Christian Education Expert Discusses Two Defects of the Chinese Education System
"Looking back over my 12 years of education from elementary school to high school, I feel I wasted a lot of time. It wasn't until I started at university that I realized I had made many mistakes during those good times. All I did was scramble to pass tests: it’s as if I learned nothing. But, it's too late for regret. Furthermore, I do not want my own three children to go through the same thing." This is the lament over the current education system from Sister Chen, the principal of the Guangzhou "Homeschooling Academy."
A child spends 12 years in school; this means that she will have to deal with the system for 36 years in order to educate her three children. She believes that it is not worth keeping them in China's current education system if it is only in exchange for a false sense of security.
Since she is not willing to let her children repeat her own past mistakes, what suitable education options does she have to choose from? After she tried to send the oldest to a three-year international school, Chen started to lose hope. The educational philosophy of the international school seemed to her to be based on an American-style of education, in which children have a happy childhood, the teaching is too relaxed, and they do not learn anything at all. Chen frankly stated that the school catered too much to the desires of children to "play." Even into the third grade, the children were not cultivating either a desire to learn or good study habits.
So in a moment of "desperation," Chen courageously chose an unusual way to go – homeschooling. In order to take on the heavy responsibility of homeschooling her children, she studied and analyzed the current weaknesses of Chinese education so as to avoid making the same mistakes over the course of her own teaching. At the invitation of Christian Times, she shared what she believes to be the two main defects in China's education system.
First, Education is Oversimplified
Chen admitted that after ten years' experience of education implementation and reflection, she understands that education is a very complicated undertaking. Yet, Chinese education has reduced everything to a test. And the content on the test has been simplified into a textbook. Such a huge thing has surprisingly been reduced into a small thing; this is a big problem.
A person's life is a complete whole. It's important to not be afraid of making mistakes. Many times the way you view something as a complete whole and as a detailed part is completely different. Take a work of art, for example. When you look at some specific detail the work is very good, but the style of the whole thing may be wrong and the feel of the whole thing does not go together. In that way, its specific details cannot encompass the whole thing.
Chen explained, "I think Chinese education is like this: they pick out all the minute details and piece them together. For example, they memorize the rhyme for the multiplication table very well. The entire Chinese education is only focused on details. Sometimes the objective of the kindergarten teachers is simply to make the parents and children happy; they don’t actually teach anything. The school principal will come up with theories to rationalize why they do not need teach too many things."
At the elementary school level, each teacher only looks after his/her own school subject. For example, a language teacher has the responsibility to teach three classes of language well. Whether the teacher likes the subject or is concerned about the future or not, the only thing he/she cares about is the test scores. The only thing that matters is that they are not lower than other classes. The same is true of mathematics teachers. Each grade has this type of "fragmentation process," and the same is true when moving from primary school to secondary school. Everything about education is geared toward a positive result on the final test, so tests have become a baton. This is a very serious problem.
Because of this fragmentation, children do not know why they study. And when the day comes when they do not need to study, they will not study. After their college entrance exams (高考) are over, students feel their most bitter stage of life is past. When they reach university, they don’t want to learn. This is the result of the fragmentized education process.
However, Chen admits that these two problems are difficult to change. Each is deeply rooted in the system. Because each person in the system, each organization, each institution, and each assessment is mutually entangled with each other, it is difficult to make any changes. "I do not want to sacrifice my own children, so I began to take a different path than other people," she adds.
She also talked about problems she has encountered with education herself. "Human behaviors are very interesting. Even after doing serious reflection and analysis, I came to dislike this kind of fragmented utilitarian education system. However, when I started teaching, I had the same thoughts as everyone else: "Well, it's only the college entrance exam. Give me twelve years and I'll definitely set you up for the exam, which is the bottom line when I educate." But when my eyes were opened, I discovered that education does not equal the college entrance exam. Education is such a huge project; it is something that one person cannot do. So, I began to run a school."
At the beginning she doubted her ability to teach her three children, but in the end she was able to actually expand their education. Laughing, Chen says, "God has really worked a miracle. When I look back on the road the Homeschooling Academy has travelled over the past eight years, I realize this is not at all my plan–this is God's plan. This is not my road, this is God's road."
According to Chen, homeschooling, small-scale schools, and outside non-Christian private schools are all "outside the system of education." The parents who chose this path do so because they are concerned about their child’s education. They are courageously walking a different path.
In the long term Chen is filled with hope. "I believe that China will open up more and more because economic development has produced a blossoming in education and culture. Otherwise, people will chose to leave. If it isn't good here, then I'll leave. So, almost all the waves of emigration are for the sake of the children of emigrants. Moreover, the emergence of younger students studying overseas reflects the need for education reform in China."
Finally, Chen predicts that there will be a crisis in Chinese education if changes are not made. All of the problems in Chinese society today can be traced to the problem of education, and this is mainly a people problem.
Because of the utilitarianism and fragmentation of education, Chen believes that even communication methods of primary school students are very objectionable. "Primary students' chants are very vulgar. When you sit in front of the school store, watching the way kids talk, it's really vulgar and seems very disdainful. They use very disrespectful language with each other. They have no reverence in their lives. I do not want my children to be like them."
"When I educate, either as a teacher or a mother, I keep in mind what the Bible says, that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' So, the most important thing is to teach children from an early age to understand reverence," Sister Chen said.
Original article: 特稿】基督徒教育专家谈当下中国教育两弊端 指教育最重要是让孩子懂得敬畏 (Christian Times)
Image credit: Shanghai, China, by 350.org, via Flickr
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