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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Evaluations (or: The School Has Gone Insane)

Zhanjiang Normal University, in Chinese, is "Zhanjiang Shi Fan Xue Yuan." Which means, more or less, Zhanjiang Teacher Training College. For some reason, the Chinese powers-that-be have decided that "normal" is a good translation for "teacher training" (cue the inevitable, "as opposed to abnormal?"). And we can also see that this school is a college, not a university. Semantics, perhaps, but next week, ZNU has it's shot at becoming a full-fledged, big-boy University. And the people who will decide that are the "experts" who will come next week to evaluate the school.

Immediately I dislike that word "experts." It's thrown around all over town, the way a Brother's Grimm story is used to scare kids into shape. Experts, huh? At what? Getting their ass kissed by the river of guanxi and "favors" that's about to kick in to high gear? I thought "officials" or (going out on a limb here) "evaluators" would be fine. But in the meantime, everyone (except, it seems, the foreign teachers) are working under insane pressure and with inane rules as the "experts" prepare to come to town. This is most visible with the torrent of construction that is going on ceaselessly all over campus, all to beautify the school for our "expert" visitors.

Insane rules, you ask? Like what? Well, for starters: students are being forced to wake up at half past six and ushered in front of the classrooms, where they have to pretend they're practicing their English. Remember, content doesn't matter here, so long as the illusion is maintained. They're being forced to learn about the history of the school, the founders and all that, as if any of the "experts" are gonna ask about that (or give a shit). The electricity to their dorms (including their much-coveted internet access) is being cut at midnight. They can no longer eat in class (which makes those eight-in-the-morning classes oh-so-energetic). And, most asinine of all, the girls can't wear anything "inappropriate" to class, which means no skirts, sleeveless shirts, and the like. None of these rules matter, you understand, because as soon as the "experts" leave, everything is going to go right back to normal.

So much time, money, and energy spent on pointless things. Terraforming (ahem, "landscaping"), students being forced to go over old exams and recheck the answers and marks, rules and projects and stress that is just wasting time and draining everyone, all without any thought to the actual learning that's going on here.

The biggest obstacle to anyone's education around here is the school.

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