Cultural Differences in Educational Systems and Teaching Methods
Educational systems and teaching methods are different from one country to another. What is acceptable in one culture may or may not be acceptable in another culture. This can lead to confusion. Here are some examples of some of these differences:
• Expectations of the role of instructors and students may lead to wrong judgments about one another. For some cultures, the instructor is the “expert”. In Canada, instructors are
not considered to be the only authority on the subject. They are allowed to say, “I don’t know the answer to the question, let me find out.”
• In Canada, instructors are considered to be a partner in the learning process. Instructors respect the knowledge and experiences students bring to the classroom.
• In some cultures, instructors are given more respect based on their age and/or gender. In Canada, all instructors and students are expected to be given respect regardless of their age or gender.
• In some cultures, students only read materials that are absolutely necessary to do well on examinations. In Canada, students are assessed and graded based on a combination of tools including class participation, individual and group assignments, tests and examinations.
• In Canada, instructors also play many roles: teacher, advisor, counsellor and friend. Instructors can distinguish roles and expect students to do the same. However, just
because an instructor is friendly outside the classroom does not mean that this will affect the students’ marks in a more positive way.
• In some cultures, questioning or challenging an instructor may be considered a personal attack on the instructor’s competence. In Canada, instructors expect students to participate in classroom discussions and develop their own ideas. It is considered normal that students will question, use their own words, consider more than one side of an issue and even challenge an instructor. If students remain silent in class, Canadian instructors often interpret this behaviour to mean that the student is uninterested or does not understand the course material. It is very important for you to participate in class discussions and group work in a Canadian classroom.
• Canadian instructors expect students to ask for help when they need it. Asking for help is not considered embarrassing for the student or the instructor in Canada.
• Students in some cultures tend to work cooperatively with one another while students from other cultures compete with one another. In Canada, there tends to be a combination of both.
• In Canada, there is a belief about learning that differs from many other parts of the world. Learning and receiving an education is based on the ability to discover knowledge. This is often considered more important than memorization of facts and affects the teaching style of instructors, methods of assessment and interaction with students.
• Canadian students tend to be independent. If they are absent from class, they are expected to find out what they missed from either the instructor and/or other students.