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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Chinese schools need to tune in and chill out

By Ellie Buchdahl  (

15:27, December 06, 2011

Chinese kids don't have time for sport. Chinese kids work too hard. Asian-American kids are being refused university places because they are stereotyped as "boring" and "overworked". In other words, they are labeled as typical Chinese kids.

Monday's cover story in China Daily included nightmarish stories of kids forced to be in the classroom almost solidly from 5:30 am until 9:30 pm. It was yet another variation on a theme that has characterized the past few weeks – China works its kids too hard.

I went to a private school in the UK. It couldn't have been more different from exam-factory China. At my school, hard work was the worst, most cardinal sin imaginable.

No matter whether you were reciting pi to 450 decimal places, playing Prokofiev's Petrushka with your left foot, running 10 miles in three and a half minutes, or copying the ceiling of the Sistine chapel onto the roof of the school hall, the last thing you wanted was to be seen to be making an effort. The rule was simple: long as you didn't give a toss, you would go far.

That went for teachers as well as students. My German lessons consisted of listening to The Magic Flute until the arias were stuck in our head more firmly than Wheatus' Teenage Dirtbag. When studying British post-colonial literature, my English teacher took us for a curry in East London, and my main memories of reading Hamlet are of shouting matches across the classroom about who was "more of a loser" – the ghost, the evil king, or Hamlet himself.

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Leave your comment5 comments

  1. Name

Rose at 2011-12-22121.203.47.*
Luckily this editor"s point of view does not represent the rest of the world! Let"s see what happens to the status of Europe, USA and the Asians now. The fact is that, if you don"t work hard, you"ll end up queuing up and waiting for the hand out sooner or later!
Panda at 2011-12-13220.239.121.*
As the author himself write the article in Chinese characters and see if he can do it .
Scandinavianman at 2011-12-09178.73.201.*
I think my school career 30 years ago in Scandinavia was perfect. The first three years at a Montessori school with a lot of freedom and time for having fun and being creative. Then three years in another school with very old very caring but stricter teachers who taught us the basics of writing and maths. Then three years at war; a tough school which I hated but learned me the hard way that one had to struggle if you wanted to get somewhere. Some teachers were trying to be super strict other to be gentle. First we kids liked the latter ones but after a year of chaotic lessons most of us changed our minds and started to long for the stricter teachers lessons. Fortunately the school remade the classes and put the disturbing kids in special groups, so the ambitious pupils kind of "won" and I believe got a lot of wisdom and sharp elbows from the first difficult year.Then tree years of upper school at a very creative and soft school again. Many intellectual teachers and godd education but still lot of freedom for the kids for doing other creative stuff too. There were lots of study groups and interest groups started by the kids themselves but with good support form the school. Me and a few others started a school paper and could use material and rooms from school without any problems. From there I started an interest of media and graphics which I now work with on a high level. What I want to say is that I think the school should start soft and then gradually become more strict until the age of 15 before it once again becomes softer to put more responsibility on the students themselves to chose what to focus on. In China I think the pressure is on all the subjects all the time and nobody can develop special interests in any of the subjects. You lose a lot of potential innovators and specialists.I have my kid now in an international school here in China and think it is great. He gets some strict chinese discipline but with an international curriculum and some international teachers. So he still get some room for thinking.
Francisco J Lee at 2011-12-0965.208.187.*
Thanks Goodness the views expressed there do not "necessarily" reflect those of the China Daily Website !!!. As a mater of fact, they should represent "definitely not" those of theirs. These are loosers that increasingly more and more need to reclute highly educated students from China, because the obvious cooleness of their University can"t produce them. Wise up, chineses!. We are winning they are loosing, don"t look up to loosers, or you"ll become the same shit.
Johan at 2011-12-0794.126.81.*
Please do not take this author"s article as representative of all Europeans. It is true we have more leisure time to spend competing in sports, socializing with friends, and learning the intricacies of computers. However, this so called "slacker" mentality rarely leads to success at work, or for that matter social status. The EU has 20% youth unemployment and a sovereign debt crisis, mostly due to the people with the "Who cares?" attitude.As always, balance is important. Not being proud of not "learning a thing from school".

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