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The rise of alternative education in China

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When  five-year-old Xiao Ge starts primary school in Guangzhou next
year, she  won't endure strict discipline and mountains of homework.
Unlike the  school life of most children in China, her days will be
filled with art,  music and creative learning at a private Waldorf
school.

明年五岁的肖格(音)就要在广州开始上小学了,她不需要受严格的纪律管制,做堆积如山的作业。和中国大多数孩子相比,她的日常生活主要是在一家华德福学校画画、音乐以及进行创意学习。


Xiao is part of a fast-growing number of Chinese children whose  parents
are turning their backs on the state-run education system, which  is
based on rote learning and limited critical thinking. Instead, they  are
choosing independently-run schools that use the Waldorf, Montessori,  
or Reggio Emilia pedagogies.

中国的公立教育系统以机械学习为基础,批判性思维教育不足,越来越多的家长开始对此不满了,肖格的父母就是其中之一。这些家长开始选择那些采用华德福、蒙特梭利或者意大利雷焦艾米利亚这些私立学校的教育理念的私立学校。


Despite a lack of regulation over these schools, parents prefer the  
humanistic approach of these classrooms and the perceived softer  
learning environment.

虽然国家在这些学校方面管理还不完善,但家长还是更喜欢这些学校的人文教育方法,以及更为轻松的学习环境。


"Compared with studying under the public system, my daughter will get  a
healthier education and life here," says Xiao's mother, Lu Dan, when  
we met at the Hairong Waldorf School Xiao is attending in the  
southeastern city of Guangzhou.

我们在位于广州东南市区的海容华德福学校碰到肖格的母亲卢丹(音)。她说,“跟在公立学校学习比,我女儿在这里接受教育和生活会更健康。”


As we tour the school, headmaster Wei Yueling, casually dressed in a  
tweed jacket and sneakers, playfully grabs one of the students by the  
waist and spins her in the air, making other kids scream with laughter.
At a state-run school, a similar scene of student-teacher bonding would
 be next to unthinkable.

我们在学校参观时,校长卫跃岭穿着花呢夹克和运动鞋,他开玩笑抱起一个学生让她在空中打转,其他学生都大笑。在公立学校,类似的师生亲密的场面几乎难以想象。


Global attention

全球瞩目

China has undeniably gained the world's attention for outstanding  
academic performance. Shanghai's 15-year olds lead in mathematics,  
science and reading, as seen in the 2013 Pisa survey by the Organization
 for Economic Cooperation and Development, rating the performance of  
children across 65 regions.

中国取得的杰出的学术成绩无疑受到全世界瞩目。2013年,经济合作与发展组织举办的Pisa调查对65个地区的孩子进行了测评,结果显示上海15岁大的孩子们在数学、科学和阅读方面独占鳌头。

Urban Chinese families are particularly invested in their children's  
education. Don Starr, a lecturer at Britain's Durham University, points
out in a research paper that these families spend more than 30% of
their  household income on their children's education, compared to 2% in
the  UK.

中国的城市家庭尤其重视孩子的教育投资。英国杜汉姆大学讲师东·斯达尔在一项研究报告中指出,中国城市家庭将30%的中国收入用于孩子的教育投资,而相比之下,应该只有2%。

 

But the "tiger mom, wolf dad" approach to education is not without  
consequence. Chinese youth suffer higher levels of depression and lower
self-esteem than their peers elsewhere. Last autumn, a 10-year-old boy
in the city of Chengdu reportedly jumped 30 floors to his death after  
failing to write a 1,000-word letter of self-criticism demanded by his  
teacher.

但这种“虎妈狼爸”的教育方式未必就没有不良影响。和世界其他地区的同龄人相比,中国的青少年更加忧郁,自信心不够。据报道,去年秋天,成都一名10岁的孩子没有完成老师要求写的1000字检讨,便从30层的楼上跳下摔死。

Perhaps in reaction to this phenomenon, China has seen a major  
expansion of alternative teaching establishments. These schools  
emphasize a holistic approach to education and use qualitative  
assessment methods, especially for kindergarten and primary school  
students.

或许是由于这些现象的缘故,中国新式教育机构在不断地增加。这些学校推崇全面教育理念,尤其是针对幼儿园和小学生,采用质化测评方法。

 While there are no official figures for the current number of  
alternative schools in China, headmaster Wei estimates that some 40  
schools and as many as 500 kindergartens operate across the country. His
 own primary school and three kindergartens in Guangzhou have about 300
 students, each paying CNY40,000 (US$6,500) a year, with 300 more
queuing  to get in.

中国还没有对新式学校的数目的官方统计,卫校长估计全国大概有40家学校以及500来家幼儿园。他自己在广州办的一家小学和三家幼儿园有大约300名学生,每人每年40000元人民币,还有300名学生等着进他的学校。

Education for the whole family

全家式教育

For Lu Dan and her husband, their choice of school is about much more  
than their daughter's education. The Waldorf philosophy can be embraced
by the whole family. With a focus on developing free-thinking and  
morally responsible individuals, the humanistic Waldorf concepts offer a
 sense of relief from the purely materialistic lifestyle that many of  
the country's new middle class have been caught up in.

对卢丹和她丈夫来说,他们选择学校不只是给女儿选择接受怎样的教育。华德福教育理念值得全家接纳。华德福注重培育能自由思考有道德担当的个人,这种人文主义的教育理念给人一种摆脱了纯粹物质生活方式的感觉,这正是中国许多新兴的中产阶级所追求的。

Two years ago, Lu attended a Waldorf workshop where she met Wei. She recalls becoming immediately captivated by the philosophy.

两年前,卢丹参加了华德福教育研讨会,认识了卫校长。她回想说自己立即被这种教育理念所吸引。

"It was like a calling, like realizing your destiny," Lu says. "Waldorf became the start of a more relaxed and happier life."

“就像是一种召唤,像是实现了自己的使命,”卢丹说,“华德福开启了我们更加轻松幸福的生活。”

One of the first things the family did was to get rid of their  
television and computer games, which immediately opened up plenty of  
time for "real life and real play," says Lu.

他们家首先做的就是不要电视,不玩电脑游戏,立即便给他们“真正地去生活去玩耍”腾出很多时间,卢丹说。

They are far from alone. Some 40 families have moved to the area  where
the school is, creating a community for like-minded people. Many  
parents volunteer for the school, which regularly hosts workshops on  
Waldorf education and related topics, often featuring experts from  
abroad.

跟他们一样的人还有很多。大约40个家庭搬到学校所在的地区,建立了一个志趣相投的社区。学校定期办华德福教育及相关话题研讨会,研讨会主要由国外专家主持,许多家长给学校当志愿者。

Headmaster Wei studied the Waldorf pedagogy in 2007, after which he  
left his nine-year career as a photographer to open his first  
kindergarten. He observes that many parents come to his school with a  
desire to change their lives, but not knowing how. Many parents think  
that you should not let the child lose at the starting line. Lu Ziwen

卫校长于2007年学习了华德福教育理念,之后他丢掉做了9年的摄影师工作去开办自己的第一家幼儿园。他发现许多家长来他学校,都怀着想改变生活的愿望,但他们求变无门。

"I speak to parents who don't know how to play with their children  
anymore. They just put them in front of the television screen," he says.
 "Often the father is working so much and comes home so late at night  
that the child hardly knows they live in the same apartment. After  
coming to our school they learn good ways to be with their children.  
They get more quality out of life. Waldorf is a therapeutic form of  
education that can help the whole family."

“我跟一些不知道该如何与孩子玩耍的家长谈话。那些家长只知道把孩子往电视机前一放。”他说。“通常,爸爸工作忙,晚上很晚回家,以至孩子都感觉不
到他和爸爸同住一个屋檐下。来到我们学校后,他们学习好好地与孩子们相处。他们的生活质量提高了。华德福教育具有治愈功能,对整个家庭都有帮助。”

 

Doubts over authenticity

可靠性的质疑

Some say, however, that alternative schools are proliferating out of  
control. There are few regulations around the growth of these private  
schools. The U.S.-based Montessori Foundation and the Association of  
Waldorf Schools both offer online courses for those interested in  
starting a school. Teacher education programs are also available  
involving at least one year of study.

然而,有人说,这些新式学校数目激增得有点过头。在私立学校建立方面,国家还没有多少管理法规。在美国的蒙特梭利基金会和华德福教育联合会都在网上给那些有小孩要开始上学的家长开办了课程。他们也提供了教师培训项目,参加者需要学习一年。

However, as the demand for these schools go up in China, some are  
hastily opened without a full understanding of the philosophy behind the
 brands.

然而,中国对这些学校需求的提高,使得一些人未完全领会这些教育品牌之后的理念便仓促开办学校。

 Gina Lofquist, the director of the Montessori education program at  
Xavier University in the U.S., sees the number of Montessori schools  
explode in China, but doubts that there are enough qualified teachers to
 fill the new classrooms.

吉娜·罗奎斯特是美国萨维尔大学蒙特梭利教育中心负责人。她看到了中国蒙特梭利学校在猛增的情况,但她觉得这些新开办的学校合格的老师会不够。

 "I've been to so-called Montessori preschools where there was not a  
trace of Montessori material," says Lofquist. "Instead, they had a big  
flat screen television in the middle of the room, something that goes  
totally against our beliefs. There's no way to train enough teachers for
 all those new schools. A lot of money is being made from these  
franchises but the parents are not getting what they pay for."

“我去过所谓的蒙特梭利学前班,那里根本没有蒙特梭利教育的痕迹。”罗奎斯特说。”相反,教室正中央还有一台大屏平面电视,这与我们的理念是完全相悖的。这些机构挣了很多钱,但家长并未得到他们想要的结果。”

The same situation can be seen at other private schools, including  
Waldorfs, according to several teachers and parents in Guangzhou and  
Hong Kong that we spoke with.

我们采访了广州和香港的几位老师和家长,据他们说,其他私立学校也存在类似情况,包括华德福。

Despite the growing interest in alternative education forms, most  
Chinese parents are still reluctant to hop on the bandwagon. The biggest
 fear is that opting out of the state-run system will lower their  
child's chances at passing the notorious "gaokao," the national college
entrance exam that determines which Chinese university a student will  
enter.

尽管时下有这种新式教育热,大多数中国家长不愿意跟风。他们最大的担心便是退出公立教育体系,孩子通过“高考”机会就降低了,这个全国性入学考试决定孩子进哪所大学。

Lu Ziwen, professor of English language at Central China Normal  
University and a member of the state English curriculum standard team,  
is far from convinced by alternative education.

陆子文是华中师范大学英语教授及全国英语课标组组员。他不是很信任新式教育。

Less homework, he argues, is not the path to future success. "Many  
parents think that you should not let the child lose at the starting  
line," he says, referring to a popular proverb.

他说,作业更少并非是未来成功的途径。“许多家长都觉得不能让孩子输在起跑线上。”这是中国一句流行语。

 

All this seems far removed from Xiao Ge who is happily playing on the  
swings in the school playground, unconcerned about future exams and  
career prospects. Instead, she is putting all her energy into being just
 a child.

正在新式学校操场上快乐地荡秋千的肖格似乎和这些毫无关系,她不用担心考试和未来的职业选择。她只是全身心地享受她的童年。

2016-06-23

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