University internationalization in the field of education as well as in the field of science and research is one of the main priorities of VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava. VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava has several double degree agreements with foreign universities, mostly from Western Europe – e.g. Great Britain, Finland, but also with foreign universities outside Europe. In 2009 VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava signed a memorandum with Hubei University of Technology. This cooperation involves travelling of the Czech teachers to China and teaching several subjects at Hubei University of Technology as well as teaching 3rd year Chinese students at VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava (Czech Republic). This paper brings own teaching experience of the European lecturer who gave the lectures at the Chinese university for the Chinese students studying in English. Ishikawa diagram was used to determine the main causes of Chinese students’ failure in Business Economics. This paper brings modified methods of teaching Business Economics to be more suitable for Chinese students as well as critical review of Chinese students’ learning styles and characteristics observed by the author of the paper.
Student centred methods ; Culture of collectivism ; University ; Business Economics
University internationalization in the field of education as well as in the field of science and research is one of the main priorities of VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava. This priority is described at length in the Long-term Goals of VŠB – TUO and is elaborated yearly in its updates. The University endeavours to establish long-term partnership with foreign institutions and to involve the University more deeply in international projects. The right choice of a partner university is a very important part of the establishment of a new partnership. Compatibility and quality of study programs at partner institution have to be considered during the preparation of new agreements. Initiation of new cooperation comes primarily from the faculty level and is based on academic-field compatibility, which is an important premise of long-term, reliable cooperation. VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava focuses on cooperation with European universities in Poland, Slovakia, Scandinavian universities as well as on western and southern European. A prime territory of interest is the region of South and East Asia (Republic of Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan).
VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava has several double degree agreements with foreign universities, mostly from Western Europe – e.g. Great Britain, Finland, but also with foreign universities outside Europe. In 2009 VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava signed a memorandum about Chinese students’ education in Ostrava. Each year a group of Chinese students from Hubei University of Technology (HBUT) in Wuhan has a chance to study 3rd year of the bachelor study programme Finance at the Faculty of Economics (Czech Republic). Since 2009 the number of self-paying Chinese students is increasing each year. This very successful academic cooperation includes travelling of the Czech lectures to China and giving the classes at Hubei University of Technology for the students of the first and also second year. In case students successfully pass the subjects taught by the Czech lectures in China, they have a chance to continue their study at VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava in the Czech Republic.
Since globalization of university education in the twenty first century, giving lectures by foreign teachers has become more frequent in many countries. The question is what happens when two cultures meet? Newly arrived culture is represented by the Czech teacher and resident culture is represented by the whole group of Chinese students from Hubei University of Technology. There are missing contemporary studies of the effects of tutor centred and student centred approaches to teaching and learning that have been used in Europe for teaching Business Economics on university teaching and learning process in China. Are the methods of teaching Business Economics applicable to the whole extent?
Basically there exist two main approaches to teaching and learning: tutor centred and student centred approach. Tutor centred approach is based on the idea that learning represents “filling up” the student with knowledge. Lecturer or teacher should be an expert who delivers his knowledge through lectures to the student. Students aim is to learn everything that is presented to him. Students role is more passive. In the case students are required to learn definitions, mathematical equations or other specific information, this approach can be very useful (Allan, 2009 ). Tutor centred methods contain lectures, many seminars, some approaches to e-learning and many tutorials. In lectures usually a large group of students listen to a lecturer, who provides an overview of a subject and identify key themes and issues. For that purpose PowerPoint presentation is usually used and students expect to receive a handout in advance. They are supposed to make notes of key points. To avoid monotonous lectures using a story or just different way of phrasing something can help (Williams, 2009 ). Some teachers advocate using rewards in the classroom to improve the classroom experience (Alberto and Troutman, 2003 , Cameron et al., 2001 , Colvin, 2010 and Kauffman et al., 2006 ) but some of them are persuaded that rewards damage students learning (Deci et al., 1999 and Kohn, 1993 ). In seminars smaller group of students (from 10 to 15) has a chance to discuss a problem or question with the other students. Students may be asked to prepare a case study, read a book or paper in advance. Chat rooms, discussion groups, learning material, announcements, etc. can be found in Moodle which represents an example of e-learning. Students also can receive online assessment, but the Internet is required.
Students centred approach to teaching has basically three features: the student is actively involved in the learning process, learning is based on real life and authentic situations, learning are treated as a social process. Students develop much deeper and more complex understanding of their subject (Allan, 2009 ). Student centred approach methods involve:
For successful experiential learning it is important to understand the aims of the activity, actively engage in the experiential learning task, and discuss the task in a professional manner. Action learning is connected with management education. Small group of people join together and work on specific live problem or issue. It emphasizes importance of experience and action and has three parts: action, learning, reflection. In university education case studies are very useful. Case studies can be for school as well as for company purposes. Students can work in a group or alone, the aim is to apply knowledge and skills to real situation. Learning journals refer to an accumulation of material that is mainly based on the writers processes of reflection (Moon, 2006 ).
