The Advantages of China’s Education System & The Implications for You
After talking down about China’s education system in the next post in this series (I wrote it first but am putting it second in this series), you might think there is nothing good about China’s education system. You’d be wrong.
I’d like to talk to you a little bit about what are the advantages to China’s education system. If you can think of anything else, please add it in the comments below – I need your input!
Long study hours = Hard work ethic
In high school (and even junior high school), the majority of Chinese students study for hours on end. They are very used to åƒè‹¦(eating bitter / going through hard times), as this prepares them for the rough work world that faces most Chinese workers, professional and blue collar alike.
Years of night study sessions turns into a lifetime of overtime once the typical Chinese person begins their working life. And what exactly are the jobs that China’s education system is preparing its citizens for? Read on to find out a little more…
Low Job pay and long work hours in China
In today’s China, most jobs are ones that require very long hours. Although my evidence on this is largely anecdotal, I have met very few people (in fact, none) that work less than 12 hour days and at least a half day on Saturday (if not the entire weekend). While most people I talk to wish they could work fewer hours, none think this is really possible except for the handful with government jobs. They have come to terms with their fate of a life filled with long hours, you might say.
In America there are few people who would be willing to work such long hours for such low pay. It’s safe to say that the starting salary of most entry level professional jobs in China are about 1/10 or less what they would be for a similar job in America (with average starting salary in Shanghai hovering around $250/month or 2000 RMB/month). And the gap grows for jobs that require little education. Many factory workers make 1/25 or less of what their American counterparts would make ($125/month or 1000 RMB/month is pretty standard for semi-skilled factory work in the modern coastal cities of China like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen).
Years of massive amounts of memorization and classes before their working years prepares many Chinese people for extremely trying jobs that only pay nominal sums of money.
Cramped study conditions prepares Chinese students for the harsh life to come
Studying in tight quarters somewhat prepares Chinese students to eventually work (& live) in extremely cramped spaces. Trust me, Americans and other Westerners would not accept these kinds of living or working conditions.
What do I mean by cramped conditions? How about four desks placed next to each other with no real dividers in an open room filled with hundreds of desks? Or 8 people to a dormitory room for lower level management, where only those with an undergraduate degree or above get air-conditioning. Those who just have a professional degree get heat-sickness in the summer.
How about working six days a week, at least 12 hours most days, with the occasional all-nighter? Maybe you would be willing to do this for $5000 or more per month. Would you be willing to do it for $200-$300 per month? There are plenty of Chinese people who would.
Could you live and work in these conditions? I know I couldn’t. One of the strangest things is that these are considered good working conditions in China for decently well-educated workers. I don’t even want to talk about the bad working conditions for lower management or labor in smaller Chinese factories.
So how can Chinese people accept these conditions? One answer is they have no other choice. Another, much smaller one, is that the harsh conditions Chinese students face during school help prepare them for the harsh conditions to come.
What this means for you (Americans and other Westerners)
There are millions of Chinese workers who are likely competing either directly or indirectly with you for your job. Although this might be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s not one to take lightly. You need to either be in control of capital or upgrading your skills at an incredibly fast rate. The problem isn’t that your job could be performed better by someone in China for a much lower cost (although this is a distinct possibility). The problem is that in China, 3-25 workers could be hired to replace your role.
Median real wages in the States have been falling for years for a reason. There are intense competitive pressures around the world that will likely continue to force down median wages in real terms for years to come. Beyond improving your own skills and ability to perform a job at a very high level, you might need to lower your expectations as well. Financially.
There are too many forces at play that are working against the income earning potential of a majority of people in the developed world. If you are reading this you might not fit into this category – in fact your opportunities may be greater now than ever – but don’t underestimate the changes taking place. Lower your expectations now, save the extra money, and get ready for some rough times ahead, because they have started.
What this means for your children
While in some ways children in China are coddled, largely due to the one child policy still in effect for the large majority of Chinese people, they are much less so than children in America or elsewhere.
Instead of protecting your children from the cold, hard world – you need to help them adapt to it – force them to work harder, do their homework better, and realize that the world they are growing up in is not the one you grew up in. It also means maybe letting them encounter tough situations without picking them up and brushing them off.