Dear Rainbow,


I have received the couple of email messages you sent to me. Thanks for writing. I am sorry that I have not made the time to answer up till now.


If you like, keep writing me. I’d enjoy hearing from you, and it should be a pleasure for me to learn more about you, your family and your career. But I am afraid I cannot reply to all your messages.


If my memory serves me correctly, you are the Rainbow I have known for so long a time. I came across you probably last year or the year before last in the room but you NEVER talked with me on the mike. I have got a number of UC IDs and I am sure that your name is on the pal list of one of my UC messengers.


Your writing tells me that you are a teacher of English, too. I was wondering what school you were doing – junior high school, senior high, or college. I respect all the English teachers in the country for we are doing a great but challenging job. Having been in the career for over a decade, I am keenly aware of what challenges an English teacher in China is faced with in his daily work.


There are many problems with the current education system in China. All the teachers have to ensure the students perform well in exams whether the kids are interested in the language or not. Nothing is wrong with scoring a high grade in exams. But when a teacher has to push, cram and spoon-feed all the while, I bet it is a painful and unpleasant experience for both the teacher and his pupils.


A conscientious and responsible teacher knows what to teach and how. There’s a lot more to our teaching career than just a high score. First of all, we have to arouse the students’ interest in the language. Then, we train them in all the four skills – reading, listening, speaking and writing, as well as helping them broaden their horizons and better their attitude towards life and society. A score in the exam is part of the product should the process be taken as a manufacturing one.


When teachers are evaluated heavily or solely on the students’ performance in the exam, what do you think the frontline teachers will do then? Even a fool would know that cramming and spoon-feeding do help the students heighten their score. Then lively classroom interaction is replaced by a string of exam papers. Laughter is gone, human interaction is lost, and fun is killed. Weekends turn into weekdays. Both the teachers and students suffer from a lack of sleep.


This a-blindfolded-donkey-turning-the-mill experience is costly to the nation. Learning is no longer a pleasure; it is a torture. Why should we blame those kids who have lost their appetite for learning? Why should the teachers be blamed for working recklessly towards a higher and higher score despite the fact that it is non-creative, mechanical and interest-killing?


Can we frontline teachers make a difference, though?


Yes, we can. First of all, we, teachers of English, should work hard to upgrade our language skills and to broaden our knowledge. It is widely acknowledged that Chinese teachers of English have low language proficiency and are unable to use the language well for communication even though equipped with a good knowledge of English grammar. A root cause of the problems we have with the career is, in many cases, that we are not proficient enough at the job.


Teaching is dedication. A good teacher knows that learning has no end. The teaching career is a learning career. Make full use of every minute available. Avoid chatting and gossiping in the office in Chinese. Speak more English in real life. Read more English. Listen to more English. And write.


Secondly, challenge the system anytime possible. Do not enslave ourselves. Do not fall victim to grades. Do not shrink from teaching English meaningfully. If no one stood out and said, “This system is wrong,” when would we see a change?


Actually I know very little about you, Rainbow. I hope what I have written above is of some help. I am an ordinary teacher. But I am fighting.


If you have access to the Internet, please exploit it to your advantage. I have found the web extremely helpful in my learning and teaching.


Best wishes,





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