In China, like everywhere else on earth, education really is the key to success. For those well educated any job is a possibility, though in China a very select few professions are admired and respected. Only the best employees with the finest education become exactly what their parents have always wanted. Schools all around the world, with the best reputation are sought after to send children to and the high school I used to attend was one of the few with a large Chinese presence.
I went to a Private School in the Perthshire area, where the majority of our boarding pupils were in fact Chinese. Before the boarding house closed down, more than 80% of the boarders were Chinese with the rest being mostly German and French. My school, however, was not the only Scottish Boarding School with a significant number of Chinese boarders.
I used to wonder why so many of our boarders were Chinese, until one day I finally asked. As it turns out, almost every reply I received – even way back when I was at school and not thinking anything of it – was along the lines of “My parents only want the best.”
Now that I think about that statement, I wonder what the education must be like in China. That the parents would much rather send their children away, out of their own country to get a good education here in the UK rather than get the best they could back home.
Me-I was wondering if you’d mind talking to me about how the difference in age changes how generations see education.
Interviewee-I can give you my personal experience, but I was born and raised in Glasgow, so I don’t know how much use it would be.
Me-Yeah if you don’t mind? Anything is better than nothing.
Interviewee-Well my parents are the total stereotypes you see, and its the same for all my cousins and siblings. All the classic professions are the only ones that have any merit to them: doctors; other medical professions; engineers, etc.
Me-So how does having stereotypical parents change how you see school? Do you think you’d have done anything differently had they not been like that?
Interviewee-My brother and sister compared to me are a good example of that. My sister, who’s the oldest, was brought up really harsh and was pretty much told to become a doctor. She missed her conditional by 1 grade and she became a pharmacist instead but my parents were disappointed.
My brother, who is the black sheep of the family, isn’t that smart but he went to uni to do engineering even though he had no interest or talent in it, simply because my parents thought it was worthy
Me-I can imagine that’d be hard. Did seeing how they would react make you want to try harder?
Interviewee-I was meant to be in the medical profession as well, but I had no interest in it, even though I had the grades, but I loved computers so I chose an IT career.
It was more fear of rejection for my siblings that made me try. That being said, I don’t get along with my parents since I realized quite early that there views are so one-track and even though I’ve lost the respect of my parents, I’m in the industry of something I truly love doing and I’ve never looked back
Me-Are they pleased with what you have accomplished?
Interviewee-They’ve come to appreciate how hard I’ve worked to get here after a long while. I think if they had all the choices laid out in front of them, they wouldn’t be hard asses. They have my best interests at heart I have no doubt.
Me-So they understand the time and effort you’ve put into what you enjoy? That’s pretty good recognition.
Interviewee-Yeah they have, but not on their own. Like, when I got my bachelors degree, I told my dad and he said “You making money yet?” and I said “no, I still have 1 year left” and he said “well maybe you should stop playing games and study more” but this was in the presence of my siblings and they went mental at him, I didn’t expect anything less.
Me-It’s good that you and your siblings have the same kind of thoughts on the situation.
Interviewee-Yeah, they’re old though, 5 year difference between my brother and 7 for my sister.
Me-Still though, that you all stuck together is nice. How do you think your grandparents would have reacted if your parents had chosen a career outside of their ideal professions?
Interviewee-My grandparents had it rough so I honestly think they would be proud of my parents whatever they did as long as they were stable.
Me-Was education important to them then? It was good so long as they were educated?
Interviewee-I think so, I can’t say I’ve put much thought into it.
Me-It’s not something a lot of people think about, I know I’ve never thought about how my grandparents saw education.
When I spoke to an old friend of mine about his families take on education, he talked a lot about how he and his siblings think of things. He also mentioned things that I was honestly quite shocked about – how his parents were so easily disappointed and upset by the grades and chosen professions of his siblings.
Though he was willing to talk to me, he was only talking from personal experience and not about how China as a whole sees education. Being born and raised in Glasgow, he had little knowledge of what it would have been like being educated in China, surrounded by pupils whose parents all want the same thing for their children: to become a doctor, or engineer, or mathematician.
There’s an interesting article over at the BBC today: Is English or Mandarin the language of the future?
English has been the dominant global language for a century, but is it the language of the future? If Mandarin Chinese is to challenge English globally, then it first has to conquer its own backyard, South East Asia.
Worth reading in full