I have come across some hideous features of Chinese education, and written about its deep roots in Confucian thinking, but this one takes some beating. ALL children (170 million) in China, are about to be drug tested. Why? According to this shocking story in The Telegraph, teachers have been handing out dated, untested anti-viral drugs like sweets to stop the kids getting ill, as their bonuses are paid on attendance. You’d think this was bad enough but some of the parents, shown here, who turned up to the school where this practice was first uncovered have been arrested, held in custody and told that they must delete all online comments about the affair.
Shocking as this story is, it fits into an educational narrative that we in the west are also buying, that education is the primary goal for children and that everything else needs to be subsumed under that goal. The Far eastern model, which politicians in the west admire is not what it seems. It’s based on a dog-eat-dog competition driven by desperate parents, with hideous amounts of tutoring and homework. Children have become instruments of parental ambition, even worse state ambition.
We’ve seen this before in East Germany, when children were selected then force-fed steroids to compete in international games such as the Olympics. This led to serious physical and psychological problems including suicides. Do we want to go back to state and Stasi imposed regimes in education and sport.
We should be under no doubt that China sees education as a political tool. It’s easy to forget that this is a totalitarian state, with communist roots, the same party that almost wiped out its teachers and academics in my lifetime during the Cultural Revolution. They know all about state control.
The propaganda is now propagated through PISA rankings. Unwittingly, PISA has become a vehicle for far Eastern politics. They should never have allowed Shanghai to submit an entry. It is not representative of the whole country, tutoring as a variable is not included, and there is widespread concern about selection and cheating. The OECD PISA data comes from exams held every three years. In 2012, Shanghai and Hong Kong came first and second. The problem is the vast differential between these two cities and the rest of China.
1. Around 84% of Shanghai secondary school students go on to college, compared to 24% in the rest of China.
2. Parents in those wealth cities pay enormous sums for tutoring, sometimes so extreme that the child does little else but eat, sleep and study.
3. In addition, only 79% of 15 year olds in Shanghai get into high school, making it a highly selective sample.
4. These wealthy hotspots are then represented as ‘China’. Given this differential. I’d guess that China would barely make it above the mean if it were truly representative of the country as a whole.
ConclusionWe had the enlightenment in the West and don’t follow the idea that children are simply rats that have to spend all of their waking life being drilled, practiced and tested into being the narcissistic toys that their parents want them to be. I always found it depressing to hear parents in this country refer to their kids as ‘talented and gifted’. In fact, I rarely ever met a middle class parent whose kid was not ‘talented and gifted’. This soon gave way to the usual issues that all