Wanted in China – “an education” – Part 3/5

According to Alexa Olesen of the Associated Press, women are now a big part of the competitive education system in China.

Olesen says, “In 1978, women made up only 24.2 percent of the student population at Chinese colleges and universities. By 2009, nearly half of China’s full-time undergraduates were women and 47 percent of graduate students were female, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

“In India, by comparison,” Olessen says, “women make up 37.6 percent of those enrolled at institutes of higher education, according to government statistics.”

Aaron Brown of PBS Wide Angle reports how talented Chinese students that cannot afford to pay for senior high school earn scholarships from the government. Attending high school on scholarship in China means living in dorms.

Brown says, “Although China is now working toward developing its students creativity, its educational system is traditionally geared toward rote learning. Students are tested on how well they have memorized their textbooks and teacher’s lectures.”

One student in the PBS documentary, Gao Mengjia, says she studies daily for sixteen hours, sleeps for six and eats for one to two hours.


Another route to the top is to win a medal in a competition such as the National Mathematic Olympiad. Winning a gold or silver may lead to acceptance at one of China’s top universities.

In China, senior high school students may come from high ranked parents that are members of the Communist Party and who have traveled abroad to Europe/America

Through merit, peasant children from rural Chinese families that earn about $2,000 annually—enough to put food on the table for a large family (note: in most of rural China there is no property tax or mortgage to pay, since the land is owned by the village and government and may not be bought or sold)—may attend the same schools.

One sign of China’s merit based educational system are the number of women successful in private business.  Of the world’s 14 self-made women billionaires, six are Chinese (according to Forbes) while only three are from the United States.  Source: The Richest.org

In addition, China’s National People’s Congress, women make up 21.3% of the representatives while in the United States and India, the world’s two largest democracies, women fill about 10% of the seats in India and about 17% in the United States.

This goes to prove that success through merit does pay off compared to leveling the playing field with quotas.

Continued on September 11, 2011 in Wanted in China – “an education” – Part 4 or return to Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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9 Responses to Wanted in China – “an education” – Part 3/5

  1. Terry K Chen says:

    The general attitude towards education in the United States is ridiculous. People don’t seem to mind that P.E teachers are the teachers with the highest salaries. In China, P.E teachers are the ones with the lowest pay.

    • Terry,

      P.E. teachers/coaches in college sports may be the highest paid but in public schools K to 12, the teachers are paid according to a chart (this doesn’t apply to private schools but most students in the U.S. still attend public schools).

      The horizontal part of the chart pays according to the amount of education a teacher has. A teacher with only a BA and a teaching credential would be in column one (and he or she would stay there if they did not earn higher degrees by going to night school) while a teacher with a PhD would be in last column.

      The vertical column shows how much a teacher is paid according to the years spent in the classroom. I attempted finding an example but could not easily find one of these pay charts.


      This is the closest I could find for a public school teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District.

      The beginning teacher with only a BA and a teaching credential starts at about $41,927 (this isn’t what they take home–there are many deducations). The median salary was $55,426, while a teacher that has a PhD and has taught in the same school district for thirty years or more would be earning about $72,261 annually.

      P.E. coaches fall into this pay scale for teaching P.E. classes the same as any teacher (but they have an average class load of between 60 and 100 students for one P.E. teacher while the avearge academic classroom teacher may only have 34 students). However, if a teacher takes on an extra assignment like being the coach for a football team or the journalism advisor for the school newspaper this means working longer hours outside the school day and possibly working on weekends so there is an extra stipend but it isn’t much. A stipend for this extra duty may be only a few hundred dollars more a month and teachers are not paid an hourly fee but are paid a monthly salary no matter how many hours they work that salary stays the same—work 40 hours a week and get paid the same as a similar teacher on the same spot of the pay scale who is working 100 hours a week. The more dedicated a teacher is, the less they earn per hour.

      There are fourteen thousand public school districts in the United States and each one has a different pay scale. If you are a teacher in a rural school district, your pay scale may be much lower than one such as Los Angeles Unified.