Tutor centred approach is suitable in many cases, however for business students this approach is not relevant, because students need to deal with complex situations or conflicting data sets or information. Business and management students need to be flexible and adapt to the range of situations in entrepreneurial environment. In practice teachers use methods from both approaches so that it is usually mixture of both approaches. Considering globalization of university education teacher who leaves his homeland to give the lectures abroad at a partner university should adapt his teaching approach to the culture of the host country.
It is obvious that European lecturer should not expect the same feedback in a class where only European students are as in the class where more than 50 Chinese students are. In lecturing it is necessary to modify the tools and methods of teaching according to a culture of the students. The Czech teacher lecturing in China Chinese students represents meeting of two cultures. Cultural psychologists have argued that the dominant value system in Chinese societies is collectivism, which differs from the individualism of North American societies (Hofstede, 1980 , Oyserman and Lee, 2008 and Triandis, 1995 ). Teacher comes from the Czech Republic that has more features of individualistic culture.
In collectivist countries, the self is generally viewed as independent with others, which is accompanied by the sharing of resources. In individualistic cultures, the self is generally viewed as autonomous and independent of groups (Markus and Kitayama, 1991 ).
In collectivist cultures, goals tend to be compatible with in-group goals, while in individualistic cultures, individual goals tend not to be correlated with in-group goals (Triandis, 1989 ).
Regarding emphasis on duties and obligations versus personal preference, in collectivistic cultures, the determinants of social behaviour are primarily duties and obligations, whereas in individualist cultures, there are primarily attitudes, values, beliefs, personal needs, perceived rights and contracts (Miller, 1994 ).
In collectivist countries, people tend to emphasize unconditional relatedness with groups, whereas in individualistic cultures people tend emphasize rationality. Relatedness refers to giving priority to relationship and taking into account the needs of others, even if such relationships are not advantageous (House et al., 2004 ).
In Business Economics taught at VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava, the teacher used a mixture of the methods, such as lectures, e-learning, case studies, and also a number of exercises that are solved during the classes. Students also present the results of their tasks to perform their language and presenting skills.
In 2012/2013 academic year the same mixture of learning and teaching methods and activities were used in Business Economics lectured by the Czech teacher at Hubei University of Technology in Chinese town Wu-chan. However students’ behaviour, feedback and reactions were different from the Czech students in Europe. The main differences and more detailed description of teaching and learning activities are seen in Table 1 .
|Teaching and learning methods and activities in Business Economics||The more detailed description of managing the classes in Business Economics at VŠB – TUO in the Czech Republic||The main differences while implementing teaching and learning methods and activities in Business Economics at HBUT in China|
|Lectures||- students receive a brief presentation about 3 days in advance - students make a lot of notes into given presentation - many exercises are added in order to apply to practice presented theory, students solve them in the class - at the end of the presentation the discussion questions are read and students answer the questions and discuss different opinions - at the end: “Any question?” students provide reliable feedback||- students made nearly no notes - students expected to have all the necessary information in the presentation - only a few excellent students were able to solve the exercises in the classes - students were not willing to answer discussion question at the end of the class - at the end: “Any question?” minimal feedback followed during the class, but a lot of students came to ask a question during the breaks - students concentration in the classes was lower than in the Czech classes|
|Case studies||- case studies are solved during the classes, students usually work alone - after the reading the case study, students work out a solution and discuss it in the class||- case studies were solved with difficulty, students preferred to work in pairs or in groups - it took a long time to find a relevant solution during the class|
|Students presentations||- each student has a presentation of several tasks - at the end of the presentation students discuss presented topic||- regarding the fact that class had over 30 students, presentations were cancelled|
|E-learning activity||- students have all the presentations in Moodle - students submit their tasks in Moodle - students are evaluated electronically in this system - announcements such as timetable, room changes etc. are located in Moodle - other messages are send and visible to everyone||- majority of students stay at dormitories and not everyone has laptop or computer - Moodle was not used|
As shown in Table 1 there were identified significant differences in the behaviour of the Czech and Chinese students as the subject Business Economic is taught in both countries with the same content and methods of teaching and learning. Chinese students seemed to be more passive, silent learning with no questions during the classes, accepting all the information and knowledge presented by the teacher. Chinese students seemed to be passive participants in the classroom.
