Monday, March 28, 2005

Beck and the Chinese Education System

First off, I read yesterday that there is a new Beck album. If any of our readers would be so kind to try and email it to me (in MP3 format, gotta love Gmail) or maybe IM it to me, I would be most grateful. They've got Beck here, well, I've seen "Sea Change" in a store, but there is no telling how long till this newest masterpiece hits the Far Eastern Shores. But I'm at no loss for asstastic Europop, thank god.

Anyways, after I've taught two college classes today (only one more week of "Robinson Crusoe!" Yes!) I've got some thoughts about the Chinese education system floating in my head.

The system is similar to some other Asian countries, where children work exceptionally hard throughout grade school and high school and then once they get into college they just slack off like crazy. Moreso than anyone might joke American college students might slack off. These kids are so lazy they make Potenza look like a coked-up workoholic.

But the younger kids get it pretty rough. Most are in school 7 days a week: 6 in their regular school then extra private schooling on the day off. Plus in the evenings. This is where my school comes in. When I asked one student what she did when she first woke up (expecting "Get out of bed" or "Eat breakfast" or "Brush my teeth") her reply was "study." Thats also what she did for lunch, and after school, and before bed. These kids do not stop working until college, its ridiculous. But the entire system is based around rote memorization, and that is it. There is little thinking taught, if its not flat out discouraged. Few students can come up with their own original thoughts, which makes teaching English a challenge at times. (Conversely, I used to run into trouble in my Chinese classes at Georgetown because I preferred to experiment with the language instead of just repeating patterns from the book.)

The schools are even publically ranked. I don't mean that there is some sort of report that gets published by some arbitrary body, akin to the US News & World Report, but the rankings are often the names of the schools. "Harbin School #1," "#2," "#125." The higher the number is usually the better. This isnt always 100% accurate, but it seems to have been the case so far.

College classes get ranked as well, and the students know it. You have your regular students and your "K" students. "K" students failed their admissions exam, but thanks to money and/or connections (guanxi) they got into the college. The "K" students usually have better housing and all sorts of other perks. The only downside is that they are permanently marked with this "K," it comes after their name in roll and designates their classes. A scarlet letter, of sorts. The other students don't think too highly of them, if they are not a bit jealous in some way, but I'm lucky to have to "K" classes.

Dinner time, more on this later. Now, somebody Beck me up.


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