      In addition, this pay is usually divided up into 10 monthly checks, which means no check arrives during the summer for two months. About 8% of each check is deducted for the retirement account, which is called CALstrs in California, and another percentage is deducted for union dues in addition to income tax for the federal government and state and other dedications. By the time, the gross amount is computed, the teacher earns a lot less than that total. For me, I also paid about $40 a month for income protection insurance because if I was injured and could not work, eventually my pay would stop and I would be unemployed and broke possibly losing my home and becoming homeless and teachers in the school district I worked in (Rowland Unified) retired without any health insurance unless they were willing to pay more than a $1,000 a month to keep it until they qualified for Medicare.

      The coaches we hear about in the media meaning millions are the coaches of big university/college teams and their pay is linked to how many times their teams win. If they coach a losing team, the job might not last long as the university will be looking to steal a winning coach away from another college by offering them higher pay.

      So, as you can see, it would be very difficult for a K to 12 P.E. coach in the public schools to be paid more than a classroom teacher unless that coach were working longer hours day and night and on weekends coaching a sport’s team and being at every game they play. The work days for a P.E./coach may be as long as 20 hours a day with little sleep and then the coach is gone sometimes overnight for games played in another city on the weekends.

      This knowledge is public and it is easy to walk into the district office of any public school district and request a copy of the pay scale for public school teachers, which includes the pay for P.E. coaches and how much the extra stipend is for a P.E. coach that also teaches extra hours as a team sport coach. I’ve known team sport coaches at the high school that I taught at who show up at 6 AM in the morning and are seldom home before 9 PM at night since they start the day at 6 AM in the morning with their baseball, football, basketball team, etc., and at 8 AM when the first academic class starts, move to the P.E. building where they teach five or six classes of P.E. and then in the afternoon when school is over, they return to the field to coach their team for several more hours or to be there to coach their team during a game competition with another high school. Many times, these P.E./coaches would have to ride on the school bus with their team to another high school to play an away game and might not get home until closer to midnight knowing they had to get up early to be to school at 6 AM to train the team the next morning and for this they get paid maybe an extra 50 cents an hour for the extra hours worked.

      If given a choice, I’d rather be an academic classroom teacher and not a P.E. teacher/coach. And some of these P.E. teacher coaches teach a period or two of an academic class such as history and have to correct papers for those students too.

      If you are curious to learn more about public education in America, I also write a Blog about that at http://crazynormaltheclassroomexpose.com/

  2. Terry K Chen says:

    Ms.Gorman, admittedly the Chinese education definitely has its problems, but steps are being taken to relieve the stress of the students and instill some creativity into the syllabus.

    However, what has been done about the appalling state of the education system in the united states in the past few decades? From what I know, Obama is the only president that has stressed the importance of making major changes to the system, but so far its been useless as nobody gives a damn.

    • Terry,

      I wouldn’t say “nobody gives a damn” about the public educational system in the US.

      I do, and I know other teachers that do too. The problem is that in the US, the teachers are not well respected overall by the culture and the teachers don’t make the decisions that guide the educational process—politicians at the local, state and federal levels make the decisions, and there is no unified leadership for public education in the US or support/respect for teachers as there is in countries such as Finland or China.

      Although the federal government set mandates through “The No Child Left Behind Act”, each of the fifty states is allowed to decide what that mandate means. For example, Texas decided that their benchmark would be very low (about 4th grade level) while California set its benchmark so high (about 9th grade), it was among the highest to achieve in the country making California look bad while Texas looked good (something G. W. Bush did while governor of Texas so when he ran for president of the United States, he looked good due to all of the so-called 4th grade successful reading level for high school graduates in Texas, when in reality one must read at 6th grade level to be considered literate for life).

      However, beneath that Texas veneer of success was a spreading cancer because kids are not stupid. They know when the benchmark is set low or high and when it is low, children often take the easier route to study to achieve that lower level.

