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Sunday, November 6, 2011

No Education, No Upward Mobility

(My "Beautiful China, Part 2" post is having some serious issues with uploading pictures...I'm not such a huge fan of Blogger right now. I wrote this post a couple of days ago and I wanted to share it because it is a huge part of Chinese society today.)

Chinese society places a great deal of importance on education. A great deal.

From elementary school until high school, students study, study, study. It is not unusual for a student from late middle school all the way through high school graduation to study until around 11pm or midnight, and then wake up at 6am the next day to review before going to school. They take the same basic classes every student in the world takes: math, science, history, etc., with the exception of English. From primary school until high school graduation, every Chinese student must study English because English is an international language. 

All of this is done for the chance to go to college, which is an opportunity that a lot of students will not be able to realize. The Gao Kao, the Chinese college entrance test, is probably the biggest and most important event in the life of a Chinese high school student who wishes to go to college. 

Every year, millions of students take this test and those who were unlucky enough to pass suffer the disappointment of the failing score and the knowledge that all the work they did for their entire life could not be rounded and filled out by their college education. It is possible to retake the exam, but few people do. 

Without a college education, there is little to no hope that a person can live the successful, comfortable life with a high social status that they dreamed about when they were growing up. The best hope that a Chinese person can have for their life is to open up a small shop or business and make enough money to pay the bills. There is very little hope for a really comfortable life. 
For the fortunate few who are very street smart, they are able to build a decent company that is capable of moving them up, but in China, much fewer opportunities for this kind of thing exist without an education than in America.

(Me with one of the fortunate few - my friend Benjamin Xi's uncle started a water company, 黄河原, with customers all over Gansu and branching out to Ningxia and other regions!)

In America, one can make a comfortable and happy life for themselves without a college education. They can become singers, interior designers, real estate agents, businessmen, entertainers, sports players - any number of careers are open to the non-college educated. In China, these careers also exist, but they are for the very, very, very privileged and elite of society.  

Chinese people know this and it is one of the defining characteristics of Chinese society. Upward Social Mobility exists in China, but it is only real to very few people. In  more developed areas of China such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, this mobility exists in greater numbers because of the Westernization, development, and greater opportunity of these areas. 

It's a sad fact of life, but it's just the way life is in China. But I guess that means there are less Justin Biebers in Chinese society...

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