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Why I Cannot Continue Studying in China

Popularity 11Viewed 7360 times 2017-1-26 15:40 |Personal category:Thoughts on Chinese System|System category:News| China, Higher Education, Chinese Universities, Education in China

After three years full of excitement, fun and mind blowing experiences I finally decided that I cannot stay and study in China anymore. It was nice and all. But when it comes to building your future, staying in China to do a Doctoral Study is not a good option.  Actually I have finished my master degree in China, and before moving to China my main objective was becoming an expert on East Asian politics with a focus on China. I still have the same objective. But ironically, I don’t think China is the best place to learn about China unless you want to take everything given to you as absolute truth.

            I think here I will criticise the policies regarding education and partially the culture that has been growing among the Chinese scholars and students. But here my intention is not to blame anyone but putting forward a number of points that will lead to a more solid and analytical method regarding the higher education in China. Yet, of course that is just my opinion.

            I have faced a number of difficulties in China when I first came to China and tried to understand the education system –by the way I have done my master degree in “so-called” one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I have failed to comprehend how the classes were assigned, how the grading system worked, what are the mandatory courses, which classes can be chosen, how many classes and etc. No! There is a package program and you need to take it. There are some elective courses and you’ll be assigned to them if your supervisor sees appropriate – I didn’t have a say here, because apparently I didn’t understand Chinese culture and China as I was told every time I tried to intervene. Nevertheless, this is the first point. Higher education is much like kindergarten. They will tell you what to do and it is very certain you are the student; hence you have to obey, you don’t qualify to have a say in what you wanted to be educated about.

            My second point is, about my major. After all politics is a very complicated and very sensitive issue. I have never seen politics as a subject that can be studied like science, but analysis is in the very heart of Political Science as a major. In that regard, when you study Chinese Foreign Policy and Chinese Politics you cannot just accept the texts written in newspapers. You need to ask “why did they write about this”, “is that what really happened or is it a subjective understanding” – of course much more complicated questions but I suppose you get the main idea. So, whenever you try to make a critic you face with a comment “Let’s focus on positive sides”. Well... I am saying institutions of higher education in China, regarding social sciences, do not necessarily function as the factories of knowledge, but more like the consolidator of the mainstream understanding. I believe that is not fully because there is an institutional censorship but also because some professors do not know how to react to your questions and comments. Likewise, they might be refraining from finding themselves in trouble. But, that I don’t know.

            Another point is the education method. When you look at the course descriptions and functionality, you’ll see it is just fine. Different texts, discussion sessions, assignments... But in the classroom it is just that the lecturer lectures and students listen... In fact, it cannot really be called listening as most of students are on their phones or sleep to be honest. Also, you cannot find almost a single student who has read the texts for the lecture or who has an opinion on what is being taught. I would like to criticize Chinese students here especially. They attend to every single class, every single lecture, discussion session. But they only sleep, watch a movie or just look at their phones like a zombie. To be fair, they really comfort the professors by constantly filling their water bottles, lighting their cigarettes –yes in the classroom of course – or agreeing with every single word that comes out of their mouth. I don’t remember a single Chinese classmate who has asked a question during the lecture or joined the discussions among foreign students.

            Finally, I would like to point out to the understanding of “academically” qualified education and works. While I was writing my thesis –it is to note that my original thesis topic was ruled out by my professor and another research question was later assigned by him- I have used dozens of resources. It took me a year to do research and six months to write. But my brilliant classmates did all this work in Spring Festival, I think in two week to be more specific. And they got really surprised when I told them I wrote my thesis myself. Because what they did was to find two or three man sources and combine them which as a result created an “original” work in their understanding. They have also imported the bibliography from those “resources” too. But this is their business, not mine. What happened in dissertation that really bugs me. I have mentioned earlier that my thesis topic was changed by my supervisor. So during the defense another professor mentioned a few drawbacks of studying on this topic. What followed was my supervisor’s approval of him and he got even further by telling me that before choosing a topic I should have made a more broad research. Okay... Whatever, I have passed the defense. But, I and another foreigner classmate got the lowest scores, whereas my Chinese classmates that even used high school textbooks as a “resource” got grades from 95 to 100 – out of 100.

            Yeah, you may say “if you don’t like it go back to your country”, “you don’t understand China”, “you foreigners...” But no, I really love China. What I am saying is, if you guys continue like that you’ll never have the soft power you have been yearning only for so long. From the common eyes, even the lowest ranked university in US is more prestigious than the highest ranked Chinese University. If you want to develop, not as in some numbers that you see on TV but have no idea what it actually means or how it works, you need to work on human development. Human development is not about buying nice clothes, going on a vacation to Europe or driving expensive clothes but it is about developing yourself – having an understanding of the world and yourself. For that reason, you need to ask questions. But with a generation that is raised a military man who is ready for orders (waiting to be told what he needs to do) there is a limit to your growth. Knowledge is power. And till you produce it you will be always subject to someone else’s rule.

