“Why China is passing us.” – Winnipeg Free Press (2nd of 2 parts)

Hunan is highlighted on this map

Lanshan Middle School No. 2 is in an agricultural area in the southern part of Hunan province, China; Hunan province is highlighted in red on the map of China above; image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunan ………………………………………………………………………………………

I am grateful for today’s guest article from the Winnipeg Free Press in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada:  http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/why-chinas-passing-us-84291977.html

Winnipeg Free Press – PRINT EDITION

Why China’s passing us [2nd of 2 parts]

At Lanshan Middle School No. 2, no free rides

By: Carol Sanders, February 13, 2010

Reporter Carol Sanders went to rural China for a holiday and stayed at a high school campus. She learned a thing or two about an education system with great expectations and global ambitions.

About one-third of the students live in dorms on campus. Many of their parents work in factories in another province or their farms are too far from town to commute to school every day.

The high school students do their own laundry near a cold-water tap beside one of the dorms, using a basin and wringing their clothes by hand before hanging them up to dry.

On Saturday mornings, when classes start later and the school day is shorter, a student clean-up crew armed with straw brooms and garbage bags, pails of cold water and rags cleans the school.

Once a month, students have to take their turn, working in groups of three. They sweep the grounds and wash the windows.

They do it freely, while they talk and joke around.

“It’s our duty,” said Gina, a girl in Grade 10 who wants to join the military. When they had a freak snow storm in Lanshan two years ago, it was the military that rescued people in buses in the ditch and the military that went to help earthquake victims in Sichuan.

She wants to be a soldier so she can travel around China and help people. She’s never seen the military in the bad light of Tiananmen Square or Tibet.

The upbeat optimism of Gina and her schoolmates overshadows a lot of darkness — like when the power goes out. Or the garbage dumpster is filled to overflowing by week’s end.

Or when students fall asleep in class because they’ve stayed up all night studying.

The new boys’ dorm looks like a palace for little princes compared to the grungy, gray girls’ dorm.

In class, there’s a lot of rote learning and memorization, as opposed to creative writing and critical thinking.

And if you’re not up to speed, you get left behind.

Middle School No. 2 is for the smartest and hardest working kids in the region. The less-skilled teachers and students are at Middle School No. 1. There appears to be no place for students with disabilities or behaviour problems.

Self-discipline, hard work and proper deportment are the norm.

Teachers say it only takes one meeting with parents to correct a student’s misbehaviour.

When a Grade 10 girl got caught putting a note on a boy’s back that said “sex monster” she panicked and pleaded with her Canadian English teacher not to tell the principal.

The school doesn’t practice corporal punishment — but parents might. Getting called down to the principal’s office because your kid was acting up is a major disgrace in a culture that intensely values education.

In the last 60 years, China’s illiteracy rate has dropped to 9.1 percent from 80 per cent in 1949, according to the World Bank. The enrollment rate for primary-school children rose to 99.3 per cent from 20 per cent, and high schools and universities are booming.

We can shame China for its human rights record and feel superior, but that’s not going to stop its 1.3 billion people from getting ahead of us, educationally and economically.

The number of Canadians who earn bachelor’s degrees is below the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development average and well behind many other nations, the OECD 2009 report Education at a Glance said. Even the number of PhDs has fallen.

The Chinese have a saying “fu bu guo san dai” which means “wealth does not pass three generations.” The first generation works extremely hard, the second generation reaps the benefits. The third generation arrives — and squanders the wealth.

The forces of globalization aren’t going to give our kids a break. If we don’t equip them to compete with the hundreds of millions of kids schools like Lanshan are turning out, there may not be any wealth to squander when we’re gone.

[This is the 2nd of 2 parts; the 1st part was published in the previous post, dated Tuesday, July 27, 2010]

– Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2010 H1

Doc Meek posted a comment at the Winnipeg Free Press about this article:

February 19, 2010 at 7:19 PM

I am writing a book that will encourage Chinese teachers and students to involve themselves more in active learning, so that the school work they do will be more meaningful to each of them personally. I would like them to learn to love active learning, not just rote learning, so that they can enjoy life-long learning, not just factual memorizing. However, it is clear that they will teaching me about active learning too, from their example of self-discipline and hard work. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. – Doc Meek, Calgary, Alberta, CANADA, and South Jordan, Utah, USA  …………………………………………………………………………………………

Doc Meek, Wednesday, July 28, 2010, at South Jordan, Utah, USA


J. Collins Meek, Ph.D. (Doc Meek)
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Learning Specialist https://docmeek.com

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2 Responses to ““Why China is passing us.” – Winnipeg Free Press (2nd of 2 parts)”

  • Uinise Langi:

    Wo. Sooooo very interesting. But then the school discipline, competitiveness, family honor are ingrained in the larger culture itself. It would be very hard to import this type of structure to an American/Canadian context. It would be very interesting to see how far active learning strategies will go in China…. Active Learning is more conducive to a democratic, individualized society. But again, there’s the light-hearted bantering and free associations going on…so maybe it will still work. Active Learning is a stark contrast to the discipline, no-nonsense style of the Chinese.

    I’ll not go as far as to say the Chinese are surpassing America. They still have a long ways to go…if Chinese products is evidence/testament to their superiority?…lol!!

  • Hi Uinise, Good to hear from you again! Thank you for your comments on Active Learning and the comparisons between the US and Chinese societies. Blessings, Doc

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