“Please Return Happiness to Learning”, Chinese Reactions

Li Chengyuan on Chinese speech show 超级演说家 Super Speaker.

Li Chengyuan on Chinese speech show 超级演说家 Super Speaker.

The following microblog post was published on Children’s Day on the official Weibo account of government newspaper People’s Daily

From Sina Weibo:

@人民日报: This speech has become popular! Students, do you agree?


The full segment featuring Li Chengyuan’s speech, on Youku:

This is from the May 9th episode of 《超级演说家》 “Super Speaker”, a Chinese speaking talent competition TV show that is similar to The Voice of China. The judges or “coaches” on the show are Chinese celebrities:

  • Chen Luyu, a talk show host;
  • Li Yong, a CCTV presenter;
  • Lin Zhiying aka Jimmy Lin, a Taiwanese singer recently famous for his participation in the super popular Where Are We Going, Dad? TV show; and
  • Le Jia, known as the psychologist on the popular Chinese dating show If You Are The One.

At the beginning of the video, Li Chengyuan introduces himself as someone who has previously studied abroad in Australia and is now an English tutor for middle school students in Shanghai. He explains that as a student, he was an excellent debater in debate competitions, as well as a fenqing. He has always spoken up about his social criticisms.

Today, he is on Super Speaker to petition on behalf of all of China’s middle school students, about a problem they are facing. He is critical of teachers who assign large amounts of homework to students. He believes they are transferring their own work pressure to increase student graduation and admissions to higher grades/schools onto the students.

The first half of his speech is mostly translated above.

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In the second half, he argues that teachers should seek effective teaching methods, improve teaching quality, and pay more attention to each student they are responsible for, as opposed to constantly assigning a lot of schoolwork/homework, increasing the burden of students. He says he dare not say whether or not he knows teaching, but he at least knows that allowing children who are physically and mentally still growing to sleep only 5-6 hours is not okay. He ends by saying society should not deprive children of their right to a healthy life.

Although the audience applauded Li Chengyuan multiple times in his short speech, none of the judges/coaches selected him for their group. After the speech, two coaches, Li Yong and Le Jia, mention that teachers were ordered to reduce homework for students. However, within days, parents complained and demanded that teachers increase homework.

Ultimately, Li Chengyuan was eliminated from the competition after being rejected by Lin Zhiying as well.

Li Chengyuan’s speech was titled “Please Return Happiness to Learning”.

Comments from Sina Weibo:


Can we not have a close-up of Luyu‘s head…? [黑线]


Although I’ve complained like this in my high school days, but when I think about it now, if one really wants good grades, then having a lot of school work is still correct. As for him saying “then what are teachers for”, this comment is simply illogical. The methods of solving problems that the teacher teaches you during the day and the methods of learned while doing homework problems at night are completely complementary.


Don’t find high-sounding excuses for your own lack of effort. In the present environment, only those who do more can possible earn more. Don’t say irresponsible things just to cater to some children who aren’t sensible. I can say I am someone who has gone through this, and I really regret not doing more school work back in my time, because otherwise I would be looking at a different world now.


Expresses that this person is purely a stupid cunt.


How many students would voluntarily doing homework/school exercises? How many students can learn without a teacher? Knowledge of course requires large amounts of repetition to train one’s memory. So the speaker is a stupid cunt.


Demagoguery. What high-achieving student didn’t come from doing lots of school work [homework exercises]? Who can reap without sowing?


This guy even talks as if he is right and knows everything. If the amount of homework problems does not reach a certain level, then grades really will not go up. What more, it is only academic dregs [underachievers] who have to spend so much time doing them. With academic tyrants [overachievers], you don’t have to assign them homework and they’ll find homework problems/exercises to do on their own. Although I am a student, I have experienced the gaokao and know well that sort of cruelty. If students from humble families aren’t even willing to do some homework, then how are you going to compete with those rich second generation and official second generation [children of the wealthy and government officials, children of the privileged classes]?


Hehe… [汗] pandering for the applause of those children.


Based on the classrooms commonly seen in Beijing, it is 40 students per class, and a teacher teaches two classes. If a teacher assigns one set of homework, then that means correcting 80 sets of homework! Hehe, do you think teachers have nothing better to do than insisting on assigning homework? Talking about easing the burden [on students] without reforming the educational system? That’s all empty words! Merely using formalism/superficialism against formalism/superficialism! It sounds good here, but if teachers do not give homework, just wait and see if parents will say the teacher is being irresponsible! Pshhh!


