My student assistant, Mr. Yang Jiedong, was in trouble. He was reading one of his magazines in the classroom when the class supervisor came in. The supervisor had a look at his magazine and took it away. He was asked to hand in more such magazines if he had any in the desk. He gave up the other magazine he kept in the desk to the supervisor. The class supervisor tore the two books up in public, declaring that the two magazines were unhealthy.


In his journal entry, Mr. Yang wrote that he thought his magazines were “quite healthy”.


Actually there is a rule for the class to follow – Do not read unhealthy magazines, newspapers, or material unrelated to academic study in the classroom.




Reading itself is both a means and an end. Learners get new info by reading. And high school graduates should have good reading skills and ability.


High school students in China do not read as widely as they should. They read their course books intensively. They read their homework, which is given almost always in the format of exam questions.


They should read beyond their textbooks and the exam questions, but they do not have the time. And for a practical reason, teachers and their students alike are not keen on reading what does not count directly toward a higher score in an exam.


No wonder the class supervisor bans reading magazines and newspapers. Reading such stuff doesn’t help contribute to high marks.




The use of these gadgets is banned in the classroom. Listening to music is a waste of time, they say. Some students say they listen to English on them. Teachers say this is an excuse. They say most students use their player for music rather than for learning purposes.


Well, some nice music makes me feel better when I am bored. I was wondering if any student could use their player in the right way. Do all of them misuse their player?




Mobile phones are banned totally. The school has installed card phones on campus and the students are encouraged to call up their family and friends on them.


Mobile phones do disrupt learning if abused. But one student said that it feels so good to hear his parents on the mobile at mealtimes or on the way to his dorm. Can the students learn to use it properly?


The fact is that a lot of students still carry their mobile on them. They use it when there is no watchful eye on them.




The coming Wednesday, all the classes in Grade One will participate in a running competition, their second since they joined the school. Each class will run as a unit. They will be observed by the judges. Do they run at the same pace? Do they run in an orderly manner? Do they shout their running slogan loud enough?


Twice a day, a class runs. The first running is done after they get up around 6:30; the second during the break in the morning between the second and the third periods. All the classes run together, one class following another.


Students respond differently to the practice. A lot of students say that after the running they are tired and thirsty. And yet there is no drinking water available in the classroom. They also complain about running in bad weather – low temperatures, high temperatures and winds.




All the students have to wear their school uniform. It is a uniform world at school gatherings. There are rows and rows of school uniforms as far as the eye can see.


Last winter, when the temperature was too low, the students were allowed to wear their own clothes. “What a colourful world!” a journal keeper commented.




The majority of students say they are homework machines. They use almost all their non-class time on homework. Some skip meals for homework. All have to do their homework in the classroom after a quick lunch. One student wrote, “I have no time to think for myself.” Another wrote: “I have eaten too much knowledge. I cannot digest it. I am given no time.”


We appreciate the value of hard work. However, the fact is that the students are pushed too much. Why couldn’t teachers give a proper amount of work to their students?




All the students except a very few suffer from a sleep debt. The rule is that they go to bed at 10:30 and get up around 6. However, the quality of their sleep is poor. Some say they dream too much. One girl wrote that she was still working on her maths problems in her dream. I have read of quite a number of troubled sleep cases. Some said they cannot go to sleep until very late at night. They counted sheep, they tried to close their eyes, but they found their effort was in vain.


They have three longer breaks during a day – a breakfast break, a lunch break and a supper break. They have to rush through their meals before they return to their classroom and do their homework. No student is allowed to sleep in the dorm after lunch. Evening classes do not end until 10.




All the classes take turns working on administrative duty for the school. The class on duty keep order in the canteen and dorm, check class attendance and meeting attendance, keep the campus clean and enforce the various rules.


My classes did their turn earlier this year. It was an exhausting week for them. All reported boredom and exhaustion. And many said they learned a lot from the turn – responsibility, for instance. One boy said, “Being on duty helps me see how difficult it is to run the school. We should respect the work of the teachers and of the students on duty.”




Humans are born curious. Our curiosity is the driving force behind all our endeavours. Once our curiosity is satiated, we will feel the joy of learning.


The current system puts too much emphasis on the students’ short-term exam result. Good teaching and joy learning is belittled. A teacher’s first priority is to arouse the learner’s interest and to facilitate his exploration. It is a pity that spoon feeding and cramming plagues classrooms.




One girl student complained that since the beginning of the term, she has found her mind being slowed down. She said her mind was sharp last term. What she said is a reminder that a good learner has a sharp mind and is alert. Can a sleepy student stay alert? Can a bored student stay alert? Can a student mired in endless homework stay alert? Too much feeding blunts the mind. A numbed mind is next to dead.




Studying in a high school cuts the student off from the world. No TV, no newspaper, and no radio. What is going on in China and the world? Should he stay in touch with the world? Staying informed of the world is part of the learning. It is the need of the development of a normal human being.


There has been trouble in Lhasa, Tibet. Today I asked my students whether they had heard the news. They said NO.




I wish my students could live a balanced life. I wish all the nutrients needed for their physical growth and mental maturation were there in their daily diet – classroom learning, music, sports, socialising and being part of the community. Pursuing a high score is no mistake. But as with eating, giving all the time to poring over their books and exam questions while ignoring the other elements is unhealthy, and therefore harmful to their growth.


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