Flawed Education|Education Pays

发布时间:2020-03-26 来源: 日记大全 点击:

  COUNTRY SINGER: Shi Zhanming’s failure to recognize the Chinese flag in a singing contest live on TV makes him a national sensation
  May 11 proved to be a turning point for Shi Zhanming, a country singer. In a televised singing contest on that night, during a general knowledge quiz, Shi mistook the national flags of Britain and Australia for those of China and Japan. From then on, he was the subject of taunts and criticism.
  The national flag is the most familiar visual symbol for citizens in any modern society. The mistake Shi made is deemed unlikely to happen to an urban resident, for whom China’s five-star red flag is such a common symbol that even without an education he or she would not confuse it with that of another country.
  However, for the rural population, particularly those living in remote areas, the flag, which is rarely seen in their daily lives, may be basic “knowledge” that must be gained through education.
  To Zhang Tianwei, a commentator with Beijing Youth Daily, Shi’s failure to recognize the Chinese flag is a reminder of the deficiencies in China’s present education system, not an excuse to blame the country singer.
  “Even if Shi Zhanming does not have any knowledge of national flags, he does not deserve so many severe rebukes,” Zhang said. The knowledge of the national flag, national emblem and national anthem should be included in basic citizenship education, so Shi’s unexpected response is a reflection of China’s faulty education model, Zhang added.
  At the same time, Shi is not the only person who has been deprived of the right to education in modern China.
  For generations, Shi’s family has lived in a small village in Shanxi Province’s Zuoquan, an impoverished county with an annual per-capita income of less than 1,000 yuan. Like most of those who live on the Taihangshan Mountain, cut off from even tap water and electricity supplies, Shi spent his time grazing sheep. His only entertainment was to sing folk songs in the mountains while tending his flock.
  It was this activity that changed Shi’s life. In a 2002 folk song show in Zuoquan, Shi, with his pristine songs, greatly impressed the audience. His performance brought him out of the mountains and pushed him onto a much broader stage in the outside world.
  CONTINUING EFFORTS: The Chinese character zhuo (table) is glued to a drawer in a villager’s house in Zhangxian County, Gansu Province. This is a new method adopted in this county for illiteracy elimination
  On that stage, Shi encountered quite a few things that he never knew before, but his ignorance has been an obstacle to greater achievements. “I’m wrong!” is what Shi says most often about his failure to distinguish the national flags. Shi Xiangtao, Director of the Zuoquan County Culture Bureau, said he felt quite sorry for Shi’s mistake. “What a pity it is! Shi must have been very nervous at that time, but his big mistake in the contest really makes all the people in Zuoquan feel deeply sorry,” the county official said.
  As a matter of fact, most of the country singers taking part in the singing contest in May share the same background as Shi.
  They have only a middle school education or less, and are unable to speak Putonghua, the country’s official language. Quite a few live in impoverished conditions without such modern equipment such as TV sets, telephones or computers. Most of them have never been to cities, remaining confined to the small villages where they live.
  A significant problem
  China’s booming economy seems to have covered up the poor record: The country ranks second in the world in terms of the absolute number of illiterate people. According to 2002 data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), China has 85 million people above the age of 15 unable to read, which implies that one out of every 15 Chinese is illiterate. Never reading books or newspapers, these people live in a world devoid of the written word and are deprived of the benefits of modern civilization.
  The Ministry of Education indicates that China’s impoverished population mainly lives in remote rural areas, especially in the border and pastoral areas of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yun-Gui Plateau and Loess Plateau, which lag behind other regions in economic and social development. It’s a difficult job to promote compulsory education there. The lack of newspapers, magazines and books, the increasing migrant population and the difficulty in popularizing elementary education in some areas present obstacles for the impoverished population to receive education.
  In poverty-stricken areas, some children have to quit school because their families do not have enough money to pay the school fees, and a great many rural students have to give up opportunities for higher education for the same reason.
  KNOW MORE CHARACTERS: Villagers attend a literacy evening class in a local primary school in Zhangxian County, Gansu Province
  Xiang Congzhi, a professor at Shanxi University, said, “The whole society should now give serious consideration to these dropouts, who are thrown into society at an early age without education or means of survival.”
