Fri, Nov 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The best schools are not in China

By Yu Jie 余杰

During a news conference for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th National Congress, Chinese Minister of Education Chen Baosheng (陳寶生) said that by 2049 China would play a leading role in education worldwide, adding that Chinese educational standards would become global standards and that China would become the most popular destination for studying abroad.

However, most people seem to think the opposite about Chinese education and its future. This includes Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who has sent his daughter Xi Mingze (習明澤) to study at Harvard University instead of at his alma mater, Tsinghua University.

That he does not want his own daughter to attend a Chinese university suggests that Xi is aware that schools in China, even the better ones such as Tsinghua and Peking University, foster a slave mentality by encouraging self-censorship. Many Chinese government officials, businesspeople and middle-class people must share Xi’s opinion because they also have sent their children to study in the US and other Western countries.

As a result, Internet denizens mockingly referred to the opening event of the 19th National Congress as an association meeting of US university parents.

Calling the event that was not an exaggeration. A Center for China and Globalization report last year showed that there were 1.26 million Chinese students studying abroad in 2015, which accounted for 25 percent of all students studying abroad that year. That means that one in every four international students in 2015 was from China.

The 2016 Open Doors report issued by the Institute of International Education shows that the US still hosts the most international students, while China has the most students studying in the US for the seventh consecutive year. During the 2015-2016 academic year, 328,000 Chinese students studied at US high schools. This was an 8.1 percent increase from the previous academic year, accounting for 31.5 percent of all international students in US high schools.

Meanwhile, by the end of 2015, the number of US students studying in China had decreased by 7.1 percent, from 13,763 in 2014 to 12,790.

While Western education continues to hold a unique appeal for Chinese students, many of whom believe that a degree from the West can guarantee high incomes in their home country, Chinese education, which trains people to obey the rules by discouraging critical thinking, is becoming increasingly corrupted.

At a recent conference at the Washington-based Hudson Institute think tank, Chinese academic Xu Youyu (徐友漁) said that, although the CCP and Xi have received much praise in China, people will look back half a century from now and think of them in the same way that they think of the Nazi government and Adolf Hitler, who were heavily praised in Germany for a while before being unanimously condemned by the world.

Hsu also mentioned his worries about the future of Chinese education.

Since Xi took power, things have been getting worse and worse, as if China has returned to the time of Mao Zedong (毛澤東), he said. For example, many of his friends who taught at universities have been sacked or transferred to work at libraries after having made “politically incorrect” comments in class.

Hsu said students would record their classes with their phones and submit footage of teachers making “inappropriate” remarks to the school’s security department, which would then send people to question the teacher.

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