As a teacher, I want to ask, do you think we teachers want to assign students homework? If we don’t assign, wouldn’t it be easier for us? When [a student’s] grades are bad, the first person parents criticize is the teacher. Actually, the homework that teachers give students these days have all been considered [calculated]. The majority of students can finish them in [the anticipated amount of] time. If some students are slow in doing things, then of course they’re going to take a long time! Do you think the majority of students can grasp the academic lessons without going through homework practice problems?

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    Judging from the comments, seems like this guy didn’t…. Do his homework and research the topic properly!


    • Irvin

      He’s seems more idealistic and political than competitive, I don’t think he’s there to win anything but just to let his views be known. He said it himself at the end, he considered it a victory that he spoke his mind on tv.

      • Kai

        I thought his whole “I don’t want my son to see ‘fail’ on the screen behind me” plea was kinda pathetic.

        • Irvin

          Indeed, it was a selfish plea while his speech was supposed to be selfless, he contradicts himself.

  • mr.wiener

    Well… I like that he tried to think outside the box. The system is definitely flawed at the moment. There are no easy answers.

    • Insomnicide

      The schools are meat grinders, people go in one end and meat comes out the other. It’s actually like that all over the world. But China’s on the worse side of the spectrum. At least in some countries they have specialized, innovative systems in certain private schools.

  • Markus Peg

    The quality of the homework is often sloppy, the marking is often lazy. How much do the students really learn from it?

  • Rick in China

    Whoa – who is the dead eyed witch lady up on display there? She looks _freaky_.

    That being said, some dude giving a speech on a talent show about less homework isn’t going to spur reform.

    • narsfweasels

      She looks like someone has trodden on her face repeatedly.

      • mr.wiener

        A face that could stop a clock.

  • bang2tang

    Are PRC students attends cram school like SK?

    • Insomnicide

      Cram schools do exist, yes.

  • Insomnicide

    “However, within days, parents complained and demanded that teachers increase homework.”

    Thanks a lot….angry dads and tiger moms.

    • Zappa Frank

      it is the system, they think this is the way it should work. Not sure if it works or not, PISA tests show good results.. Still in the end do people get a better life? Social skills are affected?

    • Ryo Saeba

      We can all probably agree that parents in China aren’t the brightest of the bunch.

      • Insomnicide

        Thanks to them growing up in an even worse education system.

  • masonman

    I wonder how many of the Chinese commenters are just upset at the idea of reducing the homework load because it would mean children could get to the same place they are at without being tortured as much.

    But seriously, nearly everything they are learning is useless anyways. Just like America, nobody seems to know what the goal is so they just equate “education” with “memorizing as much stuff as possible.”

    I’m very happy I will never have to be forced to do any more schoolwork than I decide is worth the candle, and I’m very happy I didn’t have to grow up in the Chinese school system.

    At least in America everybody is lazily incompetent. In China they are painfully incompetent, and the students feel that pain. Every Asian country has insane schooling like this, and every Asian country acts so confused that they all have such high youth suicide rates.

    Go figure.

  • Teacher in China

    He has got a point – there is way too much homework in middle school. But to just give less homework isn’t a good solution to the problem. The problem is the whole exam system which forces the kids to learn how to memorize to an insane degree of accuracy. To get good at these kinds of exams, you need to have constant practice of rote memorization, which means lots of homework…

    • Dick Leigh

      I feel so goddamn sorry for students in China. One of mine said she only saw her parents on weekends, and during the weekday her daily routine was to wake up at 6am to go to school and finished the day at 10 after 5 hours of homework and study. I can’t imagine enduring YEARS of this kind of abuse.

      • Primes you for a lifetime of unequal opportunities, you know. One day you wake up, you’re 3 years from retirement, 2 years from fully paying up your mortgage, and you see a teenager drive by you in a Ferrari, and you know the best you can do is rant on your Sina Weibo with 10 followers.

    • Zappa Frank

      all true, but in the end this system (not so different from other Asians countries right?) let them have the highest score in the PISA test.

      • ClausRasmussen

        I would say that they should look for a way to change the system and ease the burden without lowering the standards.

        Compared to Western school systems they excel at PISA scores but more remarkably, the share of under-achievers is much smaller. Western school systems favors the gifted and those from a resourceful background but lose the rest.

