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Lesson 10

                      Should Students Only Learn from Books?

                                         Text

                          Try to Find out about Real Life

    During my recent tour to Kunming in Yunnan Province, I encountered a young Australian at Liuzhou railway station . I helped him get on board the train with his luggage, and we got to chatting in English. I learned that he was 21 years old, studying Asian literature and history at Sydney University.


    What surprised me was that, young as he was, he had travelled a lot, not only in China but also in many other parts of Asia, and he seemed to know so much about the Asian culture and history, and was even familiar with ancient and modern Chinese literature and philosophy masters such as Confucius, Lu Xun, Mao Dun and Guo Moruo. He could speak four languages.


    He is a college student, but he did not confine himself to classroom reading only. He said if one really wants to know the society and the world, he or she should go to the grassroots to see, hear and find out about real life. Besides, many students like him in Australia woi-k at part-time jobs after class so as to earn a living and save enough for travelling.


    I am a bit older than he is. Yet I found myself less knowledgeable
than he is about many things in the world. Like some of my classmates at college, I often feel conceited for merely being a college student and sometimes I even looked down upon those who failed to enter college. We didn't have to work to earn a living, and took many things for granted.We should not just admire other people's living standard and opportunities. What we should do is to learn their spirit of self-reliance as well as a sense of responsibility for the society they live in.


II . Read
    Read the following passages. Underline the important viewpoints while reading.

                           1. It Is Not Profitable to Study

    This sounds like alarmist talk, but the whole nation faces the danger of believing that it is not profitable to study.
    The following figures will serve as evidence:
    Between 1980 and 1988, more than 4 million primary and middle school students quit school. In 1988 alone, more than 6, 000 college students and 2, 000 post-graduate students left school.


    At the same time, a large number of teachers resigned to find better-paying jobs. In some areas, schools had to close because there were no teachers available.
    Although the country lacks educated people, more than 5, 000 college graduates were turned down by the work units to which they were assigned last year.
    A study shows that 35 per cent of the country's population above the age of 15 is illiterate or half-literate. The situation could affect social standards and threaten the survival of the nation.


    An article from the Beijing-based Economics Weekly attributed the dangerous situation in education to insufficient funding. China only allocates 3.7 per cent of its gross national product to education, lower than some 100 other countries of the world. China's per capita spending on education equals one-fourth that of other developing countries.


    Teachers are poorly paid. According to 1988 statistics, teachers generally earn less than factory workers, bank employees and technological personnel.
    Teachers' housing problems are more serious than those of other employees. Last year, 38 per cent of the teachers at Qinghua University lived in extremely crowded quarters and 4.5 per cent had no apartments, while 600 single teachers lived in rooms shared by three or four.


    The tradition over thousands of years that scholars should not pursue material goals has changed. Manp teachers have quit their school jobs to do business. Others say they hope that their children will not become teachers like them.
    To make things worse, the limited funds for education have not always been used in the right way.
    Between 1985 and 1986, government auditing departments discovered that as much as 500 million yuan was spent on official buildings, cars and business activities, while many students attended classes in rundown classrooms or even outdoors.


                2. Education Is about Something More Important

    Yes, but what is education about? Is it really about facts and figures, learning things by heart-you know, the three "r' s"reading, writing and arithmetic (and that shows somebody can't spell, doesn't it?) No, it gets me really cross.People criticize modern education because some kids don't know their seven times table. Hell, what does that matter in the age of computers and calculators? No, education is about something much more imgortant. It's about teaching people how to live, how to get on with one another, how to form relationships. It's about understanding things, not just knowing them. O.K. seven sevens are forty-nine. But what does that mean? It's not just a formula, you know. I want my kids to understand.


                     3. People Don't Learn Anything Today

    I think it's a great shame the way educational standards are declining today. I mean, good heavens, when you think of all the millions of pounds the Government have spent on education-new schools, more teachers, new equipment. And yet still you find people who can't read properly, can't even write their names and don't know what two and two are without a calculator. I think it's downright disgraceful. I remember


when I was young you went to school to learn. You did as you were told and respected your teachers.
    Nowadays. Huh, nowadays you get long-haireil kids who aren't interested in anything. No wonder they don't learn anything. A bit of discipline, that's what they need. A bit of discipline.
         


                   4. Traditional Schools Face Challenge

    Every Tuesday and Friday, 6-year-old Huang Kan goes to an evening class to learn how to play the piano. He shows little interest in this extra class, but his mother is willing to pay 18 yuan a month for his tuition. He is one of the many only children who in recent years have started attending classes to learn to play musical instruments, or to paint or sing, either on holidays or in the evenings during week-days.


    Such classes are usually run by individuals. Between ABCs and music, the government can only afford the former. Music and painting are seen as luxury items for Chinese children.
    But parents are eager to have the talents of their only children developed. They want their children to learn far more than the Chinese and arithmetic offered by the public schools.
    The people in education and artistic circles are filling this gap between the parents, wishes and public schools, supply.


    In the past,after-school activity centres were encouraged to provide free classes in dancing, playing the violin and Chinese boxing. But as more and more people become interested and seek to take part, teachers are more difficult to find.
    So up grew the practice for parents to show their gratitude to the volunteer teachers by offering them gifts, such as cigarettes, meat and fish, clothing and coupons for commodities in short supply.