The percentage of students who were successful in their Business Economics exams in 2012/2013 academic year in Wu-chan was only 56.25. In order to increase a number of successful students and wake up students activity in subject Business Economics lectured by the Czech lecturer at the Hubei University of Technology in China, Ishikawa diagram was constructed. This cause and effect diagram was worked out in order to identify teaching and learning differences between the Czech and Chinese students and factors that affect the quality of education. The fishbone diagram was used to brainstorm about possible causes of low number of successful students in Business Economics (see Fig. 1 ). Brainstorming participants were Chinese students of 2013/2014 academic year – graduates of Business Economics. The lecturer took the role of facilitator. Results are shown in Fig. 1 .
Considering results obtained by the brainstorming the most significant problem in education is language barrier and meeting of two different cultures. Language barrier goes hand in hand with a culture of collectivism. Cultural collectivism has a direct effect on the students’ communication behaviour in that it affects their willingness to answer the questions in the classes. The teachers purpose in asking the questions is not to get information but to verify that those being questioned, the students of Business Economics, possess the information needed to answer the question. That feedback was missing. Each question was followed by a long silence. Ishikawa diagram showed two main causes of “silent learning”. Firstly Chinese students are shy and do not want to lose face which can mean losing a social status or prestige. Secondly students and teachers in China are used to implement hierarchical line conception of teaching and learning. Students regard teachers as all-knowing and accept knowledge transmitted by teachers. Chinese classroom activities are typically seen as dominated by teachers with limited questioning or discussion. Result from designed Ishikawa diagram is supported by several authors (Cortazzi and Jin, 2001 and Chan, 1999 ) who explains two conceptions of teaching and learning – hierarchical line and horizontal line. The second conception means that students are considered to be acquiring knowledge through participating in activities and sharing their independent thinking. This learning context stresses equalitarianism, individual development, independent and critical thinking, and cooperation. Chinese educational philosophy and learning traditions have been profoundly influenced by Confucianism (Bush and Qiang, 2000 ). Results from Ishikawa diagram confirmed that students with Confucian heritage cultural background tend to be modest and diligent, emphasize the importance of order, respect for authorities, and value pragmatic acquisition of knowledge. Silence in a class do not mean that students are not engaged in learning, but the students respect hierarchical relationships in the society as knowledgeable people like scholars and teachers are greatly respected as good role models.
As the lecturer comes from the Czech Republic which is located in central Europe, she is mostly influenced by the culture of individualism and implements horizontal line teaching and learning conception.
It is obvious that the teaching approach of the European teacher has to be modified so as to accommodate the culture of collectivism.
Language barrier is significant. Chinese students studying the subjects in English put substantial effort to learning. Reading the English text in a class requires a lot of courage and the students want to avoid it. In 2013 the lecturer sent materials 1 week before arrival to China so that students had about 10 days for going through the materials. Due to language barrier it proved to be a very short time. Chinese students did a low notes during the classes and relied on that they get some full text material. European students usually make a lot of notes during the teachers speech. The first part of the learning process is done right in the class.
During the classes many students were not able to concentrate. Chinese students seemed to be too tired to participate in the teaching process. Two significant causes were identified: too long time spent at school and too short time spent resting and sleeping. Some students appeared to be sleeping in the classes. The question is why it does not happen in the Czech Republic. For that purpose there were compared time-tables of the both partner universities: the Czech VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava and Hubei University of Technology in China. The time-tables were compared in the same academic year and similar branch of study – Finance (see Table 2 and Table 3 ).
Time-table for the 2014/2015 academic year - summer semester – 1st year students at VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava (Czech Republic).
|Days||8:20–9:55||10:15–11:50||Lunch break||14:00–15:35||15:55–17:30||Total minutes per 1 day|
|Monday||Economic policy of EU||Management & administration of commercial banks||Business English||270|
|Tuesday||Principles of marketing||International economics||Business administration classics||Economic policy of EU||360|
|Wednesday||Economic policy of EU||Cost calculation & price||180|
|Thursday||Economic policy of EU||Cost calculation & price||Principles of marketing||270|
|Friday||Business English||Management & administration of commercial banks||Business administration classics||International economics||360|
|Total number of minutes per 1 week||1440|
Table 2 indicates that the Czech 1st year students (bachelors degree) spend 1035 min per 1 week in the classes. It represents 23 academic hours (one academic hour is 45 min). In 2014/2015 academic year the Czech students had no classes on Fridays. The Czech students have no lunch break; they can eat before or after the classes. Except Wednesday, students finish at 2 p.m.
Table 3 indicates that the Chinese 1st year students (bachelors degree) spend 1440 min per 1 week in the classes. It represents 32 academic hours (one academic hour is 45 min). The students have a lunch break and spend the time in a campus. The students do not finish their classes before 5:30 p.m. and have the classes on Friday.
Comparison of the two time-tables (see Table 2 and Table 3 ) indicates a significant difference in free time of the 1st year university students in the Czech Republic and China in academic year 2014/2015 which can considerably influence students’ attention in the classes.
Business Economics is at HUT taught in spring when the temperatures during the day are over 28 °C. Rooms are not air-conditioned. It can cause the students lower concentration.
