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By Song Zhibiao, published: November 17, 2014 Editor’s update: Liren Rural Libraries announced its closure on September 18, 2014.   The Liren (literally: “cultivating talents”) Rural Libraries, which is devoted to aiding rural students to broaden their reading horizons and expand their learning opportunities, has met with the worst crisis since its founding. Its official Weibo revealed that, at the end of August, eleven Liren Rural Libraries, one after another, have undergone official reviews by such local agencies as the Education Bureau, the Culture Bureau, and the Culture and Sports Bureau. Two of the libraries have already been notified by their partner schools that the schools were terminating their cooperation with the libraries. In additional comments, Li Yingqiang (李英强), who previously served as a responsible […]


By Chang Ping, published: August 30, 2014   (This is Chang Ping’s third rebuttal, declined publication by Deutsche Welle, to Frank Sieren’s defense of the Tiananmen massacre and the “right to forget“  (links in German) in the Sieren vs. Chang Ping debate earlier this year in DW about the June 4th massacre in 1989 in China. Read Tiananmen Massacre not a “Passing Lapse” of the Chinese Government, and Without the Right to Remember There Can Be No Freedom to Forget, Chang Ping’s first and second rebuttals to Sieren. – The Editor)   In his article, “From Tiananmen to Leipzig,” Frank Sieren reproaches Western media with “unilaterally exaggerating the facts in reporting the incident,” the “incident” in question being the Tiananmen massacre. After Chinese commentators, including myself, raised objections, the example Sieren gives […]


Just a quick thought today: As I tell people in the States, when it comes to China, seemingly good news is often bad, and seemingly bad news is often good. In many cases, like increased numbers of AIDS cases, higher numbers of people living below the poverty line, and shrinking college admissions, bad news can actually be signs of problems being acknowledged and addressed. On the other hand, reforms to the criminal code, the completion of bridges and rails, and “elections” often serve as reminders of how far China has to go in terms of human rights, safety, and developing a gov’t that is actually selected by the people. In a story published the other day in People’s Daily, the gov’t announced that it planned […]


A few months ago I reviewed Yes China! by Neil Clark, and when a friend asked me to review another book about teaching English in China I was a little hesitant to commit to reading what to me has already become a familiar story. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find Yin-Yang: American Perspectives on Living in China filled with thoughtful reflections packaged in an altogether new format. Colorado China Council (CCC) Executive Director and author of this book, Alice Renouf, collects letters from former teachers and organizes them into a wide range of topics, and sorts them by location and date. I found this a wonderfully novel approach to creating a clear picture of China’s development and the diversity of experiences. This book shows it […]


Yesterday we explored why there is no such thing as instant guanxi, and were reminded that favors are often repaid in ways that we might not expect but have to accept. Today we’ll be looking at why your Chinese friends might feel uneasy pulling strings for you, and why foreign teachers are so wary of dinners with co-workers and bosses. As an employee of a hospital, I occupy a prime spot in the guanxi hierarchy in that I know a few doctors in several departments. Even though my connections are very limited in number, the connections I do have can be incredibly handy when friends are sick. Yet, as they have come to see, if it can be avoided I don’t use my guanxi. It […]


The following is a guest post from a friend who writes on her blog ChinaB.org My Chinese friend turned to me the other day and said “What time is it? I got a plane to Shenzhen to catch.” “Shenzhen? What are you doing going there on a Sunday night?” She looked suddenly embarrassed and told me quietly that she was taking a PhD qualifying exam for someone. The first question that came to mind was why?; why this thirty-some-year-old was being flown out to Shenzhen to take a PhD exam. I have known her for two years, and she is a very kind and curious woman, but by no means a mover and shaker. Her English is pretty good, and if she had any other […]


Clark Nielsen came to China with no training and no clue how to be an English teacher, Yes China! An English Teacher’s Love-Hate Relationship with a Foreign Country ($13.45 paperback, $5.99 Kindle) is the enjoyable record of what happened next. The majority of the book focuses on his experiences in a variety of classroom settings and his failure to understand how to properly lesson plan. Clark’s first foray into China was with a largely Mormon summer teaching program, which leads to interesting reflections from Clark on his former faith and how his decision to leave the church has changed his life (non-China related personal content makes up about 20-30% of the book). It’s also an account of him struggling to control a class full of primary students […]