    But the gifts never quite matched up to the work involved and so teachers began to charge for their services.
    A very quick expansion of the charged service followed with classes being started for adults. These classes included hairdressing and cooking for women, calligraphy and qigong for the elderly and child care for parents. Many young people also went to English classes to prepare for tests to qualify them to go abroad.


    There are now classes of various kinds in the big cities. In Guangzhou, for example, the third traffic peak hour is from 9 to 10 in the evening when people are leaving night schools.
    The charge for service was started by individuals, but now many cultural institutes have also entered the market.
    Over the past two years, they have set up correspondence courses, invited  scholars to give lectures and even compiled text-books.


    It all means that what was once a purely social service has turned into a business. Competition has grown with organizers offering such attractions as the showing of new films and the issuing of diplomas approved by the State's Education Commission.
    For the institutes, these activities are collective moonlighting. They offer the usually low-paid teachers and science and technology workers the chance of a second pay packet.


    Students on this market benefit more. Women from Anhui Province applying for baby-sitting jobs can ask for 5 yuan more if they can speak putonghua because parents are concerned that their children would otherwise be affected by local dialects. The skill of typing too can bring extra income.
    The benefits that both teachers and students gain from this market show just how highly knowledge is evaluated. At a time when the State cannot invest more in education, such a spontaneous market is no doubt a necessary supplement.


             5. Education Standards Are Higher Than in the Past

    Well, there are a lot of different views on this, but I must say I don't think there's very much hard evidence that educational standards are any worse today than in the past. It all depends, of course, on what you measure and how you measure it, but I think it is probably wrong to imagine that there was some golden age in the past when everything was perfect. Of course it may surprise some people that there has not been an obvious and dramatic increase in the standard of education, given the vast amounts of money spent in this area by successive governments in recent years. But unfortunately, most improvements in education are intangible.



                       6. Give Students Time to Grow

    With examinations drawing near, the burden on middle school students is becoming heavier and heavier. They have more homework than ever before, and less time for leisure, rest and sleep.
    Because of the over-load,most students' health suffers and many become nearsighted. An investigation made in a Honghu middle school shows that: compared with 1985, the number of nearsighted students has increased by 25-30 per cent and a larger proportion of students complain of poor health.
    It is not necessary to keep the students in class all the time. They need to go outside for sports, singing, dancing and other activities. We should create a good environment to let young students grow healthily.


                    7. Children Must Learn How to Live

    The realization of China' s modernization relies on the children of today.
    Childhood is a time of physical and mental development, so efforts must be made to provide an ideal environment for their development. encouraging intellectual, physical and moral training.
    How should our children be trained to cope wisely in the future? We should provide them with a good material life, but more importantly, a good spiritual life. Patriotism and communism must be spread among children to stimulate lofty ideals and hard work to enliven the Chinese narion.


    China needs talent that has developed morally, intellectually and physically. The practice of only enabling people who receive an education to develop intellectually could result in a deficiency on the part of a generation of children.
    We have to put right the tendency of stressing only intelligence and ignoring moral and physical education and necessary physical work.
    Instead of children only receiving a classroom book-learning education, we should encourage them to mingle with society and nature so that they can be more adaptable in society.


          
              8. People Should Be Made to Love Knowledge and Reading

    Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about education in the Chinese press. From these reports, and letters from my friends, I know that many students in schools and universities think studying is useless. Some graduate students and even teachers quit study or teaching to become clerks in big hotels, for a clerk in such hotels can get higher pay than a university professor.


    Government leaders and many scholars have already noticed this and are making great efforts to solve the problem. In the People's Daily I see numerous articles on how to improve education and many reports about government leaders at all levels making various plans.
    These plans all centre on raising the salaries of teachers and professors. Of course, this is very important to education. However, education has two sides, not just those who teach, but also those who learn. Increasing the salary of teachers is just one way to improve education. It will not work without the co-operation of the other determinants, such as students' love of knowledge and reading. Even if the teachers are devoted, it will make no sense if the students are not willing to learn.


    How can we make more people love knowledge and reading? First, we all have to realize that knowledge is useful everywhere in society, not just in the classroom. Sec'ond, people will love knowledge and reading when they have free access to books and information. Building more libraries and developing fine library services are important to improving education.
    I worked for six years in a big public library in China. I saw many people reading book after book. They dreamed of entering universities,not just because higher salaries attract them, but because of their need and love of knowledge.
As a dedicated librarian, I wish policy makers of our government could spend more on libraries when they plan to improve education.


                    9. The Modern Methods Have Gone Wrong

    Well, if you asked me, it's all these modern methods that's the problem. In the old days you sat in rows at desks and you did as you were told. You knew what you had to do and you did it-and you kept quiet. Nowadays, my god, the noise in most scbools is deafening especially primary schools. The children wander around-do more or less what they want to as far as I can see. The teacher just sits there or wanders around with them, talking to them. Informal teaching they call it.

 Discovery methods. Sounds more like a recipe for discovering disaster to me. When do'they have time to learn anything? Too busy wandering about to do any work. And when you look at the youngsters coming to work for me, you soon find out they haven't learnt very much at all.