Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Adventures in Chinese Education: Part 1

A big part of the reason we moved back to China was for the kids to assimilate with the local culture and language. After a first year that included a local nursery school and then preschool, the 6-year-old twins were flung full-on into our local public primary school this fall.

If I weren’t already accustomed to life in China where everything seems to be treated as a state secret, it would have been more challenging. The start date was moved at the last minute and then after being told orientation would last three days, we found out on day 1 it was only one day.

And on that first day, finding out we were to attend a parent orientation. Jack happily took off for work, leaving me to fend for myself as the only foreign parent in a mass of parents taking notes to learn everything about this important step in the life of their, in most cases, only child. I was left there worrying every time the parents started writing that I was missing something important, but also pleased with myself with how much I understood.

Probably the only-child culture makes the orientation parent lecture more of a necessity. And also the Chinese educational system. Somehow I didn’t find it reassuring to be told that my child might complain about being treated badly, but to rest assured the teachers were all doing a fine job. “This isn’t kindergarten anymore”, we were told, “so give them a month to adjust before complaining”.

We were also given instructions to make sure they sleep enough, don’t watch TV until homework has been finished and other obvious, though not always practiced, advice.

But I also have to say I have so far been pleased both with the grades they are getting (even if one gets about 10 more points behind the other and struggles with homework) and the teachers’ seemingly patient attitudes, assuring us the one that is lagging more is still doing just fine and not to worry. I expected to get more lectures about making him work harder or how his behavior is to blame or some such.