Zhang Yangfei

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - Dis­ci­pline, com­pe­ti­tion Con­tact the writer at [email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Be­lieved that the over­all ben­e­fits of ed­u­ca­tion are most im­por­tant, and the main goal should be to im­prove chil­dren's prac­ti­cal abil­i­ties Be­lieved that learn­ing through play and be­ing happy are the foun­da­tions of learn­ing Said ed­u­ca­tion should be child ori­ented and chil­dren should be al­lowed to choose what they learn them­selves

Said chil­dren should be al­lowed to grow through life ex­pe­ri­ences

Be­lieved that is safer to place chil­dren into pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and ad­here to reg­u­lar learn­ing pat­terns wide range of skills pro­vides more op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren, whose po­ten­tial talent can be bet­ter dis­cov­ered this way, com­pared with ex­am­or­i­ented ed­u­ca­tion.

“We are not ask­ing him to be an ex­pert in ev­ery area of his stud­ies. We just want him to get a taste of var­i­ous sub­jects so he will be more ready to make his own choices in the fu­ture,” the par­ents of the 5-year-old boy wrote in a note in his re­sume.

The Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has long been known for strict dis­ci­pline and in­tense com­pe­ti­tion. Ev­ery June, more than 9 mil­lion stu­dents sit the gaokao, the de­mand­ing three-day na­tional col­lege en­trance exam that de­ter­mines the univer­sity they will at­tend and ef­fec­tively seals their ca­reer path and so­cial sta­tus.

The com­pe­ti­tion starts at a very young age as par­ents scram­ble to earn their child a spot at the best kinder­garten in their city, which, in turn, pro­vides en­try to top-per­form­ing pri­mary and sec­ondary schools and even­tu­ally gives the child an ad­van­tage in the gaokao.

From In­ter­na­tional Math Olympiads to cal­lig­ra­phy con­tests and spo­ken English com­pe­ti­tions, stu­dents at ev­ery level fight hard to pocket as many awards as pos­si­ble to win the fa­vor of their dream schools.

“This is very typ­i­cal of Chi­ne­ses­tyle early ed­u­ca­tion,” said Xiong Bingqi, deputy pres­i­dent of the 21st Cen­tury Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search In­sti­tute.

“Not want­ing to be left at the start­ing line, many par­ents be­gin to cram their chil­dren with ex­tracur­ric­u­lar cour­ses as early as pos­si­ble so they get an edge over their peers.”

Shang­hai res­i­dent Jia Qian said her el­dest daugh­ter, who is a sev­enth-grader at the in­ter­na­tional bilin­gual YK Pao School, had a full sched­ule ev­ery day dur­ing sum­mer va­ca­tions in Grades three to five, tak­ing ex­tra cour­ses for Math Olympiads, English and other com­pe­ti­tions.

“We prob­a­bly only rested for three days dur­ing the 60-day sum­mer va­ca­tions. Both our child and we par­ents were very, very tired. I nearly had a ner­vous break­down,” Jia said.

She wanted her daugh­ter to at­tend a State sec­ondary school, and then send her over­seas for un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies. How­ever, ex­hausted by the com­pe­ti­tion, Jia de­cided to send the girl to a pri­vate school.

“If the child is go­ing over­seas in the end any­way, why not con­sider an in­ter­na­tional bilin­gual school?” she said.

The girl is still busy most of the time, with lessons in French, pi­ano, flute and ten­nis, plus prepara­tory classes for the Test of English as a For­eign Lan­guage and de­bates in English.

Jia said these ac­tiv­i­ties will al­low her daugh­ter to de­cide what she wants to do in the long run. “If she had con­tin­ued on the State path, at this grade, she would have tons of (aca­demic) home­work. But now, she has time to think about why she is learn­ing the things she is learn­ing, which is a good start,” she said.

Zheng Yan­hong, a mother in Bei­jing, also opted to send her daugh­ter to an in­ter­na­tional school af­ter a short time at a State pri­mary.

