, its not that competitive in Germany to get into University unless you are studying medicine. But the story doesn't end there. They make exam really tough that only smart ones can survive.  

Oh, here is another thing, every German University is fee-free but the UK has increased its tuition fee from 3000 to 9000 grand (only for home students). 

Germany is also the place where internships are favoured, encouraged and the must, whereas the UK is more rushed to its degree. For eg. Engineering Bachelor and Master's degree (MEng) can be completed in four years in the UK but in Germany, students finish in their own time. Some students finish bachelor in 3 years, some in 4 years. It totally depends on when they are ready and because everyone finishes in different time, there is no graduation ceremony here :O. And here is another thing to note: British students do their part time job in restaurants, pub or retail stores but Germans students work in the institutes or the Company- impressive indeed!
Europe vs Asia
So, in Europe, education is not only about reading books. It's also about thinking and questioning everything you see, solving the problems you are interested in. Students are encouraged to contribute in community projects to make them open minded and confident. They do lots of volunteering work plus paid work from early age. They travel and learn to become independent from the beginning.

Asian students start learning very complicated math skills since they are in grade 7 but now when I think about it, the sole purpose of all those hard work was only to pass the exams. We had different mindset. We studied to get high scores in exams rather than considering how we could use what we learned to solve interesting problems. Voluntary works and paid works were not common (Not sure about it now). We were occupied with all kinds of lessons and homework, and we hardly explored. Most of us were used to wait other people to tell us what to do. By the way, that was called being disciplined.

There are vast differences between the education systems in these countries. There are good sides and bad sides everywhere. It's certainly difficult to say which system is better for who. It all depends on where you grow up and which system you are used too. If someone is constantly shifting from one system to another like me, it's a real adventure but does make you adaptable. 

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