Sinica Podcast: Education in China (July 12, 2014, Popup Chinese)
The Sinica Podcast is a weekly discussion of current events and issues. Anyone who's involved in education in China, or who works with Chinese students in China or abroad will find this discussion very enlightening:
This week on Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and David Moser are joined by Jiang Xueqin, deputy principal of Tsinghua Fuzhong Affiliated High School and author of Creative China, for a discussion of the education system in China. Specifically, we're curious to find out how China's education system ranks internationally, how the politics of education play out here, and all the unscrupulous top-down planning that goes into modernizing Confucian education while maintaining political orthodoxy.
Of particular interest is the discussion of the psychological pressure on Chinese students in the US school system as they navigate a system that is diametrically opposite to their own system.
What's an Overseas Study Tour Without the Studying? (July 15, 2014, Sinosphere)
If you're going to organize a study-abroad program, you'd better make sure you're doing some studying. So says the Ministry of Education, according to the New York Times:
Private companies like Shinyway International have benefited from this surging market demand over recent years, offering trips to the United States, Britain and other popular study destinations for pupils as young as 11 years old. For example, the company is offering a two-week tour starting in late July of American universities, including University of California campuses in Los Angeles and Berkeley, with side trips to the Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland. The tour costs 36,800 renminbi, about $6,000, and is aimed at fourth to ninth graders, the company's advertisement says.
The itinerary is not atypical. More often than not, the companies include some sightseeing or a taste of local lifeperhaps too much, the Ministry of Education appears to suggest.
These study trips should have "a clear and rewarding educational goal," the statement said. In general, at least 50 percent of the trip should involve educational activities, the statement said.
Sometimes the educational aspects of these trips seem to take a back seat in itineraries crowded with tourist hot spots, perhaps more entertaining for the accompanying adults than for the children. For example, a 2012 visit to New York organized by a secondary school affiliated with Renmin University of China featured stops along the famed shopping mecca of Fifth Avenue, Times Square and an Apple store. A Beijing primary school found itself at the center of controversy after parents discovered that a study trip for its pupils priced at 30,000 renminbi included a trip to Las Vegas, China Daily reported.
The knife attack that changed Kunming (July 15, 2014, BBC)
Writing for the BBC, Carrie Gracie takes a look at the psychological and emotional scars on individuals and communities in Kunming following the knife attack in March:
China is in the midst of a massive security crackdown after a series of terror attacks it blames on Muslims from the Uighur ethnic minority in north-west Xinjiang province.
In recent weeks, hundreds of suspects have been arrested and mass sentencing rallies have been broadcast on state TV.
One of the most notorious cases is that of three men and one woman who await sentencing for the savage Kunming station attack in which 29 people were hacked to death and more than 100 others wounded.
One of the victims is Shi Kexiang, who was slashed across the neck by a stranger armed with a sword and dressed in black. She's been in a coma ever since.
For four months, Shi Xuefa has bent over a hospital bed begging Kexiang to hear him. The doctors are kind and the government is paying the medical bills but Xuefa has no idea whether his sister will ever wake up.
For a drought-stricken farming family who were only at the station that night because they were returning to back-breaking construction jobs far from home, this tragedy has wrecked even the modest hopes they had of life.
Pride and Prejudice: Young and Uyghur in Beijing (July 2014, That's Beijing)
And in a good reminder that the effects of recent events in Xinjiang and Kunming affect the lives of people all over the country, That's Magazine had a long piece this week about the challenges of being young and Uyghur in Beijing:
Aliya was a high achiever and in 2012 she became one of her school's ten Uighur students to enroll at a leading Beijing university. But it didn't come without a price. Today, sitting in a caf in CUC, Aliya appears near indistinguishable from her Han classmates. Save for her Turkic features, there are no discernable traces of her cultural heritage. Her favorite pop star is Li Yuchun, despite her grandmother's protests ("How can a Muslim have an idol?"), she wears her hair loose, refusing to tie it up as required by her family, and she can't speak proper Uighursomething that has led her uncle to ask: "What's the point of being able to speak a second language perfectly, if you can't even speak your mother language?"
Knowing how comments such as these can upset his daughter, Aliya's father frequently reminds her to ignore her family members and focus on her studies instead. Be that as it may, at home, Aliya's family speak, read and write in Uighur and few of her friends outside of school speak Chinese. "The older I get, the more Uighur I feel, and the more sorry I begin to feel for myself," says Aliya. "But I made the choice, so I don't regret anything."
Image credit: Large lecture college class, by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr