Ministry of Freedom

Earlier this week, I attended an English Language Center (ELC) faculty meeting. I got the opportunity to update all the teachers on Pippin and how the students are doing. However, for the rest of the three-hour meeting, I sat and listened. What I heard was a department (half of which are foreign teachers) struggling in the Chinese education system. Dr. Jun Liu, the director of the ELC, had good and bad news. The good was that TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) would hold it’s international symposium in China for the first time and the location chosen was none other than Shantou University. The bad news was that the University would also be up for Ministry of Education review next year and that would mean having to jump through a lot of hoops. Dr. Liu suggested the ELC would likely be a targeted department by the Ministry and therefore, all teachers would have to submit all unit and lesson plans for the rest of the year. That means for every class taught, one would have to submit a lesson plan so it would be available for the Ministry to review. Teachers griped about it but understood.

This article entitled, “China Luring Foreign Scholars to Make Its Universities Great” from the NY Times today outlines some of the issues that foreign teachers and a loosely-adminstered department here face. Shantou University is separating itself from the rest of China by hiring foreign teachers not to lead math and technology but to lead teaching English which spills over into the liberal arts. In fact, the other departments here have very few foreign teachers. I’ve only met two foreign teachers outside the ELC.

China must increase its flexibility with in speech and expression. There is no way around it, should they still want to achieve the goal of a country of many world-class educational institutions. There are bright students everywhere here, but I’ve yet to meet one that is an extraordinary thinker. There is not ample academic freedom here yet. Even in producing a musical, I encounter all kinds of issues from wanting things to be done at lightening speed without giving it proper thought to believing the way it’s been done in the past is the only right way to complete a task.

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