        • noodles76

          Who is ‘they’? ‘They’ excel at PISA scores…who? You certainly don’t mean Mainland China or China as a whole. I think you mean…only Shanghai. And I think you also mean….the PISA scores were cherry picked from only a handful of top schools.



          Like many things in China, the PISA scores look good on paper but fail to hold up to even the most cursory scrutiny.

          • Zappa Frank

            I remember someone posted the results of other places and were similar.. however, this system is pretty much the same in the whole north east asia right? is not much different in Singapore, hongkong, Taiwan, japan, korea right? apparently seems it gives good results on PISA test.. although i’m sure someone will say it’s a racial thing.

          • noodles76

            ….I don’t think so. Can you link it?

          • Zappa Frank

            no sorry, I remember someone posted here something, but I really do not have the links.. I think was Stefan, but not sure.

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            “The city’s Education Department said that 28,000 students across the city took the “Specialized High School Admissions Test” last year, and about 5,700 of them were offered admission to the elite schools. Of that figure, 53 percent were Asian, 26 percent were white, but only 5 percent were black and 7 percent Hispanic.”

            I’m sure someone will say it’s a cultural thing

          • Zappa Frank

            Do you mean that to study from 5.30 am to 10.00pm like the teacher on tv confirm is a racial thing? Or it is a waste of time and doesn’t help to get a higher score?
            besides how many apply? because if the whole china apply to go to Harvard would be not a racial thing even if 90% of students are Chinese.. it would be just numbers

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            While being put in the same system Asian students still get higher scores than their white counterparts. So the differences in systems is not a proper excuse.

          • Zappa Frank

            yes sure, and i’m sure you also have statistics of this, how much they study and so on right? undeniable fact that it is the DNA and not the effort put in study… I welcome our new overlords..

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            So it’s not a system thing and you are saying its cultural that Asian students put more time in study?
            I just predicted that.

          • Zappa Frank

            you predicted? I said it from the beginning.. in your vision of Asians supremacy I guess you must consider yourself as an exception..

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            Whether or not you said it from the beginning does not change the fact that you jumped in and said its a cultural thing after I made my prediction.

            So my prediction is true.

          • Zappa Frank

            Do you mean that before when I said they get this success with long hours of hard study wasn’t supposed to be a cultural reason until you made you prediction? than study hard long hours is a genetic thing?
            Not sure if you are serious, I hope you are joking.

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            I’m not debating with you about whether or not studying hard or good academic performance is a racial thing. I was just posting some evidence that shows Asian students do better than whites in the same school system and looking for someone to explain it with “cultural difference”. Now I am satisfied.

          • Zappa Frank

            you mean than while we were talking of something else you all of the sudden came out to talk about a point completely irrelevant and your position about it wasn’t even clear to yourself and now you are satisfied? even without any statistic other than ‘Asians perform better’? good job

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            I was only replying to the comment “…however, this system is pretty much the same in the whole north east asia right?…”
            What you were talking about before that does not concern me.

          • Zappa Frank

            You started saying that 50% and something of Asians pass admission test of elite schools.. That doesn’t seem a reply to my comment . It would be if you say that those are not from Asians countries, but actually some are. So could you clarify your meaning? Is a genetic thing?

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            My point is the system is not the reason that Asian students are better academically.
            Is it a cultural thing or genetic thing? Well, I am not going to discuss that topic. Just believe what make you feel better.

          • Zappa Frank

            Actually around here there are even some contestations about Asians do better academically.
            Thing is if they perform better because they study more you can call it system or cultural thing, still the same is

          • 白色纯棉小裤裤

            Unless someone performs an experiment that give 100 asian kids and 100 white kids the same amount of study time, and the result is their average grades are equal, you cannot jump in the conclusion that its a cultural thing. There are chances for both cultural and genetic reasons, until someone present solid evidences.

          • ex-expat


          • ClausRasmussen

            >> Who is ‘they’?

            Ok. I didn’t express myself with precision there. Sorry about that.

            By “they” I mean the directors of the Chinese school system or the Chinese pupils. The PISA scores I refer to are from Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macau.

            According to my sources, the scores from Shanghai was not cherry picked from top schools, but from all official schools in Shanghai. The misunderstanding stems from the exclusion of unofficial schools for migrant children. Unless you somehow want to argue that kids with a Hukou are more intelligent that kids without, the results stands.

            The validity of the Shanghai results is supported by similar results from countries with similar school systems. The top-seven (!) countries or cities in the latest survey of math skills (that are the most reliable) was Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Macao, and Japan.

            Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment

          • noodles76

            If you look deeper into it, I think you’ll find you’re wrong about the data being cherry picked. The exam in China has been mired in mystery and deceit at almost every turn. In China the test is handled like nowhere else. Why is China so special?

        • Zappa Frank

          Western schools are not necessary like americans school. Europeans are pretty different and high resources are not needed to have a good instruction.
          I don’t know if is possible to keep the highest scores without the same system.

          • ClausRasmussen

            I was actually referring to European and more specifically Danish schools that are one of the Worlds most expensive per pupil.

          • Zappa Frank

            Danish do have to pay to go to school? usually in Europe high school is free..

          • ClausRasmussen

            No. Danish schools are “free” as in “taxpayers pick up the bill”

          • Zappa Frank

            and than why did you say the system favor the ones with a resourceful background?

          • ClausRasmussen

            It is a fact that can be derived from the statistics: Kids of resourceful parents perform better than kids of needy families. This pattern is not replicated to the same extent in the Shanghai results, and that imo. is the main virtue of the Shanghai school system.

          • Zappa Frank

            But if we are talking about PISA test we do not know the difference between rich and poor, only kids with shanghai hukou (73% of the total kids in shanghai) have been tested. Anyway it may reflect also a difference in society more than in system, Chinese parents push a lot on study even if not rich.

          • ClausRasmussen

            The people behind the study claim to have information about the economical background of the students. I am not sure if you want to question that ?

            You may be right, that the lack of difference is caused by cultural values, but then I think Western (ie. European, ie. Danish) school systems should try to instill similar values in the parents.

            My own theory is that Danish schools with their laid back attitude to learning leave poor kids behind, while resourceful families compensate by instilling the necessary discipline at home.

            If they don’t tell you at school that you have to work hard to achieve and your parents don’t tell you at home, then how would you know ?

      • Teacher in China

        Don’t even get me started on that test. 1) It was only Shanghai that scored highest, the city with the most money, best resources, and best teachers. The results would be very different if it were all of China taking the test. 2) It’s about time that the world catches up with current educational theory and reject the whole notion that a test is the be-all-end-all way to measure students’ knowledge. 3) What is the real difference between #1 and #10? I would say that all countries in the top ten are more or less as good as each other (assuming, that is, that you accept the notion that this test is worthwhile and a good indicator, etc.). But then you look at a country like Finland that doesn’t even have homework or tests at all until middle school, yet still ranks in the top 5 even, so which country is actually better at educating their children?

        • Zappa Frank

          I cannot say anything.. here I passage I found on Wikipedia that may help:


          Students from Shanghai, China, had the top scores of every category (Mathematics, Reading and Science) in PISA 2009 and 2012. In discussing these results, PISA spokesman Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and head of the analysis division at the OECD’s directorate for education, described Shanghai as a pioneer of educational reform in which “there has been a sea change in pedagogy”. Schleicher stated that Shanghai abandoned its “focus on educating a small elite, and instead worked to construct a more inclusive system. They also significantly increased teacher pay and training, reducing the emphasis on rote learning and focusing classroom activities on problem solving.”[22]

          Schleicher also states that PISA tests administered in rural China have produced some results approaching the OECD average: Citing further, as-yet-unpublished OECD research, Schleicher said, “We have actually done Pisa in 12 of the provinces in China. Even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.”[23] Schleicher says that for a developing country, China’s 99.4% enrollment in primary education is “the envy of many countries”. He maintains that junior secondary school participation rates in China are now 99%; and in Shanghai, not only has senior secondary school enrollment attained 98%, but admissions into higher education have achieved 80% of the relevant age group. Schleicher believes that this growth reflects quality, not just quantity, which he contends the top PISA ranking of Shanghai’s secondary education confirms.[23] Schleicher believes that China has also expanded school access and has moved away from learning by rote.[24] According to Schleicher, Russia performs well in rote-based assessments, but not in PISA, whereas China does well in both rote-based and broader assessments.[23]

          Critics of PISA counter that in Shanghai and other Chinese cities, most children of migrant workers can only attend city schools up to the ninth grade, and must return to their parents’ hometowns for high school due to hukou restrictions, thus skewing the composition of the city’s high school students in favor of wealthier local families. A population chart of Shanghai reproduced in The New York Times shows a steep drop off in the number of 15-year-olds residing there.[25] According to Schleicher, 27% of Shanghai’s 15-year-olds are excluded from its school system (and hence from testing). As a result, the percentage of Shanghai’s 15-year-olds tested by PISA was 73%, lower than the 89% tested in the US.[26]

          Education professor Yong Zhao has noted that PISA 2009 did not receive much attention in the Chinese media, and that the high scores in China are due to excessive workload and testing, adding that it’s “no news that the Chinese education system is excellent in preparing outstanding test takers, just like other education systems within the Confucian cultural circle: Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.”[27]

          anyway I agree that even if really workload helps with PISA test is not sure if in the end is a good thing for a person to miss so many experiences that during adolescence should be done.