  Thanks to the popularization of primary education and continuous efforts to eliminate illiteracy, the proportion of China’s illiterate population has dropped from over 80 percent in 1949 when the People’s Republic was founded, to less than 5 percent in 2003. However, the absolute number of illiterates in China still stood at 85 million.
  According to official statistics, among illiterates, those aged from 15 to 50 made up 20.56 percent in 1982, 10.38 percent in 1990, 6.14 percent in 1995 and less than 4.8 percent at present. Therefore, China’s commitment that it would reduce illiterate young and middle-aged adults to less than 5 percent of the total by 2001 has been achieved.
  The illiteracy rate is an important index in the world to measure the social progress, economic development and people’s living conditions of a country. Although China is doing well in eliminating illiteracy among young and middle-aged people, 90 percent of illiterates live in rural areas, including 50 percent in China’s western region, while 70 percent of illiterates are women. In some rural areas, a large number of girls are forced to drop out of school. Women are responsible for raising their children, so their own educational background will have a significant influence on the quality of life of their children. Therefore, eliminating illiteracy among women is a priority.
  A vicious circle
  For a variety of reasons, each year another 500,000 people are added to the existing total of illiterates. Every year a number of students drop out of school, not all people have access to even primary education and the increasing migrant population makes it more difficult to solve the illiteracy problem. In some areas, because of inadequate illiteracy eradication efforts, some of those who have become literate slip back into illiteracy. In China’s vast rural areas, poverty results in illiteracy and illiteracy in return strengthens poverty. A vicious circle is thus created which blocks the development of rural areas and the improvement of farmers’ living standards.
  Tang Qian, Deputy Assistant Director General in charge of education affairs in UNESCO, pointed out that the budget needed for illiteracy elimination is a common problem facing all countries. A study on more than 20 countries shows that a complete illiteracy elimination course takes 400 hours. In order to make a person literate, it would cost $47 in Africa, $30 in Asia and $61 in Latin America. The world average is about $40.
  The average input into education in 1985 accounted for 5.2 percent of a country’s GDP, with the proportion in developed countries standing at 5.5 percent and 4.5 percent in developing countries. However, in 2004, China’s education budget was only 2.3 percent of the country’s GDP that year. Even now, insufficient financing for education is still a big problem and China is far from reaching the goal of spending 4 percent of GDP on education, an objective set in 1993.
  Tang believes that although the Chinese Government is maneuvering to increase its input into education, financial support for illiteracy eradication is always neglected, with only a few donors and development banks explicitly expressing their commitment to illiteracy elimination. “Governments should actively take the responsibility for the elimination of illiteracy among adults, enhance their budgets and finance the efforts with regular input from the education departments,” Tang said.
  According to the Ministry of Education, the Chinese Government has decided that every year a certain amount of money will be offered as rewards for local governments’ achievements in illiteracy elimination. Local governments at various levels will continue to set up special funds for literacy programs and as prizes for achievements in that area.
  The low social status of teachers who help adults become literate poses another obstacle to the success of adult education planning. Apart from meager wages and the lack of a sense of security, these teachers have no training opportunities. And even where there are training courses, the courses are carried out in Putonghua, rather than the dialects that teachers need to use in their own work. Experts argue that if the career development of these teachers and those who provide training to them is overlooked, the overall efforts to build a knowledge-based society will be seriously undermined.
  In accordance with the Achievements and Outlook for China’s Education for Illiteracy Elimination policy paper, the Chinese Government has worked out a rough strategy: By 2015, the adult illiterate population is to be halved, with the total number falling to less than 40 million.
  “Education popularization in developing countries is not an easy job. It demands generations’ efforts,” said Peter Smith, Assistant Director General for Education of UNESCO. “China is faced with severe challenges in developing its compulsory education, but the country has worked out detailed plans and has made commitments in this regard to the whole world.”
  As Smith pointed out, the development of education demands the efforts of several generations. Shi Zhanming’s experience has now stimulated people’s deep reflection on China’s education model and it is hoped that the present shortcomings in education may be eliminated in the near future.

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