The Czech teacher sent the support materials (power point presentations) usually 10 days before the classes start. It turned out that it is a very short time to let the Chinese students to prepare (translate) the materials. Chinese students also expect to have a one or two books as support source of literature. They are not very often used to combine different sources of literature.
A significant number of Chinese students come from faraway towns so that they stay in dormitories which involves given regimen and limited possibilities of learning during the nights. Increasing number of students sharing the room limits the possibility of learning.
Chinese students in general have lower skills in the use of Word and software compared to the Czech students. So that submitted case studies were written by a hand or with a lower level of graphics.
Considering the causes of the Ishikawa diagram (Fig. 1 ), it is necessary to distinguish the causes impressible by a teacher and not impressible. For example overcrowded campus is not the factor that can be influenced by a lecturer. After exclusion of other uncontrollable factors there remain factors that can be influenced. In 2015 teachers approach to teaching process was changed in accordance with the results from the Ishikawa diagram (Fig. 1 ). It was necessary to modify the mixture of methods of teaching and learning under the conditions of China especially culture as seen in Table 4 .
|Area of different approach||Proposed modified teaching and learning approach for the conditions of China university education|
|Lectures||- deliver the materials 1 month before the classes start so that students have enough time to translate and understand the meaning of presented information - provide students more detailed presentation (materials) so that they have enough time to listen and understand and do not lose the time be making a lot of notes - let the discussion questions at the end of the presentation, but ask them at the beginning of following class so that students have a time to think of the problem and are not stressed to lose their face - encourage students during the classes that even negative answer is an important feedback for a teacher|
|Case studies and exercises||- offer some extra points as a reward in the case the students solve an exercise in the class - let the case studies and exercises solve in the teams, some of them as a homework to let the students more time to handle their language barrier and overcome the students’ shyness|
|Students’ concentration||With respect to the students higher number of classes and time spend in a campus during one week compared to the Czech students: - to forbid the use of cellular phones that can cause a lower concentration - to use the stories - to say something in Chinese – students are always laughing, because Chinese is very difficult|
Proposed modified approach to teaching and learning was used in 2014/2015 academic year at Hubei University of Technology in China. The study group included 58 Chinese students. It represents about two times higher amount of students in one class. Despite that implementing proposed changes (see Table 4 ) let to important changes. The students’ behaviour in the classes was different. Students were more active during the lessons, were prepared to discuss the questions, and provided a better feedback, even the concentration of the students increased.
Delivering study materials 1 month earlier than in previous years, helped the Chinese students, studying in English, to overcome their language barrier. Instead of asking students unknown questions the teacher asked discussion questions stated at the end of each study material. The students seemed to be more hardworking and assessment-centred compared to previous years.
The students were assured that even negative answer is an important feedback for a teacher. At the same time students were encouraged to ask questions in the classes rather than during the breaks and assured that asking questions is not inconsistent with respecting relationships in the society.
Case studies were not solved individually, but in the teams which contributed to quicker work and more creative solutions.
We can conclude that language barrier, students’ respect of hierarchical relationships in the society and collectivistic culture significantly influence Chinese students’ performance at the university while studying subject in English.
Teaching experience of the Czech lecturer in China led to an effort of finding the causes of very different Chinese students’ behaviour in the classes compared to the European students (Czech university students). Chinese students were seemed as passive, not participative learners who never question the knowledge delivered during lectures. On the other hand questions asked by the teacher were followed by a long silence. For discovering the causes of “passive learners” brainstorming and Ishikawa diagram was used. Brainstorming participants were Chinese students of 2013/2014 academic year – graduates of Business Economics. The lecturer took the role of facilitator and noticed several important findings.
Language barrier significantly influence Chinese students effort in the classes. It was partially overcome by materials provided 1 month before the course started.
Ishikawa diagram helped to discover hierarchical conception of teaching and learning which is implemented in China and goes hand in hand with Confucian heritage cultural background. Students’ silence cannot be interpreted as not active participations in classroom activities, but as respecting hierarchical relationships in the society emphasizing the importance of order, respect for authorities, and value pragmatic acquisition of knowledge.
Comparison of the two time-tables (see Table 2 and Table 3 ) indicates significant differences in a free time of the 1st year university students in the Czech Republic and China in academic year 2014/2015 which can considerably influence students’ attention in the classes. Chinese students can be more tired as their week contains 32 academic hours while the Czech students have 23 academic hours per week and except Wednesday they finish at 2 p.m. and have Friday without lectures.
It is necessary to respect the culture of host country and at the same time home country of the students. All the methods of teaching and learning cannot be applied in a different culture without any change. Author of the paper proposed changes in teaching and learning approach that reflect Chinese national specifics. Proposed changes were examined with a positive feedback.
The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.