          • noodles76

            My turn…

            In 2010, Andreas Schleicher of the OECD revealed that the 2009 PISA was conducted in 12 provinces in China. The data from mainland provinces other than Shanghai have never been released, and OECD’s list of participants in the 2009 PISA continues to
            omit them. A Chinese website leaked purported scores from other provinces, but the scores have never been confirmed by PISA officials in Paris.

            This shroud of secrecy is peculiar in international assessment. Now the world has new data from the 2012 PISA. The OECD has not disclosed if other Chinese provinces secretly took part in the 2012 assessment.
            Nor have PISA officials disclosed who selected the provinces that participated. Did the Chinese government pick the provinces? Does the Chinese government decide which scores will be released? In 2012, the BBC reported that the Chinese government did not “allow” the OECD to publish PISA 2009 data on provinces other than Shanghai. There is a lack of transparency surrounding PISA’s relationship with China.

          • ex-expat

            I don’t know how much you know about the Chinese school system, but it is really shitty. There is a ton of bullshit that they teach, and the workload is way too much.

            Everyone loves to criticize the US, but I grew up in both the private and public school system, and while there are many areas to improve, there are a lot of places where the schools are indeed very good (though also places where it is very bad as well). At the end of it all I was completely prepared to go to university in the the US, which, while expensive, are by far the best in the world. The percentage of US citizens with university degrees is also among the highest in the world (top 5 I believe), so the system does work for many.

            A Western student will most likely be behind in math and science when compared to an Asian student, however, will most certainly catch up while in university.

            In short, it is important to take things from reports like PISA into consideration, but imo it is not super important.

          • Zappa Frank

            I agree, it is not that I want to blinding defend the Chinese school system, just pointing that maybe it has also some good things. About the USA university as the best in the world, I’m sorry, but I believe in those scores even less than in the PISA test.

          • noodles76

            So you believe all the metrics used by various agencies both commercial and nonprofit are lies? Universities in the U.S. are among the best in the world, there is no doubt.

          • Zappa Frank

            sincerely all the agencies I’ve seen giving scores were americans or English agencies, that unsurprising claimed their universities were better than others and many scores were done more according to the size of the campus or other triviality than with a real results of students.. however I may be wrong as well as I’ve see just a few scores, if you can give me some links

          • noodles76
          • Zappa Frank

            seems to me it says little about how they make scores..

          • noodles76

            I know. If you want to look into it more you’re more than welcome too. But to think that Uni’s in the U.S. are not among the best of the world seems like willful ignorance.

          • Zappa Frank

            . I don’t say that US universities are not among the best, but i’m saying that the classification is not reliable.
            if you consider in your classification libraries, labs, sports equip. , teachers with nobel prize and so on.. of course USA win, also because nowhere else education is so expensive, than with all the money students pay they can afford such structures.

          • ex-expat

            It is not just one “score” I am referring to, but studies done by governments, organizations, and business across many different countries.

            Then why do so many people from all over the world come to the US to study? Is everybody just wrong?

          • Zappa Frank

            the thing many come to study doesn’t prove anything. it is hype, like millions flies eat shit, than it’s good.
            As said below, I don’t want to be over polemic, but scores I’ve seen so far were done by American agencies or English agencies and the classification involved many things in my opinion not related at all with education, like campus size, sports equipment, labs, professors and so on.. that are good things sure, but in the end if a university is good or not is only after the results of the students

          • ex-expat

            Now you are just talking nonsense…sports equipment?

            The way they determine scores is called methodology, and it is very clear, and each has a different way of calculating it.

            For example

            Chinese rankings: http://www.shanghairanking.com/ARWU-Methodology-2013.html

            UK: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/world-ranking/methodology




            And you can hype things all you want, but in the end, if there are no results or a bad experience, people will not keep coming. But then again, the numerous people of royalty, foreign governments, and business that have all attend over the past 100 or so years are all wrong in their choice, but it is you who is right?

