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[Opinion] “Shanghai Shock” Hits High School Students

Posted February. 10, 2004 23:17,   


A Japanese institute has researched how many hours high school students study after school in the U.S., China, and Japan. Chinese students study for 147 minutes per day while students in the U.S. study only for 60 minutes and Japanese students for 50 minutes. The Chinese educational zeal is as hot as it is in Korea with their “one-family, one-child” policy. The number of Korean high school graduates every year is similar to the numbers of students entering college, but only 20 percent receive secondary-school education in China. This fierce competition among the large population produces excellent brains.

Chinese economic development was impossible without the seeds laid by Deng Shao-ping in the late 1970s with his efforts to implement open-door policies and reforms. The elites who were sent abroad at that time returned to their home country after acquiring know-how from advanced countries. I feel the traditions of elite education were even more solidified. China is the most progressive country when it comes to university reforms. In addition, President Hu Jin-tao insists that their middle school education should be westernized. Classes in English and discussion culture are prevalent in Chinese colleges, and this is spreading to high schools.

Korean high school student delegations were struck with a surprise at the fluent English their Chinese counterparts spoke. It was not a specialty foreign language school, but half of the classes were in English, not to mention the fluency of their spoken English. Our corporate people are shocked every time they visit Shanghai by its fast changes. Now high school students are showing same reactions to the “Shanghai shock.” However, the most embarrassing thing is that it was only us who had not been aware of this situation when these enormous changes were taking place in our neighboring country China, only an hour’s flight away.

China has developed from the “Sleeping Dragon” to the “Soaring Dragon” with substantial help from their educational system. “Shanghai shock” is only a part of the whole picture. Our new educational minister had to emphasize the importance of elite education in his speech. It is a proof that there is not much acknowledgement of elite education in our country. In any society, it is difficult to prosper without acknowledging the elites. It takes a long time to run past others in a race, but it only takes a second to see a competitor pass by. This is the lesson of our days.

Editorial Writer Hong Chan-sik, chansik@donga.com