Guest post from Jonathan Poston M.E. Up until now, this story has never been told in print, only lamented in subsequent international business courses I taught, and reminisced about in random “China-talk.” It was a year of peaks and valleys like life tends to serve up, but at the start of 2008, I was surfing at the height of a 100 ft. wave. I had just moved to China to teach business communications at an American university’s international business school. I probably should have stopped there to simply enjoy the teaching experience and the rich culture forever modulating around me. But I didn’t. I started taking kung fu (gong fu-功夫) from an amazing martial arts master, and just as I was getting into it, I was […]


China halts U.S. academic freedom at the class door, from Bloomberg, was the better of two excellent pieces this week on the topic of joint-managed colleges in China (the other being No academic freedom for China). This piece generated a lot of discussion about education, and one friend who actually studies at the school mentioned that the article should have also examined discussions in the classrooms that are actually much freer than she had expected. Hepatitis C outbreak hits Anhui, Henan, from Caixin, is an in depth look at how lax regulations and the recycling of used needles at local clinics led to over 110 people being infected. Supposedly this problem was fixed nearly a decade ago. This coming out near World AIDS Day is a […]


Today my co-worker informed me that she would be sending her 14 year-old son to study in New Zealand, and she was understandably sad about it. For the last year he has struggled to meet the school’s standards, but has been left behind by teachers who care more about their own performance bonuses than helping him reach his potential. He is a good kid, who simply does not fit the model of Chinese education. His family feels like there are no decent choices for educating him in China, but hate to be separated. My co-worker revealed part of the problem when she explained that every night he’s given hours of homework focused on memorizing answers. He doesn’t see the point, and she doesn’t either. After […]


According to reports from Xinhua: Guangdong Experimental High School (广东实验中学) announced that not only had it completed 3 new campuses within China, but was proud to be opening the very first Chinese managed public school in Riverside, California. The move was heralded as China’s first step on to the world stage for promoting its unique style of education and overall quality. Even better, it was opened on National Day, and would soon be opening up to enroll Chinese students. This new campus/program was made possible through a relationship with the Chemax Educational Foundation, which was authorized by Guangdong Experimental High School to establish a branch in the United states. Former Secretary of Education for the state of California, Dr. David Long, had even been on hand for […]


According to official statistics (which means they are full of problems) there are roughly 300,000,000 English learners in China. This statistic is being bandied about to show how quickly China is changing, and how the West needs to do more to learn Chinese (which is a point for another day). Yet from the moment you step off the plane, you start to question whether or not 25% of the population really learned anything more than “Hallloow,” “A-What-a is-a your name-a?” and “I’m fine, thank you and you? (with a rapidly rising pitch to indicate the question mark)” and “Chinglish” signs abound as online translators (like Google translate) seem to be the only authority on language. The number 300 million comes from the total number of […]


Last week we looked at my first hand experience in a rural college, and we explored the current state of rural schools and a few of the underlying problems. Today we’ll be looking at why there are few great teachers in the countryside. Two kinds of teachers The first type is a “certified teacher”, and is considered to be on par with other gov’t employees. These positions are very stable, and the pay is decent. It is a coveted position, with 60% of the salary guaranteed by the national gov’t.  However in rural schools this kind of teacher can be hard to find. Village teachers only earn 1/3 of what they could earn at a county level school. This has led village teachers to move from […]


Yesterday we saw fist hand the condition of a single school in rural Guangxi, today we’ll be getting the bigger picture of the state of education in rural China, and some of the systemic problems. Even Global Times (a State run paper) says that “Knowledge no longer power for rural poor“. Facts and Figures Currently the majority of primary and secondary teachers in rural schools do not have 4-year degrees. These statistics though do not capture the full problem, as it does not account for the divide between rural areas in the east and west of China (the Eastern parts are much richer). For many of my students in Guangxi, none of their teachers prior to college would have attended a 4-year school. Primary school teachers […]


