[Viewpoint]In China easy to study, hard to graduate

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[Viewpoint]In China easy to study, hard to graduate

Koreans who live in China use many aphorisms. These are a trove of sensible words of wisdom that we use to manage our lives in China. When you first hear them, they may sound like exaggerations, but they are terse and to the point. Here are a few examples:
“Don’t rest your chin on your hand while in a moving car. Be careful not to bite your tongue.”
“If you see a dog, go around it.”
“When you see a truck moving on the road, pass it quickly but with care.”
“You must always be on your toes. Never be off your guard.”
The first aphorism is related to the condition of China’s roads. Most of the roads in China are bumpy. If you bite your tongue, you could really bite it off.
The second is a warning against rabies. In China, hundreds of people die from the disease each year. Yet there are stray dogs everywhere on the street.
The third is a warning against getting too close to a truck when you drive a car. It is because they load cargo on trucks rather loosely in China. Nobody knows when a piece of cargo will fall off, endangering people’s lives. The typical example of the fourth aphorism is an electrocution accident that happened on May 19 at a university fountain in Shanghai. A student trainee who was trying to beat the scorching heat died instantly when he put his feet in the water. A colleague next to him was also killed trying to save him. Who would have thought that a high voltage cable would be running through a university campus fountain? Therefore, one should never be off guard in China.
Although the living conditions in China so poor, people from all over the world throng to China. This is because people think China is “the last land of opportunity on Earth.” The number of students coming to study in China is soaring, too. Parents who want to raise their children to become “Chinese experts” do not hesitate to send them to China to get educated at an early age. Some parents even send young children without a guardian. An average of about 5,000 Korean students, including students who come for short-term training, come to China to study each year. There are about 50,000 Korean students in China at the moment. Although all of them call themselves students, their status differs greatly.
Let’s take a look at the case of students who come to China at a young age to attend a Chinese university. The first thing they do is look for a school with an international department. Then they must learn the Chinese language until the international department says they speak it at an acceptable level. Then they are transferred to regular school classes. Some schools are authorized to accept foreign students even if they do not have an international department. The rest are not allowed to accept foreign students.
Once they finish the difficult task of finding a school for their children, parents feel relieved. However, this is only the beginning of their hardships. First of all, it is not easy to learn Chinese. Continuous private lessons and regular checks on the student’s work by parents are necessary.
On top of that, students have to learn math, physics, chemistry and history in Chinese. Then there is the extra burden of learning Korean and Korean history separately. There is a problem with the educational curriculum, too.
China’s education emphasizes its national ideology. For instance, students have to learn by heart the Chinese national anthem, “March of the Volun-teers.” They have to sing, “Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves! With our very flesh and blood, let us build our new Great Wall!” Of course, they have to learn Chinese using textbooks filled with stories of glorious battles and revolutions fought by Chinese communists.
The schools emphasize rote memorization, keeping order, standardization and submission to authority. There are a few exceptions, but most schools are not equipped with modern facilities.
Meanwhile, tuition fees are not cheap. Middle schools and high schools with an international department cost between 40,000 and 50,000 yuan ($5,230-$6,540) per year, which is approximately 4.8 to 6 million won. That is about 10 times higher than the amount paid by Chinese students.
At universities, in short, it’s easy to enter but hard to graduate from. To enter prestigious universities like Beijing University and Ching Hwa University, foreign students have to face competition of 5 to 1, or 10 to 1 among themselves, but most other universities are relatively easy to enter. However, the number of graduates is not more than 10 percent of the number enrolled.
The conclusion is clear. Studying in China is good. However, the students need to have the determination to study until they get a nosebleed in both nostrils. In that sense, the parents must be ready to make sacrifices and the students must agree to study with firm determination.
If students and their parents are not ready, there is a good chance that studying in China be like sinking in a bog. In China, one should always be on guard.

*The writer is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Jin Se-keun
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