Raise skilled work­ers’ sta­tus to re­duce kids’ study pres­sure

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS - The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. xinzhim­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Should we send our chil­dren to after-school tu­tor­ing in­sti­tu­tions to help raise their scores in ex­ams and sharpen their com­pet­i­tive edge?

I know a num­ber of par­ents who are caught in the dilemma of “to send” or “not to send”. They of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to choose be­tween giv­ing their chil­dren ad­e­quate time for after-school rest and recre­ation and help­ing them stand out from their peers in a largely score-based eval­u­a­tion sys­tem.

In­deed, it’s a dif­fi­cult choice to make. Young par­ents seem to be ob­sessed with their chil­dren’s aca­demic per­for­mance. Some at­tribute it to the Chi­nese tra­di­tion of re­spect for knowl­edge. But par­ents to­day are much more de­voted to their chil­dren’s aca­demic record than ever be­fore. Many par­ents can per­suade their chil­dren— us­ing all sorts of means— to spend al­most all their after-school time, in­clud­ing week­ends, at­tend­ing dif­fer­ent tu­to­ri­als.

The Peo­ple’s Daily re­cently pub­lished a se­ries of ar­ti­cles on this phe­nom­e­non, ar­gu­ing that it re­flects the anx­i­ety of Chi­nese par­ents, mostly mid­dle-class par­ents, about their chil­dren’s aca­demic per­for­mance, a men­tal­ity ex­ac­er­bated by the crafty pro­mo­tion tricks used by tu­tor­ing schools. For ex­am­ple, one of the ar­ti­cles says, some tu­tor­ing schools adopted a de facto hunger-mar­ket­ing method to goad par­ents into en­rolling their stu­dents.

In­deed, mid­dle-class Chi­nese are ob­sessed with their chil­dren’s aca­demic per­for­mance and not all tu­tor­ing schools are clean or play by the rules. But what has caused all this?

If we take a closer look at the is­sue, we will see the crux of the prob­lem lies with the ca­reer as­sess­ment of Chi­nese peo­ple.

Some ac­cuse China’s col­lege en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion of help­ing cre­ate the anx­i­ety among Chi­nese par­ents and stu­dents. The exam is still largely based on aca­demic scores. It is a rel­a­tively fair and easy-to-as­sess method of eval­u­at­ing the per­for­mance of ap­pli­cants and leaves lit­tle room for cor­rup­tion in the col­lege en­roll­ment process. But if one wants to get into a top uni­ver­sity, the com­pe­ti­tion be­comes ter­ri­bly fierce, al­though China has greatly in­creased the num­ber of stu­dents en­rolled in col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties since the mid-1990s.

In fact, in most coun­tries, col­lege en­roll­ment is quite com­pet­i­tive be­cause higher ed­u­ca­tion re­sources are al­ways lim­ited com­pared with the de­mand from youths. Even if China changes its score-based eval­u­a­tion sys­tem for col­lege ad­mis­sion, the com­pe­ti­tion to get into a top uni­ver­sity is ex­pected to re­main very strong given the coun­try’s huge pop­u­la­tion.

If we take a closer look at the is­sue, we will see the crux of the prob­lem lies with the ca­reer as­sess­ment of Chi­nese peo­ple. In gen­eral, peo­ple think highly of youths who en­roll in a col­lege and be­come a white-col­lar worker or pub­lic ser­vant upon grad­u­a­tion. That is the most de­sired ca­reer track that many par­ents de­sign for their chil­dren.

Be­hind this pref­er­ence is the big gap in salaryand­so­cial sta­tus that­comeswith dif­fer­ent jobs. For ex­am­ple, aside from of­ten earn­ing less than their white-col­lar peers, blue-col­lar­work­ers face tougher work­ing en­vi­ron­mentsand­don’thave ac­cess to­some eco­nomic ben­e­fits, such as those en­joyed by gov­ern­ment or pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion em­ploy­ees.

Worse, many peo­ple “look­down” upon such “low-level” job­sand­donot­want­their chil­dren to be­come, say, a car me­chanic even if they can earn­morethansome­white-col­lar work­ers.

It will take a long time for such a men­tal­ity to change.

China has­moveda step fur­ther in the right direc­tion by en­cour­ag­ing the de­vel­op­mentof vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion. In2014, it is­sued a doc­u­men­ton­vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion say­ing­more­vo­ca­tional schools will be es­tab­lished in or­der to train­moreskilled­work­ers. As thede­mand­for skilled­work­ers in­creases, their salaries could rise, too, en­cour­ag­ing moremid­dle-school stu­dentswhoare el­i­gi­ble to study in vo­ca­tional schools to takeup myr­iad pro­fes­sions.

Pol­i­cy­mak­ers are try­ing to deal with the prob­lem of par­ents’ de­pen­denceon­tu­tor­ing schools to im­prove their chil­dren’s scores by pre­vent­ing pub­lic school teach­ers from teach­ing in pri­vate train­ing in­sti­tu­tions. But this­method­may not­work­given the strong de­mand­for such in­sti­tu­tions. The sit­u­a­tion will not change­muchun­less the gov­ern­ment­makesmore­ef­forts to raise the salaries of peo­ple em­ployed in non-aca­demic sec­tor.

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