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English-language studies 'destructive' to China's education, says CPPCC deputy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 12:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 2:43pm

The head of a national research institute in China said English-language studies were "destructive" to education, which is facing an "unprecedented crisis".

Schools are placing too much emphasis on English, said Zhang Shuhua, head of the Intelligence Research Academy, adding that language studies should be treated as a means for social reform and development, but, instead, they are seen as an end.

He called it putting the cart before the horse. Zhang made the remarks on Monday at a discussion session during an annual gathering of China's political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Zhang said many students with good academic performance have been blocked from universities because of poor English test scores, government news portal China.com.cn reported on Monday.

He added that recent “English enthusiasm” in China has taken up a large chunk of educational resources, at a high cost but with little gains. 

Zhang argued it was “absolutely unnecessary” to impose English-language studies on students who pursue professions in Chinese medicine, ancient Chinese language, Chinese history and others that do not require the use of a foreign language.

In China, children start to learn English as early as kindergarten. In middle school, it is seen as the most important subject next to Chinese and mathematics. University students must pass a language test before they can graduate; some also take a more difficult test to pursue post-graduate studies. 

Because students devote more effort into passing English tests, they spend less time studying for courses for their major, dealing a "heavy blow" to overall education, Zhang said.

In any case, Zhang continued, despite their efforts, Chinese students may be mastering useless "mute English", referring to poor oral language skills.

The CPPCC deputy cited a 2010 survey by China Youth Daily that showed 80 per cent of people polled agreed that there is a language crisis and that Chinese skills are deteriorating. Of those, more than half blamed the emphasis on foreign language study.

Zhang suggested elementary and middle schools focus on teaching Chinese and maths and reduce other subjects such as biology and chemistry, which should be non-required courses. He urged that English-language programmes be reformed to move away from exams and adopt more applicable lessons. 

Founded in 2011 by national think tank Chinese Academy of Science, the Intelligence Research Institute mainly gathers, arranges and reports on domestic and global academic research and theory.

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This article is now closed to comments

Sunny
In my opinion, ideally, children need to be educated to be trilingual these days to become part of a global society. Being fluent in only one language is not ideal for children these days if you really want them to have more opportunities in the future and be able to converse with various kinds of people worldwide. Have your children learn one eastern and one western language, and you can give them a great foundation. Educational tools have also advanced these days to make learning easier. It is not like our parents’ generation anymore where only knowing one language is enough. Being bilingual or trilingual is necessary to adapt within the modern world.
tjkjloerlej
I hate to break the news but it is evident that China's bureaucrats are doing all they can to dumb down their citizens so they would not one day revolt against their system or regime. What's the best way of crowd and mind control ? Is to keep them living under the rock. Literally. The more people learn the language, the more prone they are to embrace the western culture, the closer they are to savvy the taste of true democracy and if I may say so if not too far-fetched, continual influx of knowledge outside of the Middle Kingdom would galvanize the country into a whole new cultural revolution. Forgive my melodramtic ending but I presume I've made my point.
ianson
As a matter of incontrovertible fact, English has become the world's anti-nationalist language. It is a force for global unity. As such, it is the natural enemy of the Chinese Communist Party with its antediluvian emphasis on patriotism and xenophobia which its leaders (a la Hitler and Mussolini) know all too well are so essential to its continued existence. English breaks down the barriers to a better, safer, kinder world.
lamlm38
most of the mainland europeans are very proficient in english.. the germans, dutch, scandinavians etc.. and all these countries are very prosperous.. except for the arrogant french!!!
tjkjloerlej
I'm flabbergasted a communist aka xiaoblueleaf would have allegorical insights. Do they import George Orwell novels in the mainland ? When are you going to cyber attack the supreme capitalist American financial institutions again?
tjkjloerlej
Quote from Shaylius. "Eventually happiness is the only thing that counts"
Sorry but I'm having a hard time understanding your philosophy maybe because it's too "Zen"for my taste. No one is imposing anything except the fact that English has always been the international language all these years and if the students of the SAR could become bilingual competent why can't the people in the Mainland?
shayliu
Correction: China who speak English => China who speak Chinese
napoleon_wang
英语学习不可偏废。作为一个未来的世界强国的国民。学习英语是必须的。学习不能太过于功利为了考试为了就业。应该从宏观去考虑。学习英语了解外国的文化外国的习俗。更好的交流更好的取长补短。这方面应该淡化考试。多培养英语的实际应用能力。针对提出对于中文学习的偏废绝对是多余的考虑。母语环境在。不存在偏废的可能性。
newgalileo
Monsieur Napoleon, je pensais qu'on utilisait l'anglais ici?
likingming
Know english and you will win every battle with foreigners !
知己知彼百戰百勝

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