Some thoughts on Germany Gymnasium and Chinese school

Time to say good bye. I have had a wonderful year in Germany, in Altenburg, and in Spalatin Gymnasium. The contrast between my German and Chinese schools are strong, and here I'd like to share some of my thoughts on the reason of these differences.

The first obvious reason is the population. China has a huge population, and usually huge classes. The resource is extremely limited, especially the energy of the teachers. In a class of 50 pupils, each pupil will not be treated as an individual, he/she will be regarded as a product on the assembly line. My class in German Gymnasium has always around fifteen student. The teacher will stop to answer each personal question, and always wait until everyone has understood.

More people also means more discipline. Once in my German school, we had a religion class with 27 student. It was an nightmare for the teacher. German students are used to the freestyle, and when there are 27 freestyles in one class... In my Chinese school, students are always reminded that they are a part of the group and it is selfish for them to raise there question in class and waste the time of others.

Another reason is the teacher. During my year in Germany, I have met a lot of young people who want to be a teacher in the future, for kindergarten, for normal schools and for gymnasiums. All my teachers love their job. The quality of teachers is high. I regret to say the situation are not so good in China these days. I have good teacher, I do admit. But on a general level, most of the students who want to be a teacher are coming from the middle (or even lower) level of their own class. Good students want to join Wall Street or work for international companies. Chinese teachers don't earn too much money, and it is not really regarded as a good job.

But the fundamental factor is the system. Almost all troubling problems in China generate from the system.

Let's start from the social code. The stress of life is huge. Young people get to much expectation on them. Parents and grandparents are expecting their success, which is the honor of the whole family. And the definition of success for most Chinese is very narrow: a decent job with attractive salary, purely materialized. To get a good job, people need the diploma from one of those handful of elite universities. So all parents have been telling their children "get into XX University" at the very beginning. (In contrary, young people in Germany seem very carefree and without stress, thanks to the comprehensive social system and Hartz IV).

Then let's see the system of university admission test, or the infamous Gaokao. Students around the whole country take the test in three days, and the final score will decide which university they can get in. The three digit number will tell what their life will be. So it is imaginable that everyone does their best to get the highest possible score. Then what does the test look like? What in the end does it TEST in a student? Unfortunately, The tests reflect the student's knowledge and memory, but not ability. Therefore, all schools and teachers and students themselves are only interested in repeating the knowledge and improve the speed of answering the questions. The mentality and personality have little chance to be developed.

No doubts, these student, when they take hold of their own life, they are far less capable of chasing their own dream, creating a happy life and contribution to the society. I sometimes wonder if they really care about contribute to the society in which they come from, in which they have been "tortured". So much stress and unfairness has squeezed their curiosity and sensitivity to the beauty of life.

Of course, I am trying to describe the worst situation in the paragraphs above. There are a rather big number of really brilliant and ambitious Chinese student. There are always those people who survive and thrive in any situation, and they are the ones to rewrite the rules. But the education of a country is for the general public whose life and happiness are greatly influence by the system they live in.

A good education (elementary and secondary education, before universities) should equip the young people with necessary knowledge, but the more important thing is to develop the creativity, a healthy mentality, team work spirit, communication ability, a positive attitude for life and the ability to pursue a happy and meaningful life.

From this point of view, I would say that the German schools are doing a much better job than the Chinese ones, and I wish to bring what I have experience back to China. We will happily learn from the good examples, and I hope my children (and their contemporaries) will have a real education.