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5 steps to better education in China [China Daily: Hong Kong Edition]
[August 26, 2014]

5 steps to better education in China [China Daily: Hong Kong Edition]

(China Daily: Hong Kong Edition Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) I post a lot about education, learning English and the schools where all of this happens. I will usually never voice (speak about) a problem unless I also hear it from Chinese people (especially Chinese teachers).  Here's a short list of 5 things that I believe should happen in Chinese education.

1. Change the mindset that 'harder is better' - This seems to be as much of a cultural mindset in China and not just in education. 'Suffering' is seen as honorable and is often initiated by decisions to, well, suffer. It makes no sense why one would choose to suffer rather than find a way to alleviate suffering and discover better ways of doing something.

In school, there is no virtue (good) in making students suffer. In the West, we expect the best resources that are available for educating children. Our schools are comfortable (air conditioned where needed), clean and have the latest technology such as quality Smart Boards, multimedia, Internet connections, science labs and whatever else is available to enhance the education of children. I hear people here in China say, "Yeah, but you're so rich in the West." The fact is, more than 99% of K-12th grade education is publicly funded. Meaning, it is FREE for students to attend. It is funded by the government and is it not a 'for profit' situation as many schools (particularly high schools) are here in China. More homework, longer hours in the classroom, ineffective rote memory systems and lack of resources are not beneficial in educating children. Yet, these are too often the case here in China.

2. Education in the West is desired by most Chinese students. Therefore, this suggestion is that if most Chinese believe that Western education is better than Chinese, then, study the schools in the West and adopt what they do. The West gets blamed for many negative things that they export to other countries like fast food, unsuitable television shows, unsuitable movies and fashion. However, the West also exports jobs, technology, industry and other societal advancements.  3. Get parents involved.  A lady knocked on my door recently and asked me to teach her 11-year-old boy English. I asked how much English education he's had thus far. She said that he hasn't had any. I asked, "Why not?" She said that she works in another city and her husband is too busy working (making money). The boy is cared for by his aging grandparents and they don't really know how to handle him and properly direct him in his education. I set her son up for private tutoring three times a week and one English training class per week. When I told her that she is the most important person in her son's education, she nearly started crying. Nonetheless, the parent IS the most important person in a child's education. Teachers come AFTER parents. No one can influence an 11-year-old boy more than his mother and father.

4. Focus on quality rather than quantity. This is very similar to the first step I shared. I've taught in classrooms here in China that had resources for teaching that were seriously needed, but, they didn't work. When I went to the administrators and asked about getting them working, they were clueless and seemed offended that I expected things like multimedia to actually work. The resistance that I met with was really quite unbelievable. The schools would invest in expensive resources, but, there was no plan on how to maintain those resources and keep them in good working order. Smart Boards that didn't work. School computers with viruses. Bulbs in video projectors that need to be replaced. Speakers in the classroom used for listening to exercises in English Speaking classes that didn't work. No Internet access due to the fear that the students would try to use the Internet (This is easily controllable; just give permissions such as usernames and passwords to the teachers. The teachers can easily control this.)  5. Train Teachers. Teachers need to be trained in teaching styles and methods. When you get your focus off of 'hard is better' and 10+ hours in the classroom everyday, you can create innovative ways of teaching students. This is something that is taken for granted in the West. We expect teachers to be innovative and creative. When teachers can be this way, they will also teach the students to be creative and innovative. However, when a teacher spends time dealing with all of the logistical problems in the classroom, there is no time left for creativity and innovation.

Teachers need to trained or retrained. The goal is not making it easier. The goal is making it the most effective. How can we teach students better? Most teachers I've met here blame the shortcomings (low scores) on students. I've heard them say on several occasions, "This school just has poor students." I've taught in two middle schools, three primary schools, two high schools and two universities. In all of them I've heard about how bad the students are. The students are generally not at all the problem. It is the lack of teachers who are skilled in teaching them.

I'm in China to try to make at least a small difference. I care about my students and I care about China. I've grown to love China. I will continue to do what I can to give my students my best and what they deserve. I believe that most teachers, administrators and faculty want to give their students the best. But, we can make it better.

The original blog is: (c) 2014 China Daily Information Company. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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