Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unemployed University Graduates

I've covered the employment problem that has hit China's migrant workers extensively in the past few weeks.

It turns out that those lucky enough to receive higher education are also going to be hurting.

From The Washington Post:

BEIJING - The Year of the Ox is said to symbolize prosperity through fortitude and toil. But, as China celebrates the Lunar New Year this week, millions of anxious college students are finding these qualities do not guarantee success in the country's contracting job market.

The chronic oversupply of graduates in an economy still reliant on low-end manufacturing has been a major concern for the Chinese middle class for the past few years.

Now, as the economic slowdown renders the country's employment situation "grim," their chances of getting a dream job are receding as China's growth slows.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao says 6.1 million graduates expected to flood the job market in June are facing unprecedented competition. They will join 1.5 million graduates from the class of 2008 who are reportedly still jobless.

Read On
While the sputtering world economy certainly has a lot to do with this unemployment problem, another big factor is the woeful education these students are receiving from China's education system.

Here is an interesting snippet from towards the end of this Washington Post article:
Wang Boqing, founder of the Chinese labor consulting firm MyCOS, said many companies are reluctant to hire college graduates even if they have sufficient funds. They fear that graduates will possess few practical skills despite being able to reel off reams of theories as a result of the college system's emphasis on rote learning.

"We need to emphasize a different education philosophy. You have to really understand what you are learning rather than just remembering formulas," Mr. Wang said.

I've had a large number of Chinese university students as both my friends and students over the past three years. Every student I've ever spoken with sees going to university as a joke.

The classes are very easy, students do very little, if any, higher-level thinking, and cheating is rampant.

To emphasize just how bad the cheating is, here is an article from the Washington Post from about ten days ago:
BEIJING (Reuters) - Cheaters in China's famous civil service exams have gone so far as to put micro-receivers in their ears, in order to get answers from audio broadcasts as they sit in the testing room, the Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

One thousand people, the highest number in recent years, were busted for trying to cheat in the annual central government civil servant exam, a Confucian tradition that opens the door to bureaucratic advancement.

The civil service exams are very competitive, with 775,000 people vying for 13,500 national civil service posts.

"In China's highly competitive national exams, where chances of success are very slim, many applicants, especially the less academically inclined, are lured to cheat," Xinhua said.

Read On
I reckon that a significantly large number of Chinese university students could not write a term paper or essay if their life depended upon it. From the time they were five or six years old, their entire academic life has been based upon exams testing their rote memorization.

The stress that these tests cause is unbelievable. There are two tests which are particularly important: the zhongkao (中考) and gaokao (高考) tests. These placement tests determine whether students get to go to good high schools and universities.

In my time as an English teacher in China, I have seen countless students really struggle with the anxiety that comes with these tests.

And because there is such a great emphasis placed on these tests, students are forced by their parents and schools to study, study, and study.

Chinese students often go to school well into the evening and on the weekends leaving no time for any extra-curricular activities or sports. The recreational sports leagues that I grew up playing in America are a completely foreign concept to Chinese people. Their thinking goes something like this: why should little Wang play on a basketball team when he could be studying instead?

I believe that this is terrible.

Being a product of America's public education system from kindergarten through high school, I believe America's education needs major reform. Yet I believe China's needs even greater revamping.

China is producing scores and scores of young people who know very little about anything.

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