          • Zappa Frank

            the link you used even confirm more my vision, the timeshigher education basically gives 60% of the rate on research, that is good, but do necessary means good teachers, or good results for students, researchers are likely from everywhere…
            People keep coming because are considered good universities and after is easier to find a good job. It’s a vicious circle. But nothing of that really says anything about the quality of the universities. I don’t say are not good and excellent universities, just that those classifications mean little

            it’s not just me that put in doubt that classification:


          • ex-expat

            Of course there are people who will doubt, there are people who doubt everything.

            It’s just really interesting that while you started by defending China’s PISA results, which have unmistakably questionable methods and results, yet when presented with another statement, it’s:

            Oh well only the UK and the US say that


            Oh China, too? Well they don’t say anything about how they got those rankings


            Oh I don’t like how they got those rankings, even though the four that I have been shown are all different.

            It’s like noodles said, it seems like willful ignorance.

          • Zappa Frank

            it seems that the accusation of willful ignorance is your only weapon to defend your point since you haven’t discussed anything of what I said. I said from the beginning is about how scores are decided, but you like to ignore this part.

          • ex-expat

            How so? You said “Only the UK and the US” which were shown to be untrue.

            Then you started talking about sports equipment and other metrics that aren’t used, which was also shown to be not true.

            Edit: and I only brought up “willful ignorance” just now, and it wasn’t an accusation, just what it seems like.

          • Zappa Frank

            please, I said about labs and research also in the beginning. Besides I said I’ve just read some classifications, not all, I invited to give me links to read. I’ve been honest on that. You find that Chinese classification match? how strange since they are blindly imitate the American university system. Do not focus on irrelevant points, the core of what I said is that the classification are not reliable because based on parameters not always related with instruction.

          • ex-expat

            But it is not just China. And I can give you 10 more sources, independent sources, that use different metrics and weighting with similar results.

            But my point is that when you say that all the rankings mean even less than the PISA, when the PISA has some overwhelming issues, I think it’s a little silly.

          • Zappa Frank

            I sincerely have high esteem of PISA test and even with its problems is apparently consider the most reliable test of this kind. The classifications of universities on the other side I do not think are so reliable. While PISA test gives a measure of the students knowledge the classifications of universities give little measure of how much students learn or are instructed, but instead like to measure a lot of others unrelated parameters.

          • ex-expat

            And that’s fine, but you could have said that from the beginning without moving the goalpost several times.

          • Zappa Frank

            well, you are right, but what about the pathos, and around 30 new posts on chinasmack?

          • ex-expat

            I’m sorry I don’t know what you mean.

          • Zappa Frank

            I was just joking, saying that I’ve not be rational in my exposition

          • noodles76

            Don’t fret too much that many students in the U.S. are behind in math or science. Ok…worry a little about the science bit. However, many students from the U.S. can actually apply knowledge they’ve learned.

            If you ever want to play with a ‘math whiz’ in China….give them a word problem. Or give them any problem where they need to decide which information is pertinent and which is extraneous. Let them decide how to solve a problem by themselves.

          • Zappa Frank

            that kinds of problems are exactly the pisa test problems.

          • noodles76

            Really? Go look here..


            Multiple choice math questions with little/no extraneous information and a pretty clear cut way to solve the problems. Though I stopped looking after I clicked through about 10 problems.

          • Zappa Frank

            look the last problem of the revolving door than

          • noodles76

            The multiple choice math problem with little/no extraneous info? Yeah…saw it.

            Look, I don’t want to take anything away from the kids who did well on the test. They earned it. Period. But it’s by no means indicative of performance across Mainland China…not by a long-shot.

          • Zappa Frank

            actually I thought we were discussing if the PISA test is a test where children (I would not say children since it is also for people around 18 yo) have to resolve problems or simply blindly apply knowledge.
            About the PISA test in mainland I did not reply to your post because It was enough to put in doubt the results it may have had in china

          • Teacher in China

            Until I see official results from those other provinces in China, rather than someone just speaking about them, I’ll withhold further comment. But again, it all comes back to how much you value tests as the true way to assess your students’ progress. In Canada, we use a combination of tests, homework, projects, quizzes, portfolios, etc. to come to a final grade. Yes, there are big tests and exams, but if you fail those, you can still pass the year.

            You know what kind of assessment I would like to see done as a worldwide comparison? How ready are students to be productive in the workforce once they leave university. Because, really, testing how good a 15 year old is in math is next to useless information.

