Projector usage in Chinese schools hindered by teachers’ concerns

by Kim Zhu

Digital projectors are used for about 20% of the learning day in Chinese schools, but teachers worry about effect on kids' cognitive skills.

The Asia Pacific today represents 25% of the global pro-audio visual (AV) industry, driven mostly by growth in China and other emerging markets from South East Asia. With strong funding being injected by governments around Asia Pacific, the Education and Government sectors are expected to out-perform other segments. How are some AV products being used within the education sector in one of the world’s largest emerging markets, China?

In 2009, displays and projectors combined to represent 37% of overall global product demand, dropping from 47% in 2007. The good news is governments across the world are encouraging schools to purchase pro-AV equipment by using various incentive programs. Within the education sector, the most commonly used pro-AV products are projectors that are used for teaching within classrooms.

In 2010, the Ministry of Education in China decided to launch a multi-level IT education program in schools across China which emphasizes the integration of information technology with other courses. Beginning in 2003, many schools began to install projectors in classrooms, and applied this type of multi-media education to regular teaching plans and activities. The local government is in charge of purchasing the projectors for schools throughout the various regions of China.

In China for instance, projectors have been in use in schools in most Tier-1 cities for about three to six years now. In a joint study with Futuresource Consulting, Global Intelligence Alliance conducted an end-user survey at six public schools in Shanghai in mid 2010.

The results showed that projector usage is quite similar across all the Chinese schools and all classes visited. A cycle of two hours usage followed by a break of at least 20 minutes is the typical norm in education. Projector usage was slightly higher in primary than in secondary education (64% of a school day versus 51% of a school day). Projectors are usually turned off immediately after use.

Hours projectors on in:
Primary Schools 1.5 24% Secondary Schools 1.0 15% Average – all schools 1.3 19%

Many teachers indicated that the biggest advantage of a projector is that it attracts the student’s attention. The projector is seen as making it easier for students to understand school topics with clear and vivid images and for teachers to increase their efficiency in teaching.

Yet in spite of these positive comments, some teachers are still negatively inclined towards their use. Several worry about the negative impact of projector usage on cognitive skills (memorization of projected content).

Other teachers worry that the students don’t practice their writing skills or better learn how to structure information and solve problems, because they don’t see the teacher showing such capabilities in person. They believe that the blackboard is instrumental to conveying such skills, whereas a projector simply displays things on screen.

This implies an opportunity to further stimulate the use of projectors by Chinese teachers, by demonstrating how to address these concerns. In a 2010 Infocomm International study, services and after-sales support are cited to be critical to the success of Pro-AV products manufacturers and system integrators. The same seems to be true in China’s education market.

Kim Zhu is head of the China practice at Global Intelligence Alliance (GIA), based in Shanghai.