Sunday, 22 March 2009

Beij 3: Perfume girl kicks up a stink

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Perfume Girl (香水女生) will return to school next week, reported The Beijing News on Friday. This is the mundane conclusion of a story that involves Wang Tingting (王亭亭), a fourth-year German language student at Beijing Foreign Language Studies University (BFSU), and her criticism of China’s compulsory foreign language education.

"Buff Tingting"

On March 16th, Wang wrote that because of comments on her blog, which included criticism of China’s Ministry of Education (MOE), she had been forced by the university to quit her studies. While some have backed her criticism of the MOE and BFSU, many netizens have accused the girl of being interested purely in self-promotion - they smelled a rat, rather than perfume, and questioned why she would post so many photographs of herself on a blog entry about being kicked out of school.


The Peking Order, which takes an interest in both Chinese education and girls that look good in pink velour tracksuits, translated some of her blog to see if there is anything to her claims:

Zhao Benshan for Education Minister

In her first critical blog entry, Wang likened China’s Minister of Education to an “executioner with a stranglehold on human talent.” “Exam-based education, compulsory foreign language classes from elementary school, an inflexible college entrance exam system, and universities that do not allow transfer between departments,” she wrote, “are suppressing and destroying human talent.”

Wang went on to recommend Zhao Benshan (赵本山), a well-known Dongbei comedian, for the position of Education Minister. Unlike Zhao, who successfully popularised Dongbei dialect within 10 years, “the Ministry of Education is unable even to fully popularise Mandarin."

When Chinese people think of foreign languages, claimed Perfume Girl, the first thing people think of is not pleasure or fascination, it is “destroyed childhoods and the extreme study pressures of youth.”

Foreign languages depriving Chinese of the right to education

The next blog entry went on to complain that “foreign language study is depriving Chinese people of their right to education.” “Regardless of your interests or which direction you want to head in, whether it is history, Chinese, Chinese medicine, archaeology, foreign languages are a hellish gate that the you must pass through.” However talented someone might be at his or her own subject, she wrote, the talent will be choked out by an inadequate grasp of foreign languages.

Foreign languages holding Chinese people to ransom

In her final diatribe before claiming to be kicked out of university, Perfume Girl called on people to “abolish compulsory foreign language education.” This article describes how “foreign languages holding the lives of Chinese people to ransom,” how languages are emphasised at every stage of a young person’s development: from aged three, where “tiny souls are bewildered by foreign languages;” through to graduation where “spoken English, business English and all sorts of foreign language certification, are enough to stress anyone out.”

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Apart from a few nicely-written slogans and the amusing Zhao Benshan analogy, there is nothing special about these comments. Miss Wang’s blog entries are hardly objective criticisms, and like a lot of the Chinese articles I read, they lack logical reasoning and are not backed up with evidence. Her arguments could be summarised into two points: foreign language requirements might hold back those who would otherwise succeed in other subjects; and that many resent studying foreign languages in China.

Both might be acceptable evils if the current system was improving the level of English in China. However, if China's schools are making many unhappy and are stifling talent, then considering my experience of the English levels despite compulsory study, The Peking Order thinks that these complaints are legitimate and that it maybe about time for a drastic rethink of China's education system.

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According to a recent entry on Perfume Girl's blog, hackers have deleted all offending entries. Luckily, others have posted full copies of what she wrote:

Zhao Benshan for Education Minister (Chinese)
Foreign languages depriving Chinese of right to education (Chinese)
Foreign languages holding Chinese people to ransom (Chinese)

10 comments:

Horlic said...

Huh!! Pretty Girl

Horlic said...

Huh!! Pretty Girl

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fucking lol still stuck on the velour suits jez its got you writing essays here....

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