Zhejiang allows students to tailor curriculum
Most high school students are assigned to a class in their first day of school and then spend years in the same classroom with the same classmates.
But the stereotype of China’s traditional education is gradually disappearing in Zhejiang province.
Provincial education authorities are pushing a new education system that allows high school students to pick their favorite teachers and courses based on the students’ abilities and tastes.
The move is the provincial government’s latest effort to improve students’ creativity and individuality, the absence of which have long been criticized.
Under the new system, a subject could be divided into different levels and taught by different teachers. Students can choose the course they want based on their own circumstances. They should finish the required credits after three years.
“In the traditional system, the education plan and course content is unified, and the teaching pace of everyone is based on the average ability of students, which has created some problems,” said Ren Xuebao, principal of Affiliated High School of Hangzhou Normal University.
Under the old system, students usually don’t have opportunities to experience other teachers’ teaching style. Meanwhile, teachers cannot meet the demands from students of different levels equally. In most cases, teachers can consider only the average abilities of students, Ren said.
The new education system was first adopted for selected courses in high schools in Zhejiang province years ago, and it was expanded to required courses, such as Chinese, mathematics, English, physics, biology and history the subjects on the National College Entrance Exam.
The reform project has already been carried out in four schools in Hangzhou, Jinhua, Qingtian and Yiwu as pilot programs. In 2014, another seven schools in the province will start the new education system.
“In the past, China has been pursuing more effective education reforms in an attempt to cultivate students’ individuality and creativity. And the key part is increasing the diversity of courses and making them more selective,” Ren said.
Yu Bo, a teacher from Hangzhou Greentown Yuhuai School, one of the first four pilot schools in the reform project, applauded the reforms.
“Being limited to a fixed classroom and getting the same education is not a proper way to help students, who have their own strengths and weaknesses,” she said.
“Students who are stronger in certain subjects and want to do advanced work can choose a course with some content beyond the normal curriculum. Meanwhile, for students who are weak in some subjects, the most important task is inspiring them rather than simply pumping the knowledge into their brains.”
“After one year, we have produced many good results. Many students have seen progress after receiving a tailor-made education,” Yu said.
Yu’s school conducted a survey of more than 260 parents before the pilot project. Nearly 70 percent supported the reforms. The others opposed it because they believed their children had not yet learned to choose wisely and manage their education themselves. Parents also worried that such an aggressive reform will affect their children’s academic performances.
After one year, some parents still worry. “The concept of the new education system is so fresh, and sounds good, so I support it. But I really don’t want my child to be a guinea pig,” said a woman who declined to be named and whose child is in the first year of a Hangzhou high school.
Ren, the high school principal, said such ambivalence is “understandable”.
“Under the current education system, students should take the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, after three years of study, which plays a vital role in their development. Parents don’t want to have children affected by any change,” he said.