The following was written by Bryan Townsend, an American student at the University of Cambridge who is now studying at Peking (Beijing) University in China:

While recent news from China has been dominated by discussions of currency revaluation and China’s military budget, my conversations here have centered around the rigor and dedication of Chinese students. At a time when Western industrialized countries find themselves having to adjust to the economic realities and, sometimes, pains of globalization, the dedication among Chinese students to hard work is an important component of Chinese culture for Westerners to understand.

Yesterday, June 7, marked the first of three days of testing for 8.67 million recent high school graduates. These tests, known as “gaokao,” or “college entrance examinations,” determine where a Chinese student is able to go to college. Unlike in the US, where high school cumulative grade point average, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities are combined with SAT/ACT scores to determine college admission decisions, in China, the seemingly sole factor is the score a student achieves on these tests, which span three days, and to which academic major a student applies (e.g. just as in the US, some majors may be more easy to gain acceptance to than others). First take the test, select your preferred universities, and then await the decisions.

But don’t expect the work to get any easier, especially at top universities. At Peking University, one of China’s top two universities, a typical undergraduate has somewhere between 25 and 30 hours of class each week, spanning six days. Want a double major? Plan to arrive to class on the seventh day. Do your other classmates think you have too much free time on your hands? Well, perhaps your course-load of 20 hours per week is too little. These totals (which, from what I understand, range from 20 to 40 hours per week), include only time in the classroom, and not time out of class spent on papers and projects.

And then, there are graduate programs. I have only spoken with one graduate about her program, which is the master’s program in economics, but she explained that her course-load of 30 hours per week is not even the highest among master’s students. Thirty hours per week, at the graduate level. Remarkable.

Yet also important to note is that these rigorous programs do not seem to wear down the Chinese students at Peking University. Those I have met are happy, pleasant people, and do not seem discouraged or overly stressed with their course-loads. They seem eager to gain the knowledge necessary to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

At a time when so much talk focuses on the outsourcing of jobs from America, Chinese students provide an example of the fruits that hard work can bear, particularly among those who want a piece of the action. The global market place truly is that: global. And as China continues to increase its already huge-chunk of the pie, many of its students are working hard to become among the best trained in the world.

Advertisements