China's education system is the envy of many Western governments, who are keen to replicate the nation's high test scores and levels of discipline in their own schools.
However, the realities of schooling in China, looking beyond the exam results of pupils, often prompt Western critics to say that they promote a narrow and limiting education for the country's children.
In a discussion on British and Chinese education on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores that rank global education, and have placed Chinese students (specifically those from Shanghai) at the top in recent years, were called into question.
"The only people who believe the PISA league tables are the BBC and the Department for Education," said journalist Simon Jenkins, in the discussion with Chinese journalist and author Xinran Xue.
"They're just rubbish," he continued. "You can do anything with 15-year-olds if you treat them like baby Communists. This isn't about education, it's about scoring."
The PISA tables seemingly tell us everything about the relative skills of teenagers around the world in reading, maths and sciences, and are commonly used to name the nations with the 'best' education systems.
However, they routinely face criticism, including claims that the tests ignore cultural backdrops to students' learning (such as the heavy pressure to perform placed on many Chinese pupils), neglect to take into account civic, artistic and moral development, and encourage short-term fixes such as rote learning that help nations and schools climb league tables, but don't necessarily provide education to students.
Xue pointed out the cultural differences at play in British and Chinese schools.
She said: "In China, when the students come to the classroom, you have to tell them you must learn something - it is your duty to the country, to the nation, to your family."
China's extraordinary 'nail houses'
China's extraordinary 'nail houses'
1/8 Nail houses in China
A general view shows the demolition of a 'nail house', the last house in the area, at a construction site in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. The owners of the house had filed but lost a lawsuit against the developer of the land to seek more compensation before agreeing to the demolition of their home. The land will be used for a high-rise apartment project. Chinese media have since seized on disputes between developers and owners of so-called 'nail houses', whose owners have stuck to their ground and resisted demolition, holding up development projects in the world's fastest-growing major economy
2/8 Nail houses in China
A half-demolished apartment building standing in the middle of a newly-built road thanks to a Chinese couple that refused to move in Wenling, in eastern China's Zhejiang province. Luo Baogen, 67, and his 65-year-old wife have waged a four-year battle to receive more than the 41,300 USD compensation offered by the local government of Daxi, a Chinese newspaper said. The phenomenon is called a 'nail house' in China, as such buildings stick out and are difficult to remove, like a stubborn nail
3/8 Nail houses in China
A 'nail house', the last building in the area, sits in the middle of a road under construction in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. According to local media, the owner of the house didn't reach an agreement with the local authority about compensation of the demolition
4/8 Nail houses in China
A three-storey 'nail house', the last building in the area, with a Chinese national flag on its rooftop is seen in the middle of a newly-built road in Luoyang, Henan province. According to local media, the house owner did not agree with government's compensation plan for relocation and refused to move out
5/8 Nail houses in China
A six-floor villa is viewed on the construction site in the central business district of Shenzhen. Choi Chu Cheung, the owner of the villa, and his wife Zhang Lian-hao, refused to accept the compensation offered by the developer who plans to build a financial centre on the site. The couple are demanding that the developer compensate them with property similar in size or raise the offer from 6,500 yuan ($840) to 18,000 yuan ($2,327) per square metre
6/8 Nail houses in China
A 'nail house', the last house in this area, stands in the centre of a construction site which will be developed as a new apartment zone in Chongqing Municipality. The owners of the house insist in seeking more compensation before agreeing to the demolition of their home, local media reported
7/8 Nail houses in China
A view of where 75-year-old Yao Baohua's house (C) still stands in the rubble of a vast development site in the city of Changzhou in China's eastern Jiangsu province. The Yao home is the last one standing in the rubble of a vast development site in Changzhou, a Chinese 'nail house', the moniker earned for both their physical appearance and their owners' stubborn resistance
8/8 Nail houses in China
Chinese authorities carry sticks as they stand guard while workers demolish houses which are claimed illegal by the local government in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province. Land seizures have been a problem for years in China, and have given rise to the term 'nail house' to describe a holdout tenant or occupant, likening them to a nail refusing to be hammered down, and violent resistance has been reported in numerous cases as ordinary people take matters into their own hands to resist eviction they deem unfair
She said that in Britain, priorities are much different, with students being told to ask, "what's your future, what do you want for yourself?"
"That's a very different philosophy," she said.
She also explained that strong Chinese beliefs in family values and hierarchy also made their way into the classroom - saying that students are expected to respect their older peers, and that teachers are never to be questioned.
Underlining the essential cultural differences, Simon Jenkins said: "We tend to teach rebellion, disruption, invention," and have less emphasis on rote learning.
"If you line up 100 15-year-olds and drill maths into them for 12 hours a day, they'll come out with great results" - but not necessarily a good education, he said.
The short discussion came ahead of a new BBC 2 documentary, Are our kids tough enough? Chinese School, which begins on 4 August.
In the programme, five teachers from China take over the education of fifty teenagers at a Hampshire comprehensive school - in an effort to see whether the Chinese system of collective thinking, duty and strict learning can benefit English teenagers.
Past Education Secretaries like Michael Gove have encouraged schools to try and emulate the Chinese system - but with around a third of China's growing well-off middle class reportedly aspiring to send their children to the West for their education, it seems that good grades may not be the be-all and end-all of education.Reuse content