A Glimpse into School Life in China

Teach students about beauty to lead them to virtue. (Image: via  pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
Teach students about beauty to lead them to virtue. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

A high school teacher in China has recently published an article condemning the country’s education system. The teacher, who has 20 years’ experience in the profession, first taught in the countryside, and then moved to a prestigious city school. He likened Chinese high schools to jails, where:

The two components of the Chinese character for book convey the idea of writing down what is spoken, as in the creation of a book. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Principles are wardens, teachers are guards, and students have no freedom. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

For more than 14 hours, from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., the students follow a designated schedule, spending most of their time sitting silent and still at their desks, with only their hands moving as they write lethargically into their notebooks. Some students even stay up with flashlights after dormitory lights are out at 10 p.m. to finish their homework for the next day. Day after day, year after year, boredom and bitterness grow in the students’ hearts. They hate being so heavily supervised, but see no way out. So resentment accumulates. “It’s a very dangerous situation,” says the teacher.

The article goes on to describe a harsh school life, where students are trained like soldiers and disciplined to be as punctual as clockwork. Supplemental materials and sample tests mount up on desks, and students spend their days burying themselves in test papers in preparation for college entrance exams. Burdened by immeasurable mental pressure, they see no end to the misery of being trained merely to pass exams, without ever learning the love of learning, or ever experiencing the satisfaction of discovering a subject they enjoy.

Kindergarten children react the same, except that they tend to keep their hands behind their backs. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Kindergarten children in China keeping their hands behind their backs as they sit. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Many high schools also have uniforms and rules that regulate hairstyles, so students do not develop their individuality. Rebels are punished by being forced to stand for a long time or write for several hours non-stop. On the other hand, students who score well in tests are given privileges. Those who are later accepted into Tsinghua or Beijing University are considered deserving of the greatest honor and respect.

But for the majority, three years in a boarding school has left them feeling exhausted and ruined; what’s supposed to be the best years of their youth — and their health — have been traded for an ability to write answers on test papers. The saddest thing is that in the process, these youth have lost their personalities and independent characters; they’ve lost their vitality, creativity, and talent; and they are even left without any sense of social responsibility. They no longer have any interest in hobbies or self-development. As the teacher noted in the article:

Translated by Jean Chen and edited by Emiko Kingswell

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