I always enjoy urging Inside China Newsletter  subscribers to reflect on their own connections to China’s education industry. One reader was nice enough to respond to a past newsletter edition with his “in the trenches” experience of teaching in Nanjing. I thought you’d enjoy reading the quick and fascinating glimpse at what teaching in China now entails. Sounds like he’s encountered several of the systemic problems that we often hear about. Enjoy and don’t forget to share your own thoughts at the bottom of this post!


Hi, Chris

You went to Asheville? My wife and I “live” in Black Mountain. Small world….

********* and I taught only in US independent schools for roughly combined 70 years (mostly hers as I was an engineer before seeing the light) before coming to China to teach. We have only been here two years separated by one go-home year. Two different schools with a common US independent school sponsor. The first was a standard dual diploma track, the current a US-only diploma.

I followed your newsletter over the past several months and agree with everything you are saying. On my side of the chalkboard I see little progress in modifying the “memorize and learn by emulation” model to one emphasizing the development of critical thinking skills. “Just tell us what you want us to know!” is a common complaint by students new to such programs; in our last posting, even some Senior 3’s continued to rely on this ploy, supported by many of our Chinese colleagues.

We currently are finishing one year with Senior 1’s in Jiangsu Province, touted as the “Education Province.” We will go home, perhaps to return for another year. Even in a self-styled progressive environment, our students are required to fill their time with extra courses beyond our limit of five, including of course “TOEFL” (not “TOEFL prep”—the school is trying to pass these 8 meetings per week + 2 hours on Sunday as “English” classes on the transcript.). We are limited to five courses per year with a lockstep approach to sectioning. We *did* manage to get the school to section those not ready to move on into AP Calc AB into a “functions” or “regular calculus” class—but those students are now excluded from taking the new AP Physics 1 course as well. Perhaps forever.

Although we had good success in mixing classes in our previous Zhejiang Province school, our current school thinks this is Buxing (ed note. “Buxing” = not ok) because of “scheduling,” even though we have submitted models showing how it could work. The social implications are far more important than a solid education.

No complaints; we knew all this when we accepted the jobs. Your newsletter simply brings those issues out in the open to a greater audience in the US and one for whom the implications are great.

We have enjoyed our time here even though our communications are still ragged at best. The Chinese are wonderfully patient and the countless acts of kindness we have received makes us leave with a great fondness for them.

Even if they are mired in a 17th century approach to education, rant, rant! 😉

Keep up the excellent work.


*******, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province


Do you agree with him? Have your own experiences “on the front lines” of China’s educational industry? Please comment below!

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