          • Zappa Frank

            It useful to value the school instruction. Actually the Pisa test is considered an excellent test, not a simply blindly apply knowledge test. Anyway about other Chinese provinces the article noodle posted somewhere put some shadows about how the Pisa test has been handled in china.

          • Teacher in China

            We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I just don’t think so much value should be placed on a single test, no matter how well it has been made.

        • Stark

          Shanghai isn’t even the richest place in China. Tianjin is. Actually, Shanghai’s students score in the middle rank in gaokao, students from middle-income provinces perform better. However, Shanghai’s university enrollment rate is high thanks to enrollment score discount offered to Shanghai students by local universities- which are among the best of China. So that proves students in Shanghai aren’t the best in China.

          And here’s what I found: The newly disclosed scores of another Chinese province which participated in PISA 2012.

          Maths: Shanghai 613; Zhejiang: 623 Reading: Shanghai 570; Zhejiang: 570 Science: Shanghai 580, Zhejiang: 582
          Zhejiang Province: population 54 million. GDP about 10,000 USD per cap, a lot poorer than Shanghai.

          On these Zhejiang’s scores:
          A, Just like 2009, 80% of Zhejiang’s 2012 scores have been taken out of its poor rural areas (Zhejiang’s rural population rate is only 38% however).
          B, All elite schools of Zhejiang province didn’t participate in the PISA tests.

        • Spot on. For that reason, I think the best university system in the world today is MIT. They’ve done away with the Latin honors system, and have phased out other hierarchical achievement metrics in project-based academic work. Yes, you still get scored, but the whole point of MIT is to let students help each other up the ladder to solve something, not lavish praise on those who can do more, and implicitly shame those who can do less, by posting a silly thing like a list of academic honors.

          Good companies like Google, Sony don’t give a crap how many summa cum laudes you’ve earned in school, or which school you came from. They make that clear even at the initial job interview. If you don’t fit well into their culture, if you don’t show enough initiative and creativity, you’re shown the door.

  • chandlerpatrick

    If I was the teacher, I would not be handing out so much homework, because I would not want to sift through piles of it grading it. I think homework is useful, but just to keep kids sharp. An hour or two total a day, and then a few larger projects that they can work on over the course of a few weeks is enough.
    “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy”, and we have lot’s of Johnny’s growing up in China. These kids are zombies by high school, totally oblivious to the real world, molly-coddled by parents and grandparents, broken by a flawed education system, addicted to iphones and gucci, with the personality of a rock. Do all of these kids have great success in life? Absolutly not! The vast majority of them end up working stiffs, for an boss who got to where he is, not through endless piles of homework, but through a cousin who hooked him up. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not just the education system that needs reform, it’s the entire system that needs it!

    • noodles76

      From what I can tell, the homework is not graded for the most part. It’s glanced at by the teacher. I thought the same thing as you….these teachers are only creating more work for themselves….50 kids or more per class…loads of assignments…it just did not mesh with the laziness I have seen so I asked around. It’s not graded. It’s just busywork.

  • Kyle Mitchell

    I did about 30 minutes of homework a day in middle school and high school. I had free time to go to wrestling practice after school, play video games or hang out with friends, and involve myself in a variety of independent activities such as archery, mountain biking, golf, and water skiing. In summers, I would go with my parents to hike and camp in the mountains, swim at the beach, or go to national parks out West. For 2 months each summer I would earn money, holding jobs such as groundkeeper, house painter, or cashier. In the US, I’m happy that I had the opportunity to develop myself outside of academics.

    Having fun wasn’t devastating to my academic career either. I just barely made the top 15% of my class, and went to an average university for engineering. I had fun and worked moderately hard my first 2 years, then worked very hard in my last 2 years. After traveling the world solo for a year, I completed a MS, and worked much harder still. This allowed me to get into one of the very best engineering schools in the country for a PhD.

    My intention is not to brag about myself. I just want to point out that the Chinese don’t often have these luxuries. They’re allowed to play an instrument after school, usually piano or violin. The rest of the time they’re doing school work. No time for vacations, no camping with family, no after school or summer jobs, no summer camp. I hope that China can one day make this kind of life possible for its children, but I don’t have any solutions myself.

