From Danwei.com: What life is like for Chinese high school students

One of the staff writers at Danwei.com has written a poignant and illuminating essay about his experience as a high school (senior middle, in local parlance) school student.

Here’s an excerpt describing the typical day in a Chinese high school. Contrast his description with life in your own high school.

I have to say that high school is a monastery and an army boot camp combined. Eleven classes every day. We had to rise before dawn and went to bed after 11. After the last class, we were encouraged to use any bit of extra time for study. There was one student who would go to read his lessons every night in the toilet, because that was the only place where the light would be kept on 24 hours. Everyone hated him, because his breach of a delicate equilibrium that is vital for us to live in peace with each other — he studied just a little too hard. The school encouraged us to be frugal with our time. It had a slogan hanging from the main building: “Time is like water in sponge; if you squeeze harder, there is always more.”

And contemplate this paragraph about the possible consequences of tying teacher pay to students’ performance on standardized tests.

It was not only the students dealing with a lot of stress, but the teachers as well. A teacher’s salary was determined by how many of the students that they were responsible for went to university. Even the school principal would be evaluated on such statistics. At my junior year, a girl committed suicide. Not a big surprise. There are always weak ones who just can’t make it. That is how natural selection works. The cause of the suicide was that the girl’s head teacher asked her to forgo the college entrance exam. Not that he hated her personally. He simply talked to all the students who were deemed hopeless and would only dilute the average results of the class. The girl refused. The teacher told the girl something that must have been very humiliating, and she drowned herself in the sea that afternoon.

It’s a different world here for students, folks. College is a picnic in comparison to the final three years of secondary education.

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