September 19th, 2007

This article is a good illustration of the collossal gulf between my Kiwi upbringing and the education system in which I have spent all of my working life.

Senior high school students in east China’s Zhejiang Province can learn life skills such as how to make a stool or how to repair a flat tire.

Well, at intermediate (ages 11- 13, approximately; it’s the two years between primary school-proper and high school, roughly equivalent to the end of primary school and the beginning of middle school in countries like China) I had compulsory woodwork, metalwork, cooking and sewing classes. Yes, sewing. Of course, the new curriculum described in that article is radically different and far more advanced than what I did at intermediate, but of course it is: It’s for senior high school students. But still, to me it does highlight the huge chasm between Kiwi-style and Chinese-style education.

I guess what I just told you about my intermediate years shows you the traditional cultural, and therefore educational, emphasis that New Zealand has always put on practical life skills. Not too many traditional Kiwis care about your academic or intellectual capacity; they tend to measure your intelligence and worth to society in terms of your ability to get things done, and that generally means down-to-earth practical things. Of course, that is changing rapidly. Anybody who has worked in China’s education system knows all to well that China has traditionally placed its priorities elsewhere. Here’s one example of a Kiwi (and a hero of mine) who took the Kiwi attitude to China, and with some success. Of course, he had to adapt to the circumstances he found himself in, but he did that so well that he was accepted as a true friend of China’s (and of Zhou Enlai’s). Anyway, sometimes it is simply astounding, the gap between where I come from and where I am. I hope it’s a gap I can bridge, and I have one successful example of the gap bridged, but most of the time I just don’t know.

2 Responses to “wow”

  1. Pauline Says:

    It’s pretty amazing how coddled the å°?皇å¸? in China are, but even though there’s a lot of fuss over them, I would say (although only from anecdotal experience – I haven’t made it a point to read a lot of news reports about educational culture outside of East Asia) that the educational/social systems in Korea and Japan might just as well lead towards such neglect of basic life skills. My roommate, who is Korean, was utterly impressed I could hem my own pants. I guess being short and Asian is less a problem when buying pants in Asia than the United States, where pants-hemming is indispensible.

  2. wangbo Says:

    I didn’t mean to refer to the coddling of children so much as the different traditional cultural and educational emphases. New Zealand has traditionally been more interested in practical life skills than academic achievement, whereas China, and I guess Korea and Japan, has traditionally been more focussed on passing the exams and getting into a good civil service job. Coddling, I think, is a whole different story, and yes, the å°?皇å¸? are pathetic, but I would say most Chinese kids are not coddled but pressured to get the highest grades possible.