Education: Taming the tigers

作者:SHIRLEY    發表日期:2018-09-27 15:59:19

The government sounds the alarm over stressed-out schoolchildren

LIN MING, a ten-year-old who has two years left at his primary school in Beijing, does not remember the last time he returned home before 6pm on a weekday during term. As soon as school is out, his mother, Yang Mei, shuttles him around the city, dropping him off at tutoring agencies where he studies advanced maths and English grammar. Ms Yang accepts that she is 「maybe putting a bit too much stress」 on her son. But she has no choice. 「Around 90% of my son's classmates attend after-school lessons. It's a competition I can't lose.」 When the new academic year begins next month, Ms Yang estimates that she will spend 3,000 yuan ($435) a month on her son's tutoring, about one-fifth of her household's monthly income.


Many Chinese schoolchildren do well academically. In the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, held in 2015, Chinese 15-year-olds in some cities did better in science and maths than their counterparts in most members of the OECD(經濟合作與發展組織), a club mostly of rich countries. Yet Chinese officials worry that pupils' achievements may exact too heavy a mental and physical price. In July the Ministry of Education(教育部) released its first 「comprehensive quality assessment 綜合素質測評」 of the country's primary- and junior-high school education. The unusually critical tone of the 26-page report has been causing a stir among China's online commentators.


One concern the document raises is that pupils get too much homework. The ministry reckons that nearly one in ten pupils in the penultimate year of primary school spend more than two hours on Chinese-language homework alone, every school day. Even before the report was published, some education authorities had been trying to lighten workloads. In March, for example, primary-school pupils in the eastern city of Hangzhou were told by their teachers to stop doing homework at 9pm if they were unable to complete it by that time. Junior-high school pupils were given until 10pm.


Another, related, problem is that Chinese pupils are out of shape. Nearly a fifth of nine-year-old boys and 13-year-old girls are overweight or obese, says the report. That is partly because many schools, often under pressure from tiger parents, teach more sessions of core subjects like maths and Chinese than is required by the education ministry, bumping physical-education classes. From now on, however, schools will be evaluated not only on how well pupils do in academic tests but also on their athletic ability, based on their performance in challenges such as 50-metre sprints(短跑衝刺) and standing long-jumps(立定跳遠).


Yet the ministry's harshest criticism is reserved for schools and tutoring agencies that overburden pupils by 「teaching ahead」—imparting knowledge that is too advanced for a given age group. Zhang Ling, the head of Ben Jen kindergarten in Beijing, suspects that most nursery schools in the city use materials that are designed for the first or second years of primary school. That will no longer be allowed.


In July the ministry ordered kindergartens nationwide to focus on 「fun and games」 in the classroom. Fun inspectors will be dispatched later this year to enforce this. Ms Zhang, who says her kindergarten was already in compliance, welcomes the greater scrutiny. She says she can now wave an official document at parents who insist that their children be exposed to too-advanced academic fare.


To ensure that tutoring outfits do not offer 「unsuitably」 stretching courses, the government instructed them in February to provide education authorities with details of syllabuses and lists of their pupils along with which year they are in at which school. They must also agree to spot inspections. The ministry is cracking down on rogue pedagogues who refuse to teach academic material in school, and instead steamroller pupils into attending evening classes at tutoring centres where the teachers moonlight. This summer 31 teachers in the northeastern city of Harbin received unspecified punishment for doing that.


Ms Yang, the parent, says the new rules are well-intentioned, but may end up hurting middle-class folk like her. That is because those with deeper pockets can always hire home tutors, who are difficult for the government to monitor, to teach their little ones the advanced stuff. A customer service agent for Xue Er Si(學而思), a national tutoring chain(全國連鎖教育機構), says the new restrictions mean that classroom-based tutors will have to be more cautious about what they teach. But she nonetheless reassures parents that the course content will still be harder than that found in school textbooks.


