Opinion / Blog

China's unique education culture

By rameshnair ( Updated: 2015-07-16 17:28

I am not an education specialist but I have children. I understand the need for good teachers and schools. I was not blessed with the option of going to the best school money could buy, however I was given the best my parents could afford; the local government school for which I am thankful because I met so many friends from all walks of life.

I have had the opportunity to explore a range of schools across different continents. Since I am a little older now I have friends that have children too and share a lot when it comes to their precious little ones. Some send them to high-end boarding schools and some to normal national schools. But the phenomenon in China is interesting, not in core education but surrounding activities. 

Singaporeans are known to be Kiasu, it’s a well known word in Southeast Asia. It refers to someone who thinks of themselves first and are always trying to get ahead in one way or another (refer to wikitionary for a clearer picture).That phenomenon is pretty rampant here in Shanghai, especially among parents.

In discussions with colleagues and friends everyone seems to be engrossed in giving their children the best. I don't blame them, it’s their prince or princess and it’s never wrong to give them all a good head start. After all, it’s their one and only due to the one child policy. 

But what irks me is the extent parents go to to ensure their children get the best. Agreed that the best school, dress etc is good. However there is a phenomenon, an underlying one where parents extend a "helping" hand to teachers as well. You can call it anything you want. I take it as a bribe to ensure children get the best attention, so during Chinese New Year and other festive seasons you see parents flocking you know where with "gifts".

So how does this affect your children? How does it affect you? How does this affect your pocket? And since this is China, how does this affect your "face"?

I've had working parents tell me they are "forced" give gifts so their children will not be left behind. Is this worthwhile? Some do it for the sake of their children getting attention and some do it for “face”. Yes the face saving culture is pretty intense here. On a side note, as much as the Chinese say they are different from the Japanese when it comes to “face” matters they are more alike than any other culture. Now back to the point.

As an educator/teacher irrespective if you belong to an elite school or local institutions, I believe you should treat each student as an equal. Maybe I might be an idealist but that's how it should be irrespective what "incentives" you receive from parents. Is it right for parents to encourage this? Should teachers decline the offers? What needs to be done ?

Getting ahead is good but is this right? This is not criticizing the Chinese education system, it’s about parents working their wonders on the system.

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