      Example One:
      “Although NCLB mandates that all children be proficient in basic subjects by 2013, each state defines proficiency in its own unique way.” Source: http://gse.berkeley.edu/research/pace/reports/Gauging_Growth.pdf

      Example Two:
      “Georgia sets its bar pretty low — so low that barely literate students can score high enough to be deemed proficient. On the NAEP, a student labeled “proficient” by Georgia could fail to score above ‘basic’.” Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/18/opinion/la-oe-winters18-2010jan18

      Example Three:
      “As much as I’ve heard and read about “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) — the landmark education bill President Bush signed into law five years ago, I had no idea that every state uses a different test and standard to determine whether its schools are making the required progress under the law.” Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/30/notebook/main2867441.shtml

      Then it gets worse. The public education system in the United States is democratized and there are more than 14,000 school districts that hold annual elections for school board positions. Those 14,000+ democratically elected school boards also decide how each district is going to achieve the benchmarks set by their state. At one time, the president of the school board in the district where I taught was a bread-truck driver and was attending night school so he would one day be a lawyer and earn more money. He knew nothing about the challenges a teacher faces to get children to study and learn and was more concerned in his son being a basketball star for the high school team.

      Many school board members are the mothers of children in the same school district and after their child graduates, they lose interest in the political system as another bread truck driver or stay at home mom moves up and runs for election to fill the vacuum. Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes a retired teacher runs for a school board and usually knows what should be done but he or she may be overruled by the bread truck driver or mother (a school board may have five or seven members) that believes in kids having fun and high self-esteem without any competition.

      Imagine a heart or brain surgeon being told by a bread truck driver or stay-at-home mom with only a high school education how to do a surgery and he had to do what he was told or lose his job. That is the education system in the US and when the politically correct wind changes course, teachers are often helpless as they are ordered to change what they teach or how they teach and the pressure can be intense to bend with that politically driven democratic wind.

      So, in reality, it is all smoke a mirrors and teachers aren’t allowed to be part of the decision making process while getting most if not all of the blame when decisions made by the president, a governor, a state legislature or a local school board member do not work, which explains why about half of new teachers leave the public education system in the US within the first five years of teaching and never return.

      The public education system in America is similar to a circus and the teachers are expected to act like the trained animals or suffer the consequences.

  3. Alessandro says:

    Zee Gorman: “but people are helpless in changing it. It is sad.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure that people in China are so helpless in changing it, not much more helpless than people in USA or other places are. In many fields chinese leadership (exactly because the legitimacy is based on performance and good governance much more than in other places) is pretty attentive to the wishes of the people, and the mood swings of public opinion

    • Alessandro is right. If parents do not like the education system in China, they may pull their children out of school early. Consider that more than 100 million children start school at age 5 or 6, but only about 10 million finish high school in China. This means that more than 90% of students in China’s public schools leave school before they reach the final three years of high school where the competition is so fierce. Those that stay have dedicated themselves to working that hard. It is a personal choice of the student and family and the government does not force them to stay (as the US does) or there would be more than a hundred million students in the high schools of China.

      The students that stay want to be there. If anyone is forcing them, it is their family and parents.

      In fact, about half of all students that enter the public schools in China have dropped out or gone on to a vocational school by age 12 before the competition becomes so fierce. The first serious test is taken at age 15 to qualify for senior high school. The second serious test is the one for college entrance. China’s government is not stealing their youth. The system is based on merit and those that stay are the ones that wanted to stay and work that hard.

      The students that leave may end up spending their lives in the fields or factories or even start a business of some kind and in business, there are winners and losers. In the U.S. statistics show that about 70% of people that start a small business fail in the first three years but 30% go on to be successful in their business.

      The students that stay to face that grueling schedule of study and no fun are there because they have the support of their families and dedicated themselves to staying. It isn’t as if the government forces them to stay. After all, public education in China only goes to age 15 (China is planning to increase this to age 18 in the next few years) so those that stay past age 15 to 18 are there because they want to be there.

  4. China’s education system is not healthy for the kids or the nation, but people are helpless in changing it. It is sad.

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