On­line van­ity fair re­veals ab­nor­mal par­ent-school af­fair

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Cui Bowen The au­thor is a post­grad­u­ate stu­dent of trans­la­tion stud­ies at Bei­jing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Uni­ver­sity. opin­ion@ glob­al­times.com.cn

“Hi, I’m Xiaoguobao’s mom. Now I’m work­ing at world’s No.1 in­vest­ment bank – Mor­gan Stan­ley – af­ter fin­ish­ing my post­grad­u­ate stud­ies at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity. My hus­band is a fund man­ager in a well-known as­sets man­age­ment com­pany re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing as­sets worth 3.5 bil­lion yuan ($528 mil­lion).”

“I’m not run­ning in the elec­tion, but I’m here to warn you, who will be in the par­ents’ com­mit­tee, do not hurt my son. Oth­er­wise, his fa­ther can make your stocks nose­dive, in­clud­ing “Moutai (China’s top liquor brand).”

An anony­mous par­ent in­tro­duced her ed­u­ca­tional and oc­cu­pa­tional back­ground in a class WeChat group as part of the com­pe­ti­tion for a po­si­tion in a class-level par­ents’ com­mit­tee in a Shang­hai pri­mary school.

This mes­sage trig­gered a heated on­line de­bate. Many ne­ti­zens crit­i­cized par­ents’ at­tempt to use per­sonal achieve­ments to seek ad­van­tages for chil­dren in schools.

It seems that the elec­tion for a po­si­tion in the par­ents’ com­mit­tee has be­come a CEO cam­paign. Even be­fore this state­ment, dozens of par­ents had re­port­edly listed out their per­sonal CV in the WeChat group. They are ei­ther from pres­ti­gious univer­si­ties or work­ing in well-es­tab­lished en­ter­prises, hav­ing a closed in­ter­per­sonal cir­cle. The craze of com­par­i­son among par­ents runs ram­pant in this group.

I was scared by these shin­ing bios. My par­ents are just farmer­turned busi­ness peo­ple. They didn’t re­ceive qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion nor had af­flu­ent so­cial con­nec­tions. I’m sure they are doomed to fail­ure in such an elec­tion.

Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties en­cour­aged pri­mary and mid­dle schools to es­tab­lish class-level par­ents’ com­mit­tees in 2012, as a way to help par­ents main­tain com­mu­ni­ca­tions with teach­ers and par­tic­i­pate in school af­fairs.

How­ever, par­ents’ com­mit­tees are seem­ingly de­rail­ing from the right track. Par­ents flaunt their ed­u­ca­tion, oc­cu­pa­tion and so­cial con­nec­tions to in­crease the like­li­hood of get­ting into such com­mit­tees, in a bid to keep close re­la­tions with teach­ers. Per­haps this de­rives from their deep anx­i­ety about chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

The weird par­ent-school re­la­tion­ship can also be seen in un­bri­dled syco­phancy in teacher-par­ent WeChat groups. Par­ents spare no ef­fort to cozy up to teach­ers with ex­ces­sive thank-yous and gifts. These on­line groups are also filled with show-off, chicken-soup sto­ries, red en­velopes filled with money and ad­ver­tise­ments. Many teach­ers feel obliged to an­swer ques­tions from par­ents 24 hours a day. Some teach­ers pub­licly re­buke par­ents of stu­dents who don’t com­plete home­work or break school rules, or even re­veal stu­dents’ grades and class rank­ings.

Teacher-par­ent chat groups, orig­i­nally meant to serve as a chan­nel of in­for­ma­tion trans­mis­sion, has in­stead de­volved into a van­ity fair where par­ents fight tooth and nail to win them­selves spe­cial treat­ment from ed­u­ca­tors.

As China’s exam-ori­ented ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem high­lights com­pe­ti­tions, grades and rank­ings, and the na­tional col­lege en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion is con­sid­ered to be a so­cial lad­der, es­pe­cially for stu­dents from av­er­age fam­i­lies, to em­bark on the “Walk of Fame,” par­ents then re­sort to cheap flat­tery for teach­ers. How­ever, such mal­prac­tice bur­dens over­worked teach­ers, runs counter to the essence of ed­u­ca­tion and ham­pers nor­mal par­ent-teacher in­ter­ac­tions.

Both par­ents and schools should make clear their own re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and not in­ter­fere in each other’s af­fairs. Gov­ern­ments and school au­thor­i­ties should also pay at­ten­tion to prob­lems caused by lim­ited ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tional re­sources, so as to re­duce par­ents’ dread over chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

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