China can be a challenging and difficult place to be a young student. This massive population and its limited high quality Universities makes the Gaokao, China’s college entrance exam, not only one of the toughest tests in the world it is also the test that determines a student’s academic future- therefore future. This test is taken by every Chinese student (except those who opt out by choosing to study abroad) and it is a test that they spend their entire middle school and high school lives preparing to take.
Universities are known more for having a good time in China than for studying, but there are a few top collages that many students in China dream of attending for academic purposes and those are universities in Beijing and Shanghai, and only the top Gaokao scores can attend these schools. Too add to the stress the desired score to attend college in these cities is different from province to province- for example if you are a student from the Province where I am currently living ,Henan, then you have to score higher on the Goakao than a student from Beijing or Shanghai or even a student from a Province with a lower population. The idea of this different scores plan is that it allows some balance. Henan is the most populated province in China and the thought is that if everyone was to need to the same score to get into a top University then there would be too many kids from Henan at all the top Universities. Honestly, I’m not certain how they came to this conclusion but if I were a student from Henan dreaming of going to a top University many of which are in not Henan I would feel that the scoring isn’t very fair, but I don’t make the rules.
During the school year at #47 I met a few students through our English corner- students who were not a part of my program, a Sino-U.S. program. One of these students, a young girl whose english blew away all of my students bound for the states, was a particular favorite of mine. She’s bright, ambitious, and a free-thinker. She’s fortunate enough to have parents that are pretty progressive so progressive in fact that they are not pressing marriage or even having a child (not yet anyway). She has some lofty goals. She wants to change the way China views mental health. This is a lofty goal. Currently, China’s view on mental health is fairly archaic, and those suffering from depression or bi-polar or even worse schizophrenia to name a few are left to the responsibility of the family who are unable to cope with these illnesses and of course those families and individuals suffer the stigmas that come along with backward thinking toward mental health issues. You can read about it here: http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/07/unable-to-cope-chinas-inadequate-care-of-the-mentally-ill/278170/
and here: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=1682419
and here: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/26/the_madness_of_china_s_mental_health_system
To make an incredibly long story short- this student sent me a text message today: “Hello how are you? I wanted to share my news, I am going to Shanghai University!”
I was so excited to read this news because I know how hard the Gaokoa is and how many students that I ask about their dreams don’t emphasize those dreams much because they worry about the competition of this test. I texted her back expressing my joy to her and letting her know how proud I am to know her. She responded with the best text one can ever get from a teenager.
“We are closer to our dream now! Don’t forget that I will be your first student!”
She was never my student but I’m really honored that she considers me to be one of her teachers because all we ever did was talk about life and dreams.