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The enigma of the Chinese learner

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Although increasingly challenged in the higher education literature in recent years, there is still a common perception among teachers of the stereotypical Chinese rote learner. This perception, however, lies uncomfortably with the paradox that Chinese learners nevertheless often excel in their studies, in comparison with their Western counterparts. This comparative study of Chinese and Australian accountancy students provides evidence that, while surface approaches to learning can be associated with mechanical rote learning, the Chinese tradition of memorization through repetition can be used to deepen understanding and achieve high levels of academic performance. In recognizing this phenomenon, the enigma of the Chinese learner is better understood.

Keywords: Chinese enigma; academic performance; accountancy students; memorization with understanding; rote-learning; surface approaches

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2004

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