The school authorities launched an “Efficient Teaching” campaign at the beginning of the semester. The term will be over next week. Shengliver needs to sort out his thoughts on the campaign so that he could do better in his own day-to-day practice.


What is the definition of the word “efficient”?



Effective, producing the desired result with the minimum wasted effort


Excerpted from Oxford Talking Dictionary

Copyright 1998 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


The purpose of the campaign is to promote and increase efficiency in classroom teaching and learning, and hopefully in the whole teaching and learning process.


The rules are as follows:


Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evening, a teacher of liberal arts (Chinese, English, politics, history, and geography) gives a lesson in Lecture Theatre One and a teacher of sciences (maths, physics, chemistry, and biology) in Lecture Theatre Two. Each teacher is required to observe at least four lessons a month. After the lesson, the teaching team get together, discuss it and give feedback to the teacher who taught the lesson.


Why did the authorities start this campaign? Is something wrong with the present teaching?


They think so. One piece of evidence they hold is that the number of graduates admitted by top Chinese universities has been too small. Another piece is that the school has not completely beaten the other high schools in the city.


If a student hopes to enter a top Chinese university in China, he has to score high in the National Matriculation Test. To score high, he has to be able to answer the exam questions correctly. Consequently, he has to work hard, extremely hard, whether he is smart or not. In China, the learner’s own effort seems to be far from enough to ensure his success in the exam. Then at school some professionals help the learner with his mission – these professionals are called teachers.


If I ask you whether you think my high school is good, you will probably ask me how many of my students are able to enter top Chinese universities. The truth is that my high school is officially and unofficially evaluated on the basis of the students’ performance in the annual National Matriculation Test. After the results are out every summer, the education authorities put the results of different schools together and come up with a tally like the Olympic medal list.


The local media report heavily on the results. The top student is interviewed on TV. His success story is printed in the newspaper. His teachers are honoured. Of course his success wins acclaim for his high school. The high schools advertise or applaud themselves by releasing congratulatory messages on TV, in the paper and even on a long strip of red cloth strung across the school gate, telling the public how wonderfully their students have performed in the EXAM.


If my school got a top place on the tally, the president would be happy. Then the staff would be happy, too. The results would prove my school was the best of the three high schools in the city. Naturally the public opinion would be that the teachers here were excellent. The canteen where the students ate was the best, too. The teachers would receive a generous bonus for their hard work and for their contribution to the making of a STAR school.


After the results are announced, the general public talk about them feverishly. They comment on which school is the best and which is the worst. Their conviction is led and reinforced by the media coverage.


In this race for fame, money or whatever, who suffers and who gains? What if my school does not perform the best? What will follow? Can you imagine, my reader?


Now let’s come back to the topic of EFFICIENT TEACHING. It is obvious that the final product of the “Efficient Teaching” campaign is the school’s performance, or rather its students’ performance in the BIG exam, as the school leaders have stressed repeatedly.


To increase efficiency is to increase the percentage of the students who get high marks in the exam.


The point is: How can the students get high marks in the exam?


Look at the following practices in classroom teaching and after classroom teaching and in the running of the school as a whole. They are pronounced “inefficient” but why do they exist among the educators in my school and other schools as well in China?




The more you practise, the better you will perform. A fool would know that to win a race, he would have to run faster and that to gain weight, he would have to eat more. The teachers assign unreasonable amounts of homework and the students spend almost all their after-class time doing one paper after the other. They have to meet the deadlines, for the teachers will have the work collected on time, checked, marked, and handed out. After the paper is returned, they have to correct the mistakes they made. Some students skip their meals to get the work done. After the lights are switched off in the dorm at night, some do their work in bed using a torch.




A typical scene in a Chinese classroom is that the teacher seems to be talking all the time. The students sit there and listen or pretend to listen. Why won’t the teachers talk less and give more time to the students? The answer is to save time. To save time, the teachers leave out what is considered useless for the written exam. If the students talk in class, others might believe they are not learning. They are playing and their teacher is playing, too. If the teacher did not keep talking, how could the students get the knowledge? If the teacher did not keep talking, what would be the use of the teacher? If the teacher did not keep talking, how could we, his colleagues observing the lesson, know that he was good?




A Chinese student has a disproportionate amount of respect towards his teachers. Respect means distance. The teachers are busy with their teaching and the students with their learning. They have no time to talk with each other. Does a teacher know all his students? And does he know more about his students than their names and their marks – their family, their likes and dislikes and more?




The most commonly used method is chalk and talk plus papers, for this method is cheap and fast and traditional and it does not take a lot of creativity and the teacher does not need a lot of special skills. Everybody uses it. However, teaching is all about working with humans and therefore it is an art. It appears that the teachers are focusing on achieving the goal – helping the students perform well in exams. But the unwillingness on the teachers’ part to try new ways leads to boredom. The youngsters need variety and creativeness in the teaching and learning process to learn well and to focus their attention on what they are learning. Boredom is the killer of their passion and their craving for knowledge.




Some senior staff members are happy with the way they teach. They are not willing to learn more. The past decades have witnessed great leaps in science and technology. Computers and the Internet have changed the way we live, work and learn. Some teachers have a computer and they have access to the web. But little technology is used in their teaching. To be honest, a lot of students know more about the computer than their teachers do.


On my mind there is a hard question. I would not put the question to a teacher face to face. But I use the question to urge myself to go further and higher regarding my teaching qualifications. Am I good enough? Should I stay where I am and be complacent? Can I be better? A teacher has to know his stuff well. And learning never ends for a teacher. As years go by, a teacher should see his knowledge, skills and expertise growing, much like an artist or a shoe repairer does.




Some teachers rush through their teaching. Their theory is that the faster they go, the better the students will do and that the more homework the students do, the higher marks they will get. But learning takes time and patience. When a learner is learning something new, it takes him time to imitate, to think, to do and to learn it. All humans learn this way. Like rain water sinks into the soil, knowledge and skills take time to sink into the learner.


Having sat through the lessons in my school’s “Efficient Teaching” campaign, I have come to realise that to make a difference to this system, a Chinese educator needs courage to approach his teaching and his students in an alternative way. We should not put the exams at the centre of our job. Instead we should keep in mind that the principle of “people first” works in teaching, too. When other teachers pile excessive work on the students, do you have the courage to give your students less homework? Do you take time to help the learners take in the learning and digest it? If your class do worse in an important exam, do you have the courage to face your teenagers and smile still? Do you believe that to make them improve their exam results in the next exam, you should go back to cramming? Is there an alternative to spoon-feeding and cramming? What is it?


In time, we will see that our work goes far beyond the exams. When the youngsters turn into responsible citizens years from now, they will recall what we did. The care we show and the communication between the teacher and the students matter very much, much more than the high marks we could help them or push them or force them or cajole them to score in exams.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kelly
    Nov 02, 2009 @ 16:58:18

    We are under similar circumstance. I think it is fast pace of society,the high expection,fierce job competition,education system and evaluation tendency that contribute to high school problems.


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