This is a series of articles on education in Shanghai (I tried to avoid big topics like Education in China:
In the previous article about Yifan, I talked about the choices I am trying to make for Yifan’s education. As some of my readers pointed out, this is a pretty private decision. I post it here, just to help my readers to understand the challenges, and the environment I am living in – not just from the point of view of a tourist, but also from the local residents.
Education Resources are Limited
As I mentioned many times in this blog, although the GDP of this country grows very fast, the public resources like education, and health care is still far behind the demand.
To put things into perspective about why and how I am worried about education of my son, let me first describe the environment. The bottom line is, you should not use the standard of education resources of most developed countries as a basis to make decision for China.
My Story in Henan
Let’s talk about the university education and my story first. Back to the year of 1995, when I entered the Gaokao (The entrance exam for colleges), there are more than half million people as myself stepped into the exam rooms with me in Henan province. Think about half million people as smart as you are, and as anxious about the future as you are, and as hard working (or more hard working) than you are.
The result? There are very limited opportunity to win in that game. There are not many good university for the students. Shanghai Jiao Tong University, for example, offers 55 positions, and Tsinghua, at that time, offers less than 50, I remember. Considering the good universities you will be happy to enter, that is 500 slots there at most.
That means, if you are not the top 500 students out of the 500K students, you are over.
There are many other colleges that you can go, but everything considered, the majority of the students entering the exam rooms will be disappointed and get back to their home with no university to go to, and they have to throw themselves to the low end labor market – construction workers, or low end sales people, or farmer, maybe…
Today, I checked the web. Congratulations. The total number of students competing for a permit to enter university in Henan province raised from 500K to 950K, and universities get more students. SJTU, as an example, raised their quota from 55 to 84. In short, competition gets tougher, than before.
The Best or the Fittest
“The fittest survives”. It is from the Darwin’s law. The very sad reality is, in a tough selection process like the one I described, the best may not survive, only the fittest one survive – the fittest one to exams. That is a reality that no one can easily change.
It is just like to get a train ticket in the Spring Festival. If the rate is 6 out of 10 people can get the ticket you want, you can safely assume that the one who made reasonable effort can get a ticket, and those who don’t want to wake up early to line up for a ticket will fail. However, in a competition where only 1 or 2 ticket out of 1000 people is issued, what qualification the one or two luck guys need? Smart, or hardworking is not the complete answer. Luck plays so important a role.
Back to Primary Schools
The weird thing that I just discovered after Yifan was born (I didn’t pay attention to it before) is, the pressure from university went down all the way to middle school, to primary school, and even to kindergarten. If you miss step once in the chain, chances are, you are over.
I think I already tend to give up for kindergarten entrance, since it is so competitive in Shanghai. You need to prepare the kid so well ahead so they can pass the entrance exam – at the age as young as 3. I heard the story from my friend, that his son was rejected, just because his son chose cake, instead of bamboo for a panda.
That is the reason many of my friends already chose to immigrate to other countries to get out of this. Think about the pressure and the heavy school bag, the deep degrees of glasses in very early years, I almost tend to quit this competition. I may survived in this crucial race myself 15 years ago, but what for, for the next generation?
To be continued in part III