Children from urban areas in China are 6.3x more likely to attend a university than children from the countryside, largely because of the better primary and secondary education in the cities. However, I didn’t need to see the statistics to know that this was true. My first year in China was spent in rural Guangxi as a placement with a Chinese charity. Of the dozen or so “needy” schools we were working with at the time, mine was considered to be one of the poorest, and was located in a small county an hour from the freeway. Some of my students’ families earned less than 1,000rmb per year as farmers, and the majority owned less than 4 sets of clothes. My students came from the […]


At this conference we’ve been discussing some of the recent studies about the massive gap between rural and urban education. For example: Urban children are 6.3 times more likely to attend college than their rural counterparts, and when rural children do go on for further studies it is usually a 2 or 3 year program. For us to get further into these problems, I think its important to take some time to review past posts about Education in China, since there is a lot of background information necessary to frame the topic of this conference. Then over these next few days we’ll be looking at just how serious this gap is, and why it is not as depressing as it might seem at first. Student […]


My wife pointed out to me last night that over the last few days I had fairly completely torn apart the Chinese educational system. My goal in writing these posts was not meant as a way of proclaiming the complete failure of the schools. So today I’d like to focus on the parts of the educational system that show great promise, but still need a bit of work. Creating World Class Universities If you look at this list of the top 100 universities in the world you will notice that China occupies 3 of the places (Sorry Chinese gov’t, you don’t get credit for universities in Taiwan or HK). Upon looking for the other up and coming BRICS, you will notice that China is the […]


Yesterday I detailed the many ways in which school officials cheat to pass inspections, so it’s no surprise that teachers often turn a blind eye to cheating in the classroom. Cheating/copying is pervasive throughout China, in every level of education and industry. A gov’t spokesperson even went so far as to say that copying was a kind of innovation. If you’ve read my posts about copyrights in China (here, here and here) you already know about the problems caused by copying, so today we are going to look at the lighter side of cheating. In the west I think we tend to idealize Chinese/Asian students as incredibly hard workers who are completely focused on their studies and hold their teachers in high regard. Many foreign […]


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 […]


Yesterday we looked briefly at a typical lesson in a Chinese classroom, today we’ll continue looking at education in China by exploring the ways in which the system works against creative thinking. I hope to further illustrate the methodology used in Chinese classrooms, and discuss why these methods are so prevalent. First I would like to highlight a few examples of where creative thinking should be present, but is not. At skit competitions in Guangxi universities, and at the Jiangsu Department of Health English competition, students/doctors simply copied entire performances from online sources. This resulted in 2 groups performing the exact same skit in both competitions. I learned Chinese from “top” language teachers in China at Beijing Foreign Language University (北京语言大学) by reciting texts word […]


I have been teaching in Chinese universities and middle schools for almost 4 years now as well as having observed classes at all levels in China’s educational system. So forget what you’ve read lately about China’s schools rating number one in the world, the educational system here is full of problems. Over these next few days I’ll be outlining some of the major problems with the system as well as presenting a shocking exposé of what may be the worst school in China. I can already hear angry readers scrolling down to leave a nasty comment, so I think we should start by looking at a few things that they do very well before we look at the limits of such a system. There are […]


This is part 2 of a continuing series, part 1 Primary school in China’s countryside pales in comparison to the education offered in the big cities of the East coast. From the moment my students started school they were behind, and never really had what could be called a fair chance. Village primary schools are often single level cement structures, with little to offer in supplies or personnel. This is not to say that teachers in the countryside lack enthusiasm. They have to be dedicated to accept the miserable wages (about $100 a month) and long hours that come with being a village teacher. However many of them lack formal education themselves, few have finished college, some have finished high school, and some were even […]


September 2007 When I arrived in Longzhou there were only a few days to get settled before the semester would begin. On Friday Millie brought Kyle and me over to see the Foreign Language department, Thai and Vietnamese were also popular majors at the school. After some back and forth with the vice-dean she turned and told us that our class schedule had not been decided yet. When Millie turned back to ask about a few other things, Kyle let me know that this was pretty typical and I shouldn’t worry about it. It was my first insight into how things really work in China, in all actuality very few things are planned ahead, and I’m sure this will be the topic of a future […]


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