How difficult is the Chinese education

sofatutor magazine Teacher

While schoolchildren in major Chinese cities get excellent PISA scores, the rural regions often lack the essentials.

The government in Beijing has been relying on education as an economic engine since the major educational reform in the 1990s. The quality of human capital is to be increased significantly through an almost one hundred percent school entry rate. Well-trained schoolchildren are later ambitious workers or managers - that is the expectation. The pressure on Chinese children is very high in the education system. School days of nine hours and more are not uncommon. Unfortunately, in addition to the often cited PISA successes, the downsides of this performance offensive are now also becoming apparent.

What is everyday school life like in China?

The day begins at 7:30 a.m. for all students with a ceremony in the school. Everyone gathers in the school yard and sings the Chinese national anthem while the national flag is hoisted. This is followed by a short sports program. School uniforms are compulsory in most Chinese schools. They are shaped like a jogging suit in school colors with an embroidered emblem. At lunchtime there is a one-and-a-half hour break during which the students can eat, sleep or relax with sports activities. The top 10 percent of the class receive in-depth lessons during the lunch break. The school day officially ends at 4:30 p.m. This is followed by support and tutoring sessions. In remedial classes, good pupils are prepared for competitions. Many children spend their “free time” doing homework until late in the evening. This daily routine begins with school entry and runs through the entire school career.

Free access for teachers

Regular school lessons take place from Monday to Friday. However, many students attend tutoring and preparation courses on weekends or continue their education in areas that should be useful to them later. So is booming z. B. private programming lessons. It is intended to introduce elementary school students to IT. Chinese parents hope this will give their children better job opportunities.

The National Education Plan and Reform Efforts

The “National Education Plan 2010-20” forms the basis for the current reform efforts in the areas of secondary, vocational and university education. The common goal of the reforms is to build a “learning society”, on the one hand to enable education for everyone and, on the other hand, to encourage more creativity and independence among the younger generation. The People's Republic of China spends a lot of money on this: According to information from 2010, 3.7 percent of the gross domestic product (almost 6 trillion USD) was invested in education. The aim is to increase the number of young people enrolled in universities from 15 to 25 percent by 2020. Thanks to the investment, China achieved very good results in international educational comparisons. However, there is a lack of ambitious ideas to move China away from a low-wage location towards an innovation location.

In order to encourage creativity in younger children, the Ministry of Education developed plans at the beginning of school in 2013 to abolish homework and exams for the first three years of school. Against this, paradoxically, resistance arose from the parents. They feared that this would lead to a drop in the level of their children's performance. Competition is ubiquitous in the Chinese education system. Not even elementary school students can evade it.

How is the school in the People's Republic of China structured?

The school career in China is divided into kindergarten, elementary school, lower middle school, upper middle school and college. Most children attend kindergarten from the age of three. Kindergartens in the People's Republic of China are all-day schools where children are taught according to a curriculum. This is how they are prepared for elementary school. Hence, discipline and obedience play a major role.

Since 1986 there has been a nine-year compulsory education in the People's Republic of China, consisting of six years of elementary school and three years of lower school. Children start school when they are six or seven years old. The six-year primary school is now mainly implemented in larger cities. In smaller towns and villages, many children only go to school for five years. The public schools are free during the nine years, only textbooks have to be purchased for a fee. Since only the first part of middle school is compulsory, there is an examination at the end of the lower level to determine suitability for one of the three upper level forms. Attending the upper level is optional, but is a prerequisite for access to the university. The three forms of upper secondary school are the vocational, general and university preparatory branches. The upper level of the middle school is completed with the Gao Kao, the equivalent of the Abitur. This means that at the end of the twelfth grade, the students take central exams on three days. The amount of points achieved in the Gao Kao determines admission to the preferred university. The greater the pressure on the students. As part of the Chinese one-child policy, the academic success of a single child often determines the social standing of the entire family.

China - the country where PISA dreams come true

The PISA success of Shanghai in 2009 is unforgettable among German educators. When the city took part in the comparative tests for the first time, it landed straight away in first place. The Shanghai students excelled in all three categories: math, reading comprehension and science. In the second PISA study in 2012, Shanghai was able to repeat this success.

However, there are also education experts in China who see this success as ambivalent. In a contribution by Deutschlandradio Kultur from 2011, Professor Dongping says
from the Beijing Institute of Technology that these results do not apply to all of China. “The teachers and the equipment in the schools are very good, especially in cities like Shanghai. […] But China has huge problems in other regions […] - especially in rural areas. It looks completely different there. You can't compare that at all. "

Learning in rural areas

These differences can be seen above all in the most important cornerstones of a good school: teachers and equipment. In the report on Deutschlandradio, a teacher from a rural school reports on a single class in which he teaches all the students in the region. There are no computers, no sports fields, no school library. The teachers have often only acquired the qualification of substitute teachers. Yet they are needed. The children take an hour or more to school in order to complete their five-year elementary school. Many live with their grandparents because their parents moved to the cities as migrant workers in order to be able to provide for their families.

The Chinese government is working to enable rural students to earn a postgraduate degree by spending more on education. So far, there is still no success.

Heterogenization - Segregation

When children and their parents move to the cities as migrant workers, however, life does not get any easier for them. As children of migrants, you are often denied school attendance because, for example, B. special entrance tests are imposed. In some cases, special fees are charged or parents have to prove that they are registered in the city. They rarely have this.

As an alternative to these difficult access conditions, private schools for migrant children were set up in the 1990s. These levied fees on their members. They later came under criticism because the lessons were of inferior quality and the leaving certificates were not recognized. As a result, the district governments closed some private schools in the 2000s, but without providing compensation for the migrant children. So you were sitting in the street. Today the local administration tries to keep these schools and to upgrade them with financial support.

Modern technical equipment remains the exception

In a contribution from the BLLV pedagogical association, DAF teacher Katja Meuß reports on her teaching experience in China. At Nankai High School, a renowned school in the country, demonstration lessons were held regularly for external teachers. These hours were shown on permanently installed projectors and screens. The material is structured by means of a Power Point presentation. She herself had a tape recorder and could copy worksheets at school for free.

Katja Meuß reports on the lesson: “Most of them teach from the front, tiring in the instructive lecture, without any student activities, some just read the textbook aloud without eye contact with the students. It is characterized by the pronounced tendency towards theoretical knowledge, storing it in short-term memory for the next exam. "

Today, e-learning is primarily available to students. This means that online courses can also be attended at home. The Chinese government is trying to make education accessible in rural areas - if there is internet access.

Cover picture: © Regien Paassen / Shutterstock.com

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