I know I promised more on creativity, but education is a big topic, and I think if you read through the comments on yesterday’s post, you will find a wealth of information on that topic.
In China every college/university goes through a thorough inspection every 2 years (inspections are common in all institutions in China). This process is meant to evaluate the level of the school and to ensure that the school is up to the government standards. It involves interviewing teachers, monitoring lessons, and evaluating student work.
These inspections are a collosal waste of time, and do nothing to improve the educational system.
Today I’ll be showing you how even the worst universities manage to pass these evaluations (I was told by one of the leaders in the Jiangsu dept. of education that out of all the inspections in 2009, not a single school failed).
These interviews are supposed to be used as a method for evaluating the level of education the teachers have, as well as their ability to speak Mandarin (checking for a non-standard accent). They also review teachers’ lesson plans.
I was surprised to learn that to pass this section many schools will “demote” their less qualified teachers, making them on-paper secretaries or library assistants. To bolster their narrowed ranks the school then “hires” several professors from more prestigious universities as “visiting professors”. I apologize for the excessive use of quotes, but these professors never even visit the campus, let alone teach a single class. For signing their name to the syllabus these prestigious professors earn fat kick-backs, while the less qualified teachers continue to secretly teach their classes.
In my last weeks of school in Chengdu last year they had me write my syllabus for the past year before I left. I protested that I didn’t really remember every lesson I had given. It doesn’t matter, my Chinese co-teacher said, just make it look professional and give a lot of details. It didn’t matter what I had actually taught the students, as long as I handed in a stack of paper work.
The inspectors are supposed to observe lessons taught by a few random teachers to check the quality of the lessons.
The inspection is never a surprise, and so the teachers spend the weeks before practicing a single lesson to ensure that it goes flawlessly in front of the inspectors. As Niubi mentioned in the comment section yesterday, the teachers will often refer to these as performances.
Throughout the performance the teacher leads a class where every activity is simply begun without instruction, and each student knows which question they will be asked and how to answer it correctly. Students who cause problems regularly during classes are often “sick” during these inspections to avoid any disturbances.
Evaluating Student Work
Inspectors are supposed to read through students’ writing as well as examine their grades.
I’m sure when they were drafting this policy, it seemed like a wonderful idea, but this is the most laughable section of the evaluation. Teachers are actually required by the leaders to practically re-write every paper their students handed in, even their thesis. Any error in these papers will be sharply criticized by the inspectors so the teachers slave away fixing their students’ work for months before the evaluation (keep in mind that each teacher has had over 200 students since the last inspection).
On top of that, the school will actually re-grade the students to provide a “better” picture of the school’s performance. This not only means raising the grade of underperforming students, but lowering the grades of over-achievers as well.
So instead of focusing on lesson planning, or improving their courses in some other way, Chinese teachers spend one out of every two years preparing for inspections that nobody ever fails. It seems like these evaluations that were meant to improve China’s schools are a large part of what is holding many of them back.
I have experienced all of these practices at every school I have worked at in China first hand.