Today 10.5 million Chiese sit the gaokao, the state entrance exam for Universities. Only 6 million will succeed. The cream of the crop are likely to be employed in government. This selection process has an ancient pedigree in China. Confucian education is nearly 2,500 years old and is based on hard work, compliance to the state, a focus on personal behaviour and competitive examinations. Confucian exams were take so seriously in the past that papers were kept locked up, examinees body searched, essays transcribed into identical calligraphy and read by at least two independent examiners. The penalty for abuse was death and exile for one’s family, and nepotism was avoided through quotas. In was an absolute meritocracy. One study showed that 83% of the top students were from lower-class families. Note that it wasn’t until the 18th ad 19th centuries that meritocratic examinations were introduced in
Although China has this Confucian continuity, in the second half of the 20th century, Maoism led to compulsory Marxist-Leninist ideological schooling then the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, encouraged by Mao, when school teachers and intellectuals were ridiculed, tortured and even murdered by their students. Their education system literally imploded.
Learn Mandarin? Don’t bother
There are nearly as many people learning English in
Save to learn
Its cities are its economic dynamos and the Chinese salt away up to 40% of their income for their old age, education and support, exacerbated by the one child per family policy (apart from minorities). This draconian birth control policy means they are vociferous savers and invest a high proportion of their income specifically in the education of their children. These savings fuel the economy and pay for the financing of their own and even the
They start at six/seven and have six years of primary education, followed by six in secondary up to the age of 18. But in terms of the curriculum,
Schooling is long hours and often long journeys with absent parents working away from their home town. Everywhere in
Behind all this is a recent, massive growth in the private sector in learning. Despite the appearance of uniformity and the desperate grind towards getting your child to University, there is plenty of variety in the system. A sign of this ambition is the fact that there are more Chinese students studying abroad than any other country.
A visit to the Shaolin monastery in
Shaolin was a mass of students, colour, movement and flags. There were students in mock fights, poses, even meditating in the woods. They were remarkably disciplined and happy, despite the cold wind that cut through their flimsy, silk outfits. I will never forget the sight of these tens of thousands of smiling students. It was especially thrilling as my sons are both experienced Tae Kwon Do students and instructors.
Exercise and sports
Curiously, my first glimpse of sport in
Then there are the street gyms – free equipment in little parks for citizens to exercise. But this is nothing compared to the millions of older Chinese who get up at dawn and do Tai Chi and a myriad of other activities in their local park every morning.
No internet, no life
That was a quote from a Chinese youngster. Internet cafes are everywhere, some with hundreds of PCs, and full of youngsters escaping the lack of privacy and cramped conditions at home. PCs are expensive and this is a way of getting some social contact with one’s peers. News is HUGE, MSN is HUGE, game playing is HUGE. However, the government has been trying to close many of them down over the last couple of years. They’re seen as subversive.
Internet and mobile use ahead of US
Internet use in
With many tens of millions of bloggers, one would expect a lot of anti-government activity. However, a lot of bloggers are just as angry with the western media’s coverage of
Great Firewall of
No matter how may electronic fingers they insert into the wall to stop the leaks, the people and technology seems to be winning. A PC costs as little as £200 and the software is all pirated. I tried the usual
Education does not mean innovation
It is not clear that the Confucian Chinese system of education, with its focus on passive, rote learning, leads to innovation. It seems to have produced a culture of copying and commoditisation. What all of this manufacturing and rush to modernity means is commoditisation.
Several recent commentators have looked at
The downside of rapacious capitalism, is that there are few great companies and problems with productivity, rampant counterfeiting, corruption, white elephant projects, risky bank loans and inflation.
Economically, this is rampant capitalism, with few of the slowly evolved checks and balances of the West. Companies keep three sets of accounts, one for the bank, one for tax, one for management. Loans and bad debts may yet rebound if there’s a downturn or recession and the credit crunch in
Sorry if I’ve gone on a bit – just wanted to pass on my general impressions before they fade.