Tag Archives: Education

Education In China


It has been officially two months here in China, and I finally decided to write a blog post on education over here in China. Why? Well, first and foremost, I’m an educator and these kinds of things interest me quite a bit. Secondly, I haven’t written a blog post for a while, so I figure I should write one haha.


Okay, so let’s do it.

Shocked. I think that is the one word that accurately describes my feelings for the education here in China. Shocked. But, I cannot say if this is in a bad way or a good way, it’s just, shocked. In many ways, it’s astounding what these students can do here, but at the same time, it’s horrifying and horrible.

First, let’s set the context for my school and surrounding schools. I am working through a company that has an agreement with a school to come in and teach classes only in English for students who want to go to the United States. So, my school, significantly smaller than the Site School, has its own goals to try and achieve. In a relatively small town in China, Yixing,  a population  of one million, the whole school consists of 2,000 students. My program consists of about 50 of those students. Here is what a schedule looks like for one of my students, Monday – Saturday. Yes, Saturday (although Saturday is only a half day.)

6:45 am – 7:20 am: Morning Reading = students are given a passage of text to read and memorize during the thirty-five minutes. My job is during the last five to ten minutes to quiz them to make sure they have memorized the material.

7:30 am – 9:00 am: Periods 1 + 2 = Each class is 40 minutes long, making it very difficult to achieve things in the course of the class.

9:00 am – 9:30 am: Running Period = Students are taken to the school track and they run, military style, around the track for two to four laps.

9:30 am – 11:10 am = Periods 3 + 4

11:10 am – 11:50 am = Lunch time.

11:50 am – 1:05 pm: Rest period = This is different for my school. The students get to rest so many of them sleep at their desks for the hour. Students at the Site School, however, are assigned another period of class and aren’t allowed to sleep.

1:05 pm – 2:35 pm = Periods 5+6

2:35 pm – 3:00 pm: Running period. Again, students report to the school track and made to run two to four laps.

3:00 pm – 5:20 pm = Periods 7 + 8 +9

5:20 pm – 6:00 pm = Dinnertime

6:10 pm – 9:00 pm = Regulated study time. Students remain in their classroom for three hours under the supervision of teachers and work on homework.

Then, they get to go home. They repeat this Monday through Friday. So, these students have a 14 hour day at school which involves nine class periods, two running periods that total at least one mile, and only one hour for rest. Again, that is for my school, the Site School doesn’t get that rest period.

On Saturday they have a half day starting at 7 am and ending by 11 am. In that regards, the Site School is the same. However, unlike the Site School, our students do not need to come back after noon on Sunday for a half day of schooling there. Yes, that’s right, they only get half a day Saturday and half a day Sunday to rest. It’s awful to see and no longer makes me complain about anything I’ve had in the States.

Because they are so test oriented in China, everything they do is memorization. Yes, this may sound like a generalization, but it’s not. They literally try and memorize everything, from the passages during morning reading to the passages on international tests such as the TOEFL. They memorize the latter just in case they experience the same TOEFL prompt on their actual test. It’s such a flawed system, it’s ridiculous, and it leads to Chinese students not really being able to think creatively or have any of their own thoughts. For a lack of better words or stronger comparison, they are simply machines. Many of the parents of these machines want their students to continue studying even after they are finished with school so teachers get chastised if we give too few homework. All of these things together leads some of the children here having more gray hairs than my grandma.

Also, in terms of schooling, there is even more interesting matters in how teachers are looked upon. So, in Asian culture teachers are actually very valued members of society, they rank right up there as equals to the parents for their children. Knowing that is essential if you are to command a classroom of Chinese students. But, also, I find the society very superficial. What do I mean by this? Well, they like to judge things aesthetically, meaning, if you are handsome you can do no wrong in their eyes. This is actually one of the first things people say to me all the time, “You’re so handsome.” I went to a parent teacher conference with students of a more disruptive class, Senior II, here one of my first weeks in Yixing. I introduced myself, my plan for the students, and asked for questions from any of the parents. None of the parents had any. But, for the Chinese teachers, there was a plethora of questions. Interesting, right?

Finally, another point about schooling: many of the students are arrogant. Really arrogant. This is rather harsh, I know, but let me explain. Students in our program specifically come from wealthier families who can afford to put their students in English-immersion high schools. Next, until just recently (maybe one or two years ago), China had a strict one-child-only policy, so many of these students don’t have only siblings. This, combined with the fact that they come from more prominent families, means they are spoiled beyond belief. Harsh, but true. Because of this, I found it rather difficult to command their attention at times earlier in the year, but now I am getting the hang of it, although it can be a constant power struggle all the time. And, for an English teacher, our subject is viewed as non-important in the eyes of the typical Chinese who usually complete math and science first. This is ironic as they are going to an English-immersion school and all of the tests that they have are based around knowing English, but it is what it is.

