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China is a country with a long history with more than 5,000 years of civilization. In terms of Education, China is one of the countries that value education since the ancient time. For the ancient education period, there was a Confucianism, emphasized personal and governmental morality, the correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity and led to a civil service examination system. And then Chinese education nowadays is recognized as a great system since students did great performances in OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test.
PISA is a test assess in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy. This test result made many other countries feel surprised and try to apply Chinese education to their own system. The education system in China consists of primary education and junior middle education as a 9-year compulsory education and senior middle school to complete their secondary education. In order to get higher education and get into the universities with a great reputation, it is known that all Chinese students have to face a very challenging and competitive examination system called “Gaokao”. This makes students practice a lot since they are children and may be a reason for coming out on top of the PISA program. It seems that now China has their own “successful” education system but if we look closer there are quite a few problems in the system which are long hours of studying with heavy content, submissive learning style, and achievement obsession.
Chinese students spend a lot more time in school than their fellows in Western countries. School regularly starts at 7:30 a.m. and goes on until 4 p.m. or for a senior’s day starts from 7 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Moreover, after that official school time, most of the students have to attend tutoring classes or stayed in school for an extra self-study session that didn’t end until 9 p.m. That seems to be a nightmare to some students but for Chinese students, the way they study in the previous paragraph is a normal one. Some people might say that the Chinese school is an “exam factory”. Let’s take the colossal Maotanchang Middle School as an example. This school is situated in Liu’an city, Anhui Province and has around 10,000 students who go through excruciating school schedule for 12 months in preparation for their three-day university examination. Students at this program have to study as long as 16 hours a day continuously and without a single day off in order to get into the top-level universities in China.
As “Gaokao” is the pathway for rich and poor students for better future careers. Not only students prioritize academic achievement, but parents are also obsessed with their children’s test scores. Therefore, many parents would do anything and everything to ensure an optimum learning environment for their children. Longer hours of studying can also really steal students’ childhood. Students just do not have time for other activities such as sports, recreation, family time, and social activities. As a result, they have poor communication skills and real-life problem-solving abilities. Most Chinese students, or Asian students in general, are only good when it comes to theory. However, changing the wording of the exam will make most of the students probably not be able to answer the question. Another problem with the Chinese education system is more of an inactive style. Curiosity, creativity, experimentation or independent thought are not often encouraged in the classroom. This could be due to class sizes (40-50 students per class) and an overloaded of content. A young child throughout Asia and may vary by degree is taught that in school, the teacher knows best. Copy down what the teacher puts on the board. That is what will be on the exam. Since the students have to learn so much at one time to take a test which is based on content, not analytical style, many students decide to memorize what they read rather than understanding the true meaning of what they learn. After taking their big exams, more often than not they end up completely forgetting what they have learned in a few weeks.
Moreover, they are also reluctant to ask questions since it might show their lack of knowledge. By asking a question, it implies that either the teacher did not explain the topic clear enough for the student to understand – so this causes a loss of face situation for the teacher in front of the class, or the students was too dumb to have understood what the teacher was saying and so the student loses face amongst her or his classmates. The problem of too much obsessed with the test is cheating on an exam. Many students afraid of “Gaokao” because of its fame of toughest exam. Each student has only a one-time opportunity per year to take this exam which has a strong impact on their lives. Some students seek a wrong way to get a high score by cheating. Cheating is shown in many ways– smuggling in illicit radio equipment, spy camera or even identity document forgery. From the cheating problem, this reminds me of the problem of a cheating exam in Thailand, my home country.
As medical school is really popular and hard to enter in that program. Some students that failed the test of public medical school decide to take the test at a private university which more flexible exam registration. The notorious news emerged in 2016 when four prospective medical students in Thailand have allegedly been caught cheating on an entrance exam to get into the university’s medical school, dental school and pharmacy program at Rangsit University, one of the good private medical school. Those students are hired to take the exam using a camera hidden in a pair of glasses to record test questions and electronic wristwatches to receive answers from the fraud team. From the problem of cheating on Exam, Chinese administration solved this problem only by implementing more restriction on security and more serious punishment, but Thai administration not only did what Chinese do but also tried hard to emphasize the campaign called “Growning Good (โตไปไม่โกง)” with the belief that if the children know that cheating is not good since they were young, they would not behave in a dishonest way when they grow up. The campaign was applied to the schools’ curriculum from Kindergarten to high school. The contents of this campaign are 5 goodness to develop country and anti-corruption which are honesty, public mind, fairness, responsibility, and self-sufficiency. This campaign has not assessed yet if it works well with Thai society because it has just launched the curriculum completely in 2014.
Moreover, according to 20 years of research on cheating by Eric Anderman, co-author of the study and professor of educational psychology at The Ohio State University and his colleagues, Sungjun Won, a graduate student in educational psychology at Ohio State have consistently found that students cheated less – and believed cheating was less acceptable – in classes where the goals were intrinsic: learning and mastering the content. They were more likely to cheat in classes where they felt the emphasis was on extrinsic goals, such as successful test-taking and getting good grades. The good news is that the factors that cause cheating are controllable by designing the course to emphasize mastery and interventions could be developed to minimize cheating. Another important finding based on psychologist David Rettinger, Ph.D., of the University of Mary Washington is that while many students understand that cheating is against the rules, most who see their peers cheating on an exam as a normal habit have high possibility to cheat on an exam in the future. This tendency might be called contagious cheating. He said that it is really easy for them to talk themselves into not doing it by cheating. Teachers should explain the prevention of cheating clearly and make students understand that cheating on an exam in school or college can affect in long term such as employment or expel from a university. Also when a teacher gives the assignment, he or she should say ‘This is what you’ll learn and how it’s useful to you.’
In China, the gaokao is widely considered to be the most important exam, students not cheating on exam have to study, study and study some more, at every possible hour. Some of them have been given IV drips as they study, believing that it will help them with concentration and focus or have to rely on medication to sleep to kill their severe anxiety from their thought of not studying hard enough and fear of failure. Girls are given contraceptive pills to delay their periods until after the exam. In conclusion, Chinese education has played an important role since the ancient time. It can be said that this education system help breaking the gap between the poor and rich to receive equal education and made Chinese student do well on the international test. However, this systems still have some problems like overloaded studying hour, passive learning style and test result obsession which lead to cheating on an exam or depending on the medication.
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