When we came to teach in China there is a lot we were expecting due to people’s gossip and weird rumours but none of them mentioned the life of a high-school student in a fast country like China. We weren’t prepared, and every time we tell people at home what happens we know people don’t believe us. It’s for this reason that we decided to work with our students and tell you what their daily life looks like and the reality of a Chinese High-School Student.
If there is one word we hear from our student the most it’s “Homework”. The charge is heavy and with each failure comes a highest amount of said homework. How much can they really get? A lot, so much that it justify more time spent in their dormitory working. But what do the hours look like and what does a day feel like? We break it down for you.
The student’s agenda:
Students start their day at 7.30am for a reading session. For the next 20 minutes they will need to repeat a few words in Chinese or English in class with their teacher.
There are 2 exceptions to this start of the day. 5 students per class are selected to clean the classrooms. Those students will start at 7.00am to mop the floors and clean the campus before returning to class. The other exception concerns students that have performed badly at their previous exam. They will start at 7.25am and read different subject depending on their bad scores.
From 7.50am to 10.10am students follow normal classes of 45 minutes. They will have 3 of them before getting a break.
At 10.10am, the bell rings, and depending on the weather students need to go to the local stadium to start a routine. On Monday they will, with their teacher, salute the flag, the rest of the time they will run and perform dances to push discipline.
From 10.40am to 12.10pm students get 2 classes before a lunch break. The lunch break will last up to 2.30pm but naps are encouraged around 1pm to keep students in good shape.
At 2.30pm up to 5.45pm, students get to their next classes, a total of 4 classes before their dinner break that will last up to 6.30pm.
And what next? At 6.30pm students get back to their classrooms for their “study classes”. Depending on their teachers they might work on their homework, get some tutoring or simply get a few more classes. Students then finish classes at 11.00pm and get to their dormitory.
This is the usual schedule from Monday to Friday. On Saturday students finish school at 4.45pm and on Sunday they start at 6.30pm. Weekend is, therefore, not a very well known term for those Chinese high-school students.
While these hours do seem terrible, discipline is also enforced on campus. Most students do live in the school and stay in dormitories.
Life on Campus :
Juniors are 8 per rooms and Seniors 4, but electronic goods are strictly not allowed in there. Phones, computers and even hair driers are strictly forbidden. One of our students tells us that she got a few things confiscated and that trying to bring a phone in is just not worth it.
Uniform is obligatory (except for the Junior 3 and Senior 3 that are passing their big exams and are, therefore, allowed to not wear their uniforms), relationships are not allowed, and if you get caught teachers will call the students parents and take note.
Exams are frequent but really depend on the school. While ours give them 6 big exams per year some push it to 1 per month.
With a high level of discipline like this and so much work, how do the students find any time for themselves? Well they don’t really… Most of them get private classes and tutoring outside of class just to get a better level. The competition is hard and constant, and brings students to so much pressure that the suicide rates are growing and slowly scaring the students.
And all that for what?
The final exam: the Gaeko.
All that for the gaeko and the entrance to some of the best universities. Success is important in a fast growing country like China and getting to the best university means an easier life which is why students and teachers work so hard to get results.
One Senior student says: “It’s all for the final exam, 12 years of hard work for 1 exam, for 2 days”
All the competition, all this stress leading to this exam is not without reminding of the Japanese education system.
Another student says: “You work very hard but it doesn’t mean you will get in a good university”
This scares them probably more than anything and that’s why students love to tell each-other horror stories. “Have you heard of that girl in that Senior class? They say she only sleeps 4hours a day, barely eats and only studies just to be number one but she failed and now…” Is that supposed to motivate them or stress them more? But is it all worth it?
It might as well be, the level of what students are learning is impressive and while the English program is maybe not the best, Physics and Maths programs are advanced and would make some university students blush back in Europe.
Chinese high-school students get a tough life and spend most of their time working very hard. They lack social skills and miss their parents that they sometimes get to see only once a month but they are brilliant, smart and represent a powerful coming workforce for China.
What do you think of the lifestyle of those Chinese high-school students? Did you experience anything similar? Tell us everything in the comments!
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