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Latent Problems of Chinese Education


Q: Some believe Chinese education focuses too much on recitation and practice while others believe the education mode of recitation and practice is the quickest way to train a large number of relatively highly qualified personnel. What is your view on this? 


A: Frankly speaking, I think there are no other solutions. In other words, this is the "least bad" method. Exam-oriented education systems, such as Gaokao, necessitate recitation and practice. China's large population makes it difficult to focus on all-rounded development of students compared to Western developed countries; coupled with the uneven allocation of resources and lack of development in some regions, the only way to select students is through a unified national college entrance examination that serves as the major determinant of students’ ability. Since exam is the major determinant, this inevitably leads to utilitarian mindsets, such as recitation and practice, commonly known as ‘Shua Ti’ (literally translates to ‘swipe questions’, which means doing tons of questions within a relatively short period). It indeed affects students' creative thinking to a certain extent. 

However, the achievements and failures of Gaokao are a pair of antinomy. We have seen in history that some countries attempted to get out of this dilemma. For example, Japan, which is also influenced by Confucianism, tried "happy education" but eventually created a batch of "Heisei mediocrities". This indirectly reflects the necessity of recitation and practice in China under the circumstances of a large population and limited resources. Of course, recitation has its advantages. The mode of exam nowadays is different from the past. Instead of rote memory, it now emphasizes on memory after understanding the concepts to maximize the advantages of recitation.


(Q: 有人認爲中國教育過於注重背誦和操練,抹殺了學生的學術興趣或創意思維;也有人認爲背誦和操練的教育模式是最迅速培養大批資質偏高的人才的方法,你對此有什麽看法?


A: 坦白講我覺得這是一種無奈之舉,換言之,這是“最不壞”的辦法。背誦、練習的背後是應試教育體制,是高考。中國的人口眾多,很難像西方發達國家一樣,側重於對學生的全面開發;加之各地區教育資源的不均衡、不充分發展,只能通過高考這一大比重的全國性統一考試來篩選生源。而應試佔比大就必然導致功利化的應對方式,譬如背誦和練習,俗稱“刷題”。一定程度上確實會影響學生創造性思維的發揮。



Q: To what extent does Chinese education solve or aggravate the following social issues?


A: Wealth disparity: The income gap between the rich and the poor is narrowed through the implementation of minimum wage laws, education, and medication with higher quality.

Regional disparity / urban-rural gap: Currently, exam-oriented education can reduce the urban-rural gap to some extent.


Politeness and discipline of citizens: improved significantly.

Political participation and monitoring governance by the public: Since the overall quality of citizens is improved, the level of participation will also be improved.

Slow economic growth: Education achieves accelerated economic development and trains many professionals. However, due to over-expansion of university admission quota, quality of undergraduates varies, leading to a less sustainable economic development.

Hostility between social classes: Education changes one's fate. Gaokao is universal and fair, thus it functions as a social ladder and mitigates hostility


(Q: 你認爲中國教育在多大程度上解決或者惡化下列社會問題?


貧富懸殊: 一定程度上通過教育、醫療、最低工資法等政策方針縮小貧富差距。

地域懸殊 / 城鄉差距: 目前的效果來看,應試教育能夠一定程度上減少城鄉差距。


國民素質問題: 國民素質顯著提高。

民眾的政治參與和政治監督: 提高了整體國民素質,參與程度也會得到提升。

經濟增長放緩: 能夠實現經濟提速發展,培養了許多專業人才。但因為過度擴招使得人才市場良莠不齊,使得後勁不足。



Taylor Xu is a Grade 11 student in Beijing. He is passionate about humanities and social sciences, with certain knowledge in literature and history. He strives to find a way out at the crossroads of the transitioning era.


Interviewed, Edited & Translated by Brittany Wong

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