The Chinese education system is turning young students into puppets and the government is the catalyst of this process of indoctrinating the youth.

Chinese education system is turning young students into puppets



Chinese educational model unlike modern models is an exceptional mixture of Confucian practice and present political schema. The population of students faces devastating academic loads, parental expectations, and a ferocious race. This research is focused on China’s education system highly influenced by sociocultural and political indoctrination, and how these affect the day-to-day lives and futures of Chinese students. This study is organized into four main sections. First part of the study presents a general overview of Chinese education system and a typical hard school day in a Chinese school extended to a present a difference between Chinese and Western education systems. The third section reviews indoctrination and political dynamics involved in Chinese education model reviewed and discussed in the light of available literature. Finally, the impact of such education system on the future of the students and the country as a whole is evaluated.

Chinese Education System

Chinese educational system is five tiered i.e. kindergarten, primary, junior middle, senior middle, and post-secondary or college/university. Admission into senior middle school is decided on national entrance exams called “Zhong Kao” while university entrance is subject high scores on “Gao Kao”. Gao Kao is an informal name for the tallest exam in a Chinese student’s life meaning, “tongue in the cheek.” Vocational schools are typically meant for those who fail to perform well on admission entrance exams. Given below is a schematic representation of education system in China (“China’s Education System, Chinese Students, and the Foreign English Teacher”).

Cost of education in China

Education in China turns out to be the most expensive in the world considering China’s GDP and average national income. It costs around 60% of the average household annual income. It can be easily concluded that quality education is limited to those who either perform outclass on the school’s entrance exams or the ones who are already financially very strong. (“China’s Education System, Chinese Students, and the Foreign English Teacher”).

A typical hard day in the life of a Chinese Student

A typical day in the life of a Chinese student is simply, “exhausting.” A typical school day begins around 7:40 am to 8:00 am in the early morning. There are around four to five sessions of 40-50 minutes each in the morning and then three to four such sessions in the afternoon with only 10 minutes intersession breaks. Primary and secondary schools usually close in the evening around 4:00 to 5:00 pm however the students go home with loads of homework after attending extra-curricular activities. In addition to morning and noon sessions, universities schedule evening classes that typically end around 9:30 p.m. Many schools and universities impose mandatory attendance in study halls in the late afternoon or evening hours. Faculty monitors manage and monitor attendance in these hours. They get enough homework to complete that binds them to stay at school usually until 11:00 pm to midnight. Mostly students have to stay in the same classroom for the whole school day while teachers circulate (“China’s Education System, