The joys and the hardships of being a student in China

I am a bit late to this, but please leave this site now and read this delightful, beautifully written post about what it’s like being a student in China. And no, it’s not a story about inhumanly crowded dorms and suicide. It offer a human side to the story, a side that never seems to get into the articles we’re used to seeing in the international media (including the English-language Chinese media). You can go through the trials of the Chinese educational system with your humanity and appreciation of life and love intact.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

Cheers, Richard – hat tip for you on FM.

July 3, 2010 @ 2:43 am | Comment

Thanks a lot, Raj.

July 3, 2010 @ 4:00 am | Comment

My deskmate

明天你是否会想起, 昨天你写的日记
Tomorrow, will you remember, the diary you once wrote
明天你是否还惦记, 曾经最爱哭的你
Tomorrow will you remember , the crying girl you used to be
老师们都已想不起, 猜不出问题的你
maybe teachers already forgotten that girl who could never answer their questions
我也是偶然翻相片, 才想起同桌的你
Oh my deskmate, I almost missed you too if I didn’t find those old photos by accident.
Who is that lucky guy, sentimental little girl?
Who has the permission to read your diary now?
Who showed you how to tie up a chignon?
Who made you the white wedding gown?

You were always so polite, even just borrowing half a rubber from me
你也曾无意中说起, 喜欢和我在一起
You also said Inadvertently, it’s good to have me around.
Those days the sky was forever blue
Clocks ran slowly, sun was never set
You always saying graduation was far far away
But suddenly we were on our own ways

Who is that lucky guy, sentimental little girl?
Who is the one comforting the crying little girl now?
Who is the one that you allowed to read the letters I wrote to you?
Or where are those letter now? If not drifting in the breeze of long forgotten memory?

What be gone has been gone
I will have a wife that you may never met
I might also show her those photoes
Tell her that you were my deskmate

July 3, 2010 @ 7:13 am | Comment

“You can go through the trials of the Chinese educational system with your humanity and appreciation of life and love intact.”

No you can’t….

July 3, 2010 @ 9:55 pm | Comment

I just finished reading Pomfret’s “Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China.” His autobiographical account of experiencing the Chinese university system first hand and through the experiences and memories of close peers is riveting. It is amazing that despite all sorts of obstacles and hardships there are always those who are transcendent. Do systems destroy many more who are not as strong? Probably. For optimists, however, the personal fortitude of people like Pomfret’s classmates as well the high school students in the blog post in this thread is truly inspirational.

Ideally, it seems that we have instill a strong work ethic mitigated with the freedom to explore one’s interest and talents. As with so many things in life finding the balance between polar opposites holds the keys to success/fulfillment.

July 4, 2010 @ 7:40 pm | Comment

I guess this China school thing, like so many other things, is all about perspective. You’re either an “ouch I just lost two fingers and I’ll never get them back” kind of guy or an “oh well, I can still **** *** with three fingers” person. The author is obviously in the second category, and I appreciate that.

Personally, I’d rather lose two fingers than go through 12 years of school in the PRC. Unless I were the brood of a megalomaniac countryside factory boss. Then every night would be racing night in my brand new Porsche! Pretty cool thing to do when you’re 9 or so.

July 4, 2010 @ 8:39 pm | Comment

To the last two commenters, yes, I think that’s tjhe whole point. It may be an awful system, but you can survive it and even do quite well. What is frustrating is knowing it doesn’t have to be this awful, and with some intelligent reform you could save so many students so much grief, which often leads to suicide for those who don’t have the coping skills of this writer.

July 5, 2010 @ 1:46 am | Comment

We all complain about our country’s education system. The Japanese do it, the Germans do it, and the Americans do it. We think every ill of our society is caused by some flaws in our schools. Nobody brags about his/her country’s education system. Other people are always teaching their kids right, and we are not. Americans think they should learn from East Asians to improve math and science skills, because American kids are learning too much fluffy stuff and not enough hard science; the East Asians think they must learn from the West to improve liberal arts education, because their students are perceived not innovative enough.

Then funny thing is that no matter how many presidents claim to be education presidents, no matter how many No Child Left Behind Acts we pass, no matter how many Teach For America instructors we recruit, schools never get better.

Anyway, I think the best schools in the US are probably better than the best ones in China, but the worst ones in the US are definitely worse than the worst ones in China.

July 5, 2010 @ 11:15 am | Comment

@Serve the people

The worst schools in the US worst than the ones in China? Huh?

I have a suggestion: go to a big China site like and search all posts for a keyword like “school”.

A sampling:

– Naked Chinese Girl Attacked By Cantonese Teens

You can find on your own other headlines, such as:

– Young Schoolgirl Beaten, Thrown To Her Death By Teacher (video!)

– Kunming Police Recruiting Schoolchildren To Be Informants

– Little Girl Stands Outside Classroom Window Every Day

– Caught: Chinese Middle School Students Having Oral Sex

– School Starts in Shanghai, 4 Students Commit Suicide

– Shanghai Schoolgirl Beating & Human Flesh Search


I can’t imagine anyone making the argument that the worst US schools are worse than the worst in China in ANYTHING except perhaps the level of violence. (In terms of electricity, working toilets, textbooks, opportunities… the US is decades ahead.)

However, over the past 10 years, violence in Chinese school absolutely skyrocketed. There is no hard data to look at and there never will be, but my gut feeling is that it’s getting on par with the US. Or worse.

July 5, 2010 @ 10:08 pm | Comment

Must agree with Poet on this one. The US may have some wretched schools, but f you had any like the very worst schools in China you’d have a media circus, law suits being filed and a major scandal.

July 6, 2010 @ 4:35 am | Comment

“However, over the past 10 years, violence in Chinese school absolutely skyrocketed”

Would that be actual numbers of violent incidences or reported incidences?

Here in NZ we have….(drum roll)

All depends on the level of information we receive…

July 6, 2010 @ 5:57 am | Comment

Several things make me believe that the worst American schools, particularly the ones in inner cities, are worse: drugs, teen pregnancy, and a distaste for mathematics and foreign languages.

July 6, 2010 @ 6:07 am | Comment


You can’t be serious. Two of your links refer to a rugby brawl and the third one to parents organizing kids’ fights.

Disturbing, yes, but how does that compare to my links (hazing, gang-rape, beating to death, brain-washing, underage sex, suicide, and murder) – or even to America’s problems alluded to by StP?

If that’s the worst that happens in NZ, it must be heaven on Earth.

July 6, 2010 @ 2:41 pm | Comment

These are merely what is reported – there is much that isn’t, don’t forget. NZ has an unenviable child bettering reputation (at least here) with a few infant deaths attributed to beatings. That’s one reason we have a smacking ban here…not that that has helped any. Trouble with the infant deaths was that prosecutions were hindered by the family closing in against the police. If that happens with infants, what do you think happens with older kids? Don’t forget too – what you have read of NZ here is merely what I have posted – there’s more out there if you care to look – add Catholic Church schools to your Google search…

July 7, 2010 @ 6:01 am | Comment

You don’t know much about NZ. Read Once Were Warriors (or watch the movie) it a pretty accurate description of the life for many indigenous New Zealanders… the same can be said for indigenous communities in Australia.

July 7, 2010 @ 7:11 am | Comment

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