    • bang2tang

      Lucky you, I live in small town when I was kid, and there is no violin nor piano course there. They’re usually playing sports like badminton, volleyball, or soccer in their meantime. ㅋㅋㅋ

  • What about Finland. ranked highest in the world for education and 4th for English speaking ability (possibly as a non-native country) and educates as follows:
    School starts at 7 years
    No homework for young children
    No exams until you turn 13
    All classes are mixed ability
    Max 16 students in science class
    Lots of break time every day
    Teacher training to masters level
    Teacher training is paid for by government

  • noodles76

    Take the time to sit in on a normal mainland Chinese class or two. Middle school or High School…does not matter. The subject does not matter. The teachers are (for the most part) just drones like the students. Many do not adequately understand the course they are teaching. As a general rule, they despise questions and any actual independent thought from the students. The teacher is never wrong and never makes mistakes. If the teacher tells you that a pile of shit is a diamond…..you better not disagree.

    So…In general I would not trust most teachers to be able to determine between right and wrong and I certainly would fear what they would consider to be appropriate.

  • LearningWithoutUnderstanding

    This is the Chinese way of learning/teaching and according the comments, it seems that people support this system. If instead of learning by heart, students were taught how to think/solve problem on their own, then students would not need so many homework when back home. Also it would increase the creativity and innovation level of the whole country !! Where I do come from, we do not have much homework compared with China, but we do have the biggest amount of Nobel Price per inhabitant and are always ranked as one of the top countries in terms of innovation, economy,…so to the one supporting the Chinese education system, I do suggest them to go abroad so they do can compare other system first, as you can not say your system is good if you never seen any other way of doing !!! (oh, and before you speak nonsense, I do hold a degree from the best university in the world in my field of study)

  • Irvin

    lol At my university, right after exams the place is literally littered with cheat sheets, the teachers knows but they just don’t care, as long as they don’t catch you in the exam room.

  • Zappa Frank

    I sincerely don’t have any idea about this. But the preparation of Chinese students can’t be just a legend due to cheap cheats, I don’t think that the overall result is highly affected by cheating.

    • Blue

      I agree, it is far from the majority. Most students genuinely are extremely hard working, but it is across the board that cheating, bribery, intimidation, and teacher assisted cheating is widely accepted and ignored. It’s just accepted as the way things are.

  • bang2tang

    same problem in Indonesia ㅋㅋㅋ.
    some teachers often give task to writing a summary of several pages from textbook.

  • Blue

    I completely agree. Statistically, 16 year olds in China, and 16 year olds in UK are of the same academic level, but in the UK, children go to school later, finish earlier, have a quarter of the homework, perhaps less.
    I think one of the most important points which is overlooked is that the kids in China miss out on what many experts now believe to be the most important aspect of school, which is social interaction. Bonding skills, learning how to share, disagree without falling out, making friends, developing interests and so on. Things that we take for granted, but many Chinese people are envious of the skills in these areas that we possess. The life is being sucked out of these kids in the name of high grades, which could be achieved more effectively by reducing the workload and overhauling the antiquated education system.

  • Blue

    I used to teach in a private primary and middle school, and if the kids didn’t get good enough grades, the parents would come and shout and threaten jobs until the school amended their kids grades.
    Astonishingly, whilst the grade was marked low, the kid was also in the doghouse, but as soon as the grades were raised, the kid suddenly became their little angel, and taken out for a reward for their good grades!! It’s all about what’s tangible. What is written is true…

    • Paul Schoe

      LOL that the kids became their little angel after their grades were upped through threats.
      (nice learning lesson as well for the kids, ‘good’ preparation for their future in China)

    • Kai

      The parents being so concerned about how grades will affect the kid’s future in China is understandable. Them suddenly treating their kid like an angel for grades they artificially inflated is mind-blowingly retarded.

      • Zappa Frank

        I think there is also a face component. Like for kids that during their free time (?!) have to take lessons of piano or violin .Yes, it may help them in future to be selected by some schools, but in while it gives face to the mother. I really think this childhood is a bit sad, a continue rush to the university.

        • Kai

          A “successful” child is always going to be something most parents take pride in. I don’t agree with how far some Chinese parents push their kids though I can empathize with their belief that they’re doing so in the interests of their child’s future in an often brutally competitive society like mainland China.

      • Blue

        Oh, no, I mean parents will stand there and shout until the grades have been amended right there and then… Until a flourish of pride comes across their faces and little emperor gets a congratulatory ruffle of the hair…

        • Kai

          Shoot me now. You mean these parents saw the grade changed right before their eyes and immediately started praising the kid? Mind-blowingly retarded.