Zhejiang al­lows stu­dents to tai­lor cur­ricu­lum

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By WANG HONGYI wanghongyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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