Education and the Challenges in Life

Complaining makes me feel better. Sometimes it’s more of a spazz out and a general release of pent-up frustration rather than a full on complaint. But as much as I rant and ramble and lament over my Quarter Life Crisis, I know full-well that I am extremely lucky in life – and I’m grateful. I love you mom and dad!

I still have cousins who enroll in the Chinese school system. Their tales are like horror stories to me. Children younger than kindergarden age and signed up for too many from English to piano to badminton to math. It starts in kindergarden where students need to be the best so they can get into a good elementary school so they can get into a good middle school so they can get into a good high school so they can get into a good university. One cousin who is enrolled in the last year of middle school, or 9th grade, has classes from 8am to 6pm followed by compulsory after-class study session often lasting until 10pm. Saturdays are half days from 8am to 2pm. Homework regularly takes 3 hours to complete.

The majority of a teacher’s pay no longer comes from their salary. They get bonuses if their class manages to gain provincial or national standing or earn spots in competitions. I suspect the majority comes from out-of-school classes these teachers give. At 100 RMB per student per hour multiplied by 50-70 students per class and at least 3 hour sessions… well, teachers certainly aren’t lacking money. I hear some teacher intentionally skim the material in class so students are forced to take extra lessons to keep up. In most cases, ‘keeping up’ means getting marks above 90 on course loads one or two grades ahead. The previous course load of another cousin who has already started university includes physics, chemistry, biology and advanced calculus. That was in her 11th grade year.

Of course, this is all anecdotal evidence but I’m sure tangible studies won’t be difficult to find.

Parents spend ridiculous amounts of money on education. It’s fairly easy to earn 250 RMB per hour as an English tutor in Beijing and English is only one of the many private lessons. They’re constantly competing for awards, recognition and standing. Students are ranked according to exam results and these results are constantly published and updated – next to names. Everyone knows everyone else’s standing in the entire grade… in the entire school. Pressure, pressure, more pressure, more pressure and pressure.

My 9th grade cousin pointed me towards ‘别人家的孩子‘, or ‘Other Families’ Children’. Roughly translated…

There’s a strange create creature called – other families’ children!

In the vast universe, there’s a strange and magical creature

These creatures don’t play games, don’t chat on QQ, they only know to study everyday, and every year they’re the top of their grade.

These creatures can simultaneously learn nine different course loads, Mother never again has to worry about their studying…

These creatures are called other families’ children.

These creatures take the exam for Qinghua University, aim for Peking University,

(They) can take the exam for Masters degrees, PhD degrees, Saint Seiya [pun using 士], and can also upgrade to goal, platinum and crystal class,

They don’t look at horoscopes, don’t read manga, even know (the classic text concerning) a variety of weapons,

While I can only eat, drink and go to the bathroom;

They are group members, Party members, civil servants and in the future they might know why the earth is so round [pun using 员, yuan, member and 圆, yuan, round]

These creatures are good looking, have good looking hand writing, have good looking report cards, even their nails have double eyelids

These creatures spend only 10 RMB per day and still feel they spend extravagantly and that they’ve committed a crime,

This is one among ten Great People who moved China in 2011 – Other Families’ Child!

No, it’s not fun at all being constantly compared. So I shouldn’t really be complaining.

“在那里跌倒,就在那里站起来” – Where you fall is where you’ll stand up again. Here’s to the future.

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