This is lengthy, but everything here is what I have experienced personally. No, it may not be similar to other schools, but my guess is that it is. The competition in China is so high for a job that this is the reason that schools go so late and are 6 days a week. If they aren’t, the Chinese fear that their child will get left behind. This predicament, sadly, leaves many of these students with no place to vent their struggles. There are no extra-curricular activities to build comradery and team-building functions with classmates. There is no time for a social life even as 14 hours of their day are in school. There is only time for Sleep. Memorize. School. Study. Repeat.

Teachers at the Site School have it bad as well as they are required to come 6 days a week to teach the students. They are responsible for class sizes of 40 – 50 students (my class sizes are 16-18). Many of them are paid 5,000 – 7,000 yuan per month, this equates to 750 dollars – 1000 dollars every month for the teachers there. My salary is significantly higher as are the salaries of the Chinese teachers in my department.

As a former educator in the States, this is disheartening to see, but it’s definitely given me a new perspective on our education there. If you want to come to China, I suggest to do it. I even suggest teaching in China, the benefits are fantastic, but just be prepared for a culture shock when you get here. It is unlike you have ever seen.

Michael E. Thies

P.S. One quick thing I forgot to mention is that Chinese don’t really believe in holidays. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s say that a Holiday is scheduled for Thursday and Friday during a week. Well, they will schedule the holiday in question for Thursday and Friday and then make students come to school on Saturday and Sunday to make up the classes that they missed on Thursday and Friday. It’s rather annoying as that means sometimes I need to teach on Saturdays and Sundays. It is what it is, like I said before. Shocked. Shocked. That is what I am constantly in whenever I think about the education system here.

Profession Change

No, no, no, I’m not changing my job as a writer. I still love writing and publishing and will continue to do that until I retire from the scene, but recently I just had a change of heart regarding some of my other life happenings right now.

So, I graduated college from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and Advertising. In my mind the perfect combination. I was going to be the best copywriter ever, just like Don Draper himself. Than graduation came, and I looked for jobs and all the Ad Agency jobs require experience (well tell me, where do I get this experience you so claim I should have already)? An option, to go to copywriting school but since I live in Wisconsin and the Big 3 (Creative Circus, Miami Ad School, and VCU) are all on the east cost, that option would be arduous to say the least. With that being said, I have been trying to get my foot in the door at marketing arenas but have thus been unsuccessful which has been really depressing on my part. You know, they say to you, get a good GPA in college, be involved in organizations and internships, and you’ll have a job after college. I did all of that. Check. Check. and Check. I was president of 3 organizations, 3.6 GPA had an advertising internship, but still couldn’t find a job.

So, I used a little bit of my sales experience and started selling insurance, which is fine, I don’t mind it but passionately, it’s not me. I want to be an author. I love going to critique sessions and seeing other peoples work and helping them market their own book since publishing this first one has plunged me so deep in the industry its amazing. I have learned so much from this road of self-exploration and publishing my book than any amount of internships could teach me. But, with that being said, selling insurance is hard work. Don’t get me wrong you can make a lot of money at it if you are passionate about it and stick in it long enough, but that is where it is hard for me. Call me stupid but what is going to get my name out there to establish my platform as an author more, selling insurance or taking time to write stories and submit them to magazines? Probably the latter. What pays the bills? Probably the former. But the former is commission only and I have to fill up my gas tank every two days to drive to appointments which makes it not probably for me at this point in my life. Basically, it’s like I am starting up to companies at once which is a definite strain on a budget.

Then, I got to thinking. My friend recently just became a teacher and I am so proud of him for that and honestly my mom was a teacher for 38 years and although she had a messed up schedule, she had her summers off and a steady, secure job. Something I relish and crave and want. My personality, I think, would make me a great teacher and already having the experience in marketing and writing I could teach kids about things that they will need or want to know going into college. So now I have decided to go back to school to get my teacher’s certification in English so I can teach at the high school level.

This job would be fantastic for a number of reasons. (1) It’d be steady pay. (2) I can get the joy of a critique session while I am working and love being able to help students with their writing. (3) It would compliment my writing schedule the most, allowing me summers off to write like it’s my job. Oh wait, it kind of is. (4) When thinking about where most books take off nowadays what age range do you imagine? I would say mostly young adults in their high school years to early college years because they have the most time to read. If students knew that their teacher wrote a book, maybe they would go out and buy it. Who knows? From there it has the chance to expand, but those are all just my hopes, dreams and aspirations. We will see how that actually turns out.

But, for now, I am bent on going back to school to become an teacher because at heart it’s something I want to do. Also, my dad passed along to me the Wisconsin G.I. Bill which paid for my first bachelor’s degree to get me out of college debt free–something I cannot be grateful enough for. But my dad told me recently that if I went back to school the bill would grant me a stipend of a certain amount per month to help pay for education until the age of 26. So, if I am going to go back and do anything, now would be the time. And I finally pushed myself to make it that time. I am in the process right now of getting everything registered for spring semester so I can start and get my new career path on track.

I hope it works out for me and I guess a quote I just came up with recently that I have really liked is this, “The scariest thing about taking the plunge? Not knowing if the water will be deep or shallow.” I like that quite a bit and can’t wait to see what this plunge has in store for me.