            As a result, I see staying in China to do a doctorate program, actually doing a doctorate program in a Chinese university – a step towards bombing your own ideas. From the first day of the PhD, you may know how you will finish your PhD dissertation. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)





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Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-1-26 19:40
A very thought-provoking discourse.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-1-26 19:52
Though we are well aware of the situation in China of studies in the domain of social sciences, I am still in shock at your observation of how the teaching and learning are conducted at one of the most prestigious higher learning institutes in China.
Reply Report jimilaoshi 2017-1-26 21:20
Liononthehunt: Though we are well aware of the situation in China of studies in the domain of social sciences, I am still in shock at your observation of how the tea ...
Hello, thank you for reading. I was afraid if my writing was too raw, but I should say for my experience graduate programs in China are mainly chosen for their pragmatic functions. Better job opportunities, creating a network and so on. Hence, the education side is very much undermined both by professors and students.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2017-1-29 00:05
Liononthehunt: Though we are well aware of the situation in China of studies in the domain of social sciences, I am still in shock at your observation of how the tea ...
A 'prestigious' university is no guarantee of quality.
If students don't challenge, engage and question during their time in university, they are no better than sheep.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2017-1-29 00:12
'Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.' WB Yeats.
if students are just being filled with 'facts' in order to pass exams, they are not being educated.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2017-1-29 00:51
to the OP, don't feel you have to apologise for talking about your experience in the Chinese education system.
many others feel the same, in addition many of the foreign teachers are frustrated but the fact that it is stuck in the 19th century of teaching methods, and i have been undermined by staff who don't want a better approach to learning, an approach that involves the students more and challenges.

Most Chinese university degrees are worthless in many other countries of the world because of the the real problem of cheating and changed grades that is endemic.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-1-29 00:57
BlondeAmber: A 'prestigious' university is no guarantee of quality.
If students don't challenge, engage and question during their time in university, they are no b ...
I fully agree with your statement "A 'prestigious' university is no guarantee of quality.", But I am not of the opinion that "If students don't challenge, engage and question during their time in university, they are no better than sheep." I think most of the Chinese students are far from blindly following what their mentors dictate without questioning the credibility of their teachers' preaching, though they may have expressed their doubt and skepticism only in private.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2017-1-29 01:19
Liononthehunt: I fully agree with your statement "A 'prestigious' university is no guarantee of quality.", But I am not of the opinion that "If studen ...
Talking in private is of no use if it is about the content of the classes.
Open debate on topics in class, especially in a subject like politics, is of more value in than private whispering on personal opinions of the teachers between themselves.

Challenging and discussing course material and ideas in class can aid understanding and stimulate interest.
Clearly many students prefer the unchallenging interaction of their phones -  I have experienced this by banning phones are removing them from students.
I don't care if they resent this, as all i am concerned is their participation and progress.
If you don't want to take part in the class, why go, especially if you can 'buy'
grades you want?
Reply Report voice_cd 2017-2-3 08:25
thanks for sharing your story here, we would like to highlight it on the homepage.
Reply Report jimilaoshi 2017-2-3 21:06
voice_cd: thanks for sharing your story here, we would like to highlight it on the homepage.
thank you  
Reply Report apengchao 2017-2-11 11:49
Hello, foreign senior.Thanks for your fantastic article. I am a grade one Chinese student studying in the Jilin University (JLU) which is a leading national university under the direct jurisdiction of China's Ministry of Education.
        After looking through  passage,combining my own experience in the university,Conscientiously,I cannot agree with you any more!But as Chinese,especially for me ,although sometimes I am trapped in these unless courses ,taking some boring lessons,I am capable to learn more things
that are outclass the regular knowledge from the after class,friends,and the most virtual university's environment. These konwledge ,maybe you cannot access in “class”,but you can also master in your daily life. Such as,be kind ,be brave,and become a man who can save more people in the world.
         Despite I can not enjoy the same foreign education as you,I can still learn what I want,Don't let the score take in your whole life.And I am still very very proud for China,because I am Chiness, WHAT I BECOME, MY COUNTRY WILL BE. So,I cannot be complaine about my environment ,what I can only do is to develope myself, space no effort to change the world!  
        At the same time,I  apologize on behalf Chinese  for your scores. Wish you a happy life in the future.
        Welcome to China again!
Reply Report stormmer 2017-2-11 11:58
I am a chinese student and I hate chinese education!!!
Reply Report apengchao 2017-2-11 21:10
stormmer: I am a chinese student and I hate chinese education!!!
WHAT WE BECOME, OUR COUNTRY WILL BE. So,we cannot be complaine about our environment ,what we can only do is to develope ourselves , space no effort to change the world!
Come on!
Reply Report ggl74 2017-2-12 11:42
I can't agree with you any more. These situations merely represent minor students
Reply Report NieChao 2017-2-12 17:27
It's such a pity to hear about your experinse!
As a Chinese student in a so 985 university, I have to say most of your words are true in universities of science and engineering.
I have done the "brilliant" thing that you called, but only in some of the useless and boring courses.
What I really mind, dissatisfid with Chinese education is they don't teach you to be yourself, but to be a good member of the society.
Reply Report Loumuai 2017-2-13 05:40
China needs to totally revamp her education system if she wants to be a top-notch nation. Sure, China has advanced very fast but you would have done much better if students are given the flexibility to question. Otherwise, you manufacture re-gurgitaters and robots. A 21st century nation using a system started a thousand years ago !
Reply Report sube 2017-3-8 19:20
If you want to change a system you need to be a part of it. Climb to the top and change it from their.
Reply Report seneca 2018-2-19 15:37
I remember reading this great blog a year back. Didn't I post a reply? It's not in the Comments list. Anyway: Once again, this opinion piece deserves to be shown to others.

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