This is a series of articles on education in Shanghai (I tried to avoid big topics like Education in China. The previous several articles are:
I didn’t expected that my first blog about my thoughts of Yifan’s education led to so many articles about the current education system in China. Sure. I am thinking about solutions, but to help more people to understand how the system works is the first step.
In this article, I am trying to describe the life of a middle school students in the Chinese traditional education system.
Middle School under the Conductor of Gaokao
As I said in the previous article, the Gaokao (Exam to Enter Colleges) is the only thing that tells exactly what teachers, students, and parents what they need to do.
Disclaimer: I don’t know very well about today’s situation. I guess many things have changed. I only can tell what happened when I was in middle school from 1992 to 1995 in Luoyang. Different cities may also have different situation.
Since there are two tracks of Gaokao – the engineering direction, and the literature direction. From the end of second year of Middle School, students are divided into two type of classes – one just study Engineering related courses, like physics, and chemistry, and the other studies stuff like history…
Every night, students stay as late as 11 PM, or even later everyday. Since the school wanted all the students to go back to dorm and sleep, they shutdown all power supply in both classroom and dorm, and most public places. Most of the students will light up the candles, or go to the public toilet, and read behind the limited light, or use electronic torch to read with quilt covering head. The teachers will go to these places to force all the students to go back to sleep. After they leave, many of the students got back to where they were and continue to study.
That was the everyday life when I was in middle school. Everyone knows how important the Gaokao is to their future lives.
Anything else? Sorry. Don’t bother. The students will be the first to stand up if you ask them to participate in anything not directly related to Gaokao. So will the parents. The teachers think exactly the same because all the middle schools are measured by the percentage of students who pass the entrance exam.
In my previous post, I mentioned “good school”, or “common school”, that was always classified by the rate the school successfully send their graduate to the next level of education.
It is the Problem of the System
Don’t blame students. They are fighting for their future.
Don’t blame the parents. Gaokao is still a pretty fair game. Otherwise, it is a game by the power of their parents (rank in the hierarchy of any system), or how rich their parents are. So far, that is not too big a concern yet. The only thing they can do (no matter how smart, how rich, or how powerful the parents are) is still to try to push/help their children to get a higher score in Gaokao.
Don’t blame the schools, and teachers. They are doing their best to HELP the students to get a better future.
So, the tough question will be, who should we blame to?
1. The Scarcity of Education Resources. The root of all evils is, there are far less high education institutes than what people needed. No matter how fair the system is, as long as there are much more demand than supply, the problem cannot be solved.
In the recent years, everyone saw the high GDP growth of China, but investment in education, and health care are far behind the growth.
2. Imbalance and Unfair Social Resources Distribution. Hukou is just one of the example. Since university education is bound to Hukou, and Hukou is important just because different Hukou causes huge difference in the social resources an individual can get from the society. The chain of huge demands all go back through the loop and leads to one thing: social resources.
“I Have a Dream”
If I use what Martin Luther King’s format, I would say:
I have a dream that my little kid will grow up in a nation where they are judged by their characters, not what Hukou they hold, or whether he goes to university
In an ideal world, people are valued because of the person him/herself. If the person is good in personality, has skills, and is smart, hardworking, or any good virtue a person may have, we surely don’t need to pay too much attention about whether he/she enters a university. BUT, in China, we are still far from that ideal world.
In China, people are not created equal. One cannot receive education, just because he/she don’t have Hukou – just like I cannot receive even kindergarten education in 1980s because I didn’t have the right Hukou (this has changed already). He/She cannot get the job. Not because you cannot do the job better than others, just because you don’t have a university graduate certificate (this also changed a lot, but still far from what it should be). I think that is the deeper reason of why the educational system in China does not work.
To be more exact, it is because the social system does not work, and the education system is just one of the subsystem that was directly impacted.