34. Education, education, education

From Mr Blair’s election manifesto to Crashing a Bike’s humble page, the message rings out. However, I think he may have been better rolling out this policy in China, as it would have been a guaranteed winner.

Education, as I’m sure you can remember from previous articles Let kids be kids? and Growing Pains, is the absolute bedrock of a child’s upbringing, with much of the importance in terms of family function placed upon this. The well-known one-child policy in China used to be as tight as an donkey’s y-fronts, yet it has slowly been relaxed, with families that fall under certain qualifying criteria being allowed more children.

What does that have to do with the price of egg-fried rice? Well, the vast amount of the family’s income is poured into the child’s education, with priorities landing firmly with that and often not with something that is needed for the family as a whole. The overwhelming majority of my students are fortunate to come from very affluent backgrounds- some even buy me weekly gifts- but there are several who clearly scrape together the cash for extra lessons, something which is alien to us. At this age, studying in the west is a serious deal, with many reducing social lives to the bare minimum during this period.

In China, this starts very early, with school lessons being supplemented with music lessons and extra maths or physics lessons, all to the detriment of other aspects of their lives. Does it affect their abilities to think creatively, practice sport, build social skills and master the arts?

Yes, it absolutely does, after a year of teaching them I see little creativity, a sea of drones and even some who lack basic motor skills at the age of 16/17. [Editor’s note: Simon, give a slightly more diplomatic answer, lest you offend the censors or something].

I believe so, they are fairly inept with the most menial task and their lack of free time is telling as pressure builds up, surely they should tell their teacher to take a running jump?. [Editor’s note: You are a teacher, doughnut. Have another go].

I don’t know, but it must have an impact of sorts. [Editor’s note: Better, much better].


Come exam time, the heat is really cranked up. Want a few examples? OK. Mentally raise your hand when it gets too crazy for you. For the record this is the equivalent to ‘A-levels’ or the set of exams that you do before university.

-A good proportion of bars and nightclubs are closed around this time, to make sure everyone has a decent night’s sleep.

-Attendance in class drops because most parents think private tutors or home self-study is more productive.

The teacher can tell you to make some ‘improvements’ to your life if they think it will be beneficial to their students. This includes:

-breaking up with boyfriends/girlfriends

-forcing them to cut their hair

-taking their phone for the exam period.

A reminder, this is the teacher, not the parents.

-There is an ambulance assigned to each school during exams, for if any student passes out under stress.

-Every road has to closed off leading from the school to the hospital for the same reasons as above.

-The teenage suicide rate is disproportionately higher in China than in any other country at this time.

If you didn’t stop and wanted more, you are a monster.


The reason is fairly simple. University places are so fiercely contested that fractions of percentages are the difference between reading classics at the equivalent of Oxford or studying colouring at Sheffield Polytechnic. (That, by the way is a test to see if my older brother read the blog, after he studied Geography at Sheffield. This is not a cheap shot at anyone, a simple test).

The one-child policy

In the previous system, there was a fine, forced termination of the pregnancy or even jail time for those who didn’t tow the line.

One of the main criteria- aside from backhanders and ignoring the law of course- is that if each parent is an only child, they will be allowed another.


This is what is being said in and around China, but many western sources say that they haven’t been as relaxed as this, and the BBC claiming that it only has to be one of the parents, which defeats the point, as the vast majority would be anyway. The point is that the new law is:

a) unclear, and

b) ineffective, as the lack of clarity in China suggests that actually those who really wanted to get around it did, by hook or [most definitely] by crook.

Well, there you have it Ladies and Gents, if you are still struggling through exams then I feel very much sorry for you, and you should have a similar post written about you! If not, best of luck and ‘fighting’ as they say here: 加油!! (jia you!!).

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3 thoughts on “34. Education, education, education

  1. Simon, I was wondering who the editor is? I am glad you have written this, as sometimes it is difficult to appreciate the advantages Europeans have at home, unless someone point them out. It is hard to appreciate when life is good, because it is part of the routine. Sending regards, Simon, and also asking your permission, as I would like to translate this post into Spanish.

  2. Raquel says:

    Simon, I loved this article!!! You had me in stitches with the editors comment ahahahahah

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