Should Students Only Learn from Books?
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
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
I am a bit older than he is. Yet I found myself less
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
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
Teachers are poorly paid. According to 1988 statistics,
teachers generally earn less than factory workers, bank employees and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.