So the other day I had another look at the pressure-cooker environment of students in China. My cousin has just completed middle school. While she was at school, she basically had to do homework all night. I remember my middle school years - I would rush home and quickly speed through about half an hour's worth of homework so I wouldn't miss my favorite TV shows.
I took a peek at some of her past homework. She was learning complex algebra and calculus that we don't learn until upper level high school math class in the states. Crazy!
In China, middle school students take national exams at the end of their middle school career. What scores they receive determine which high school they will be able attend. Which high school they attend will greatly affect what college they may be able to get into. Therefore, the pressure is on to get into a top high school in the district. This is why most high schools are boarding schools - because the students' homes may be all the way across the city.
I have heard that middle school and high school are extremely tough years but college is really easy. The students spend so much time and effort throughout their whole lives to get into a top college, that when they finally get there, they let loose.
This is my cousin's middle school. Each classroom holds about 60 students. Most schools are in the same "open" design, with no indoor hallways or passageways. There is no air conditioning so in the summer heat so attending class can almost be unbearable. I have heard stories of students fainting during class.
There is no such thing as discretion and respect for privacy in the Chinese education system. Where one sits in the classroom is determined by one's grades. My cousin told me that the best students sit in the second row, the next best in the third row, etc. The worst students sit in the front row. Grades are posted publicly for all to see.
This chart, I believe, publicly records the behavior of all the students.
The school environment is really strict as well. All students wear uniforms. Romantic relationships are frowned upon because they are looked upon as a distraction from academics. Students have to go behind not only their parents' but also their teachers' backs to date. I think it's really strange that personal relationships are included in the sphere of a teacher's authority.
Grades came out today and I am happy to say my cousin got top scores so she can have her pick of any high school in the city. I'm hoping she can finally relax, but nope - her parents enrolled her in an English class that meets for nearly 3 hours every night.
Here is the link for Education, Part I.