The clampdown on over-eager teachers and out-of-school instructors fails to tackle the root cause of pupils' stress, notes Zeng Xiaodong of 21st Century Education Research Institute(21世紀教育研究院), a Beijing-based think-tank. As long as admission to senior-high schools is based on results from the gruelling zhongkao exam(中考), parents are likely to exploit every loophole to give their children an edge. Typically only the top 60% of zhongkao-takers secure a spot at an academic school(文理學校). The rest are shunted to vocational ones(職業學校). A better way to reduce stress for young children, argues Ms Zeng, is to scrap entrance exams to senior-high schools. The education ministry has correctly identified a problem. It needs to study harder how to solve it.


Annotations

stressed-out  adj-graded informal 壓力過重的,心力交瘁的: suffering from high levels of physical and especially psychological stress. if someone is stressed out, they are very tense and anxious because of difficulties in their lives.

sound the alarm  : 發警報,敲響警鐘: to alert other people about something dangerous, risky, or troublesome.

as soon as  一...就...,馬上就: immediately at or shortly after the time that.

out  adv. 1. (從裏面)往外,出來: from inside an object, container, building, or place. OPP in.  2. a)離開(某個機構): having left the institution where you were.

out of.  b)出獄: no longer in prison.

shuttle  vi. [always adv/prep] 穿梭往返(兩地): to travel frequently between two places. SYN commute. shuttle between/back and forth.  2. vt. 短程往返運送(人): to move people from one place to another place that is fairly near. SYN transport.

drop  vt. (also drop off) (開車)順路送(某人)到(某處),放...下車: to take someone by car to a place and leave them there, especially on your way to another place. drop sb at sth

schoolchild  n. [countable] 學童,小學生: a child attending school.

term  n. [especially BrE ]學期: one of the periods of time that the school or university year is divided into. In Britain, there are usually three terms in a year. → half-term, semester, quarter: summer/autumn/spring term.

academic year  n. BrE 學年: the period of the year during which students go to school or university.

PISA  : The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. Its aim is to provide comparable data with a view to enabling countries to improve their education policies and outcomes. It measures problem solving and cognition.

tone  n. [singular, U] (作品,演講,活動等的)基調,格調,氣氛: the general feeling or attitude expressed in a piece of writing, a speech, an activity etc. tone of, in tone, set the tone (for/of sth).

penultimate  adj. [only before noun] 倒數第二的: not the last, but immediately before the last. SYN last but oneultimate

schoolday  n. 學校上課日: a day of the week when children are usually at school.

lighten  vt. 減少,減輕(工作量,擔憂,負債等): to reduce the amount of work, worry, debt etc that someone has. OPP increase. lighten the load/burden/workload.

out of shape  1. 變形的: not having the normal shape.  2. 身體不好,不健康: (of a person) not in good physical condition.

bump  vt. informal 擠出,擠掉: to move someone or something into a different class or group, or to remove them from a class or group altogether. bump somebody up to/out of/from etc something.

from now on  從現在起,從此,往後

from now/then/that moment etc on  : starting at a particular time and continuing to happen.

reserve  vt. (為個人或某種用途)保留,留出: to keep something so that it can be used by a particular person or for a particular purpose. SYN set aside. reserve something for sb/sth.

overburden  vt. [usually passive] 使負擔過多/重: to give an organization, person, or system more work or problems than they can deal with.

impart  vt. formal 告知,傳授: to give information, knowledge, wisdom etc to someone.

nursery school  n. [C] 幼稚園: a school for children who are between three and five years old. SYN kindergarten.

suspect  vt. [not in progressive] 猜想,懷疑,覺得: to think that something is probably true, especially something bad. suspect (that).

nursery school  n. 託兒所: A school for children, usually between the ages of three and five, who are not old enough to attend kindergarten.

scrutiny  n. [U] 詳細的檢查(或審查): careful and thorough examination of someone or something. careful/close scrutiny.

wave  v. 揮/招手: to raise your arm and move your hand from side to side in order to make someone notice you. wave at/to sb. wave sth (about/around). wave sth at sb. wave (sb) goodbye (=say goodbye to someone by waving to them).  2. 揮動(某物),左右搖晃: if you wave something, or if it waves, it moves from side to side. wave sth under/at etc sb/sth. wave sth around/about.  3. vt. [always adv/prep] 對(某人)揮手示意: to show someone which way to go by waving your hand in that direction. wave sb through/on/away etc.

outfit  n. [C] Informal 機構,組織: An association of persons, especially a military unit or a business organization.

syllabus  n. [C] 教學大綱: a plan that states exactly what students at a school or college should learn in a particular subject → curriculum. on a syllabus.

spot  n. 地點,住所,現場: You can refer to a particular place as a spot . [usu supp N].

crack down  n. [C usually singular] 取締,制裁: action that is taken to deal more strictly with crime, a problem, protests etc. [ on/against]

rogue  adj. [only before noun] 胡作非為的,無賴的: not behaving in the usual or accepted way and often causing trouble.

pedagogue  n. [C] formal 教師: a teacher, especially one who thinks they know a lot and is strict in the way they teach.

steamroller  vt. informal (以權利,壓力)迫使,逼迫: to make sure something happens by using all your power and influence, or to defeat your opponents badly. [V n] [V n into n]

evening class  n. [C] 夜校,夜間課程: a series of classes for adults in a particular subject that they go to in the evening.

moonlight  vi. informal (暗中)兼職,從事第二職業: to have a second job that you do secretly, usually without paying tax on the extra money that you earn.

unspecified  adj. UK 未說明的: not mentioned, or not known.

well-intentioned  adj. (雖常事與願違但)出於好心的,善意的: trying to be helpful to people, but actually making things worse for them.

pocket  n. [C] 錢,財力: the amount of money that you have to spend.

nonetheless  adv. [sentence adverb] formal 然而,但是,儘管: in spite of the fact that has just been mentioned. SYN nevertheless.

nevertheless  adv. (slightly formal nonetheless) 不過,仍然,儘管如此: despite what has just been said or referred to.

reassure  vt. 使安心,使消除疑慮: to make someone feel calmer and less worried or frightened about a problem or situation. reassure sb (that)

clamp down  vi. 取締,管制,鎮壓: to make a determined attempt to stop people doing something bad or illegal. [ on]

root cause  n. 根源: is an initiating cause of either a condition or a causal chain that leads to an outcome or effect of interest. Commonly, root cause is used to describe the depth in the causal chain where an intervention could reasonably be implemented to improve performance or prevent an undesirable outcome.

over-eager  adj. 過於渴望的: Excessively eager; too ardent or impatient.

out of hospital/school/college etc  : used for saying that someone is no longer in hospital at school etc.

gruelling  adj.累垮人的,艱難的: very difficult and involving a lot of continuous effort.

The Senior High School Entrance Examination, or commonly known as Zhongkao (中考), is the academic examination held annually in the mainland of the People's Republic of China to distinguish junior high school graduates. This examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all education institutions at the senior high school level, such as common senior high schools, secondary skill schools, vocational high schools, technical high schools. It is usually taken by students in their last year of junior high school.

as/so/long as  前提是,只要: used before saying the conditions that will make something else happen or be true.

loophole  n. [C] 法律上的漏洞,空子: a small mistake in a law that makes it possible to avoid doing something that the law is supposed to make you do. legal/tax loophole, [ in], use/exploit a loophole

edge  n. [singular, U] 優勢: something that gives you an advantage over others.

-taker  suffix 接受(收集)某物的人: used with nouns to describe people who take or collect things.

spot  n. [C] 名次: a position in a list of things or in a competition. in a spot

academic  adj. [usually before noun] 學術的(與實踐性,技術性相對): involving a lot of reading and studying rather than practical or technical skills. academic subjects/qualifications.  2. 純理論的,空談的,學究式的: not connected to a real or practical situation and therefore not important.

shunt  vt. 1. 將…調往/轉移別處: to move someone or something to another place, especially in a way that seems unfair. shunt somebody off/around/aside etc.  2. 使(車廂)轉軌: to move a train or railway carriage onto a different track.

scrap  vt. 取消,放/廢棄: to decide not to use a plan or system because it is not practical.

entrance exam  n. 入學考試: an examination which you take to decide if you can be accepted into a school, etc.



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