“To­day’s pub­lic schools fol­low the same teach­ing ap­proach as the ones we at­tended when we were young. They de­mand strict dis­ci­pline and high aca­demic per­for­mance, whereas the in­ter­na­tional school pays more at­ten­tion to the child’s per­son­al­ity,” she said.

She added that the in­ter­na­tional school al­lows her daugh­ter to gain a wide range of skills in ad­di­tion to aca­demic sub­jects by of­fer­ing a greater va­ri­ety of cour­ses such as hand­i­crafts, art, mu­si­cal per­for­mance and team­work, which carry equal weight in the cur­ricu­lum as aca­demic classes.

“It makes the child re­al­ize that study­ing is about more than just learn­ing math, Chi­nese and English and get­ting high scores. It cre­ates a more prac­ti­cal, in­ter­na­tional mind­set,” she said.

With China’s mid­dle-class grow­ing and be­com­ing more af­flu­ent, the num­ber of par­ents who are will­ing and fi­nan­cially able to send their chil­dren to pri­vate schools is ris­ing rapidly.

Sta­tis­tics re­leased by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in July show that en­roll­ment in the pri­vate sec­tor rose to 1.4 mil­lion stu­dents at pri­mary level and 2.1 mil­lion at sec­ondary level last year, ac­count­ing for yearon-year rises of 7.9 per­cent and 10.8 per­cent re­spec­tively. In 2013, the num­bers were 3.6 per­cent and 2.6 per­cent.

David Mans­field, ex­ec­u­tive head­mas­ter of YK Pao School in Shang­hai, said China’s grow­ing en­gage­ment with the global mar­ket­place is one of the rea­sons more par­ents are opt­ing for the bilin­gual in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion route.

They want their chil­dren to con­tinue to feel fully Chi­nese, but also be ca­pa­ble of build­ing busi­nesses over­seas if they wish, in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries that are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive and also in the United States, Europe and Africa, he said.

That will not only re­quire aca­demic suc­cess, but also the devel­op­ment of “soft skills” such as prob­lem solv­ing, an­a­lyt­i­cal think­ing and the abil­ity to present them­selves ef­fec­tively and cham­pion their am­bi­tions, ac­cord­ing to Mans­field.

As an ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sional from the UK, Mans­field said that in the fu­ture ed­u­ca­tion will be­come more in­ter­na­tional, which will cre­ate a global ed­u­ca­tional com­mu­nity that will fos­ter lo­cal talent across the world.

He ad­vo­cated the devel­op­ment of dual lan­guage im­mer­sion pro­grams where for­eign stu­dents will con­nect with a Chi­nese en­vi­ron­ment to learn the lan­guage and cul­ture so they will be bet­ter able to com­mu­ni­cate and learn along­side their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts.

Equally, the pro­grams will al­low young Chi­nese to learn English and de­velop in­ter­na­tional aware­ness from their Western peers.

In­ter­na­tional schools are of­ten seen as skills-ori­ented, while pub­lic schools are usu­ally re­garded as knowl­edge-ori­ented. Chi­nese fam­i­lies are now be­gin­ning to re­al­ize that the best ed­u­ca­tion in the world is ac­tu­ally the com­bi­na­tion of both ap­proaches, of East meets West, he said.

The Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem can help stu­dents grasp the key con­cepts of knowl­edge and build a solid foun­da­tion on which they can then ben­e­fit from Western ap­proaches, such as group work and project-based learn­ing to boost their crit­i­cal think­ing abil­i­ties and cre­ativ­ity, he added.

“I don’t think you can just sim­ply say it’s ei­ther one or the other — it’s both,” he said. “In fact, a lot of the good pub­lic schools in Shang­hai and other parts of China are em­brac­ing the Western style along­side the more tra­di­tional Chi­nese style, and I think that’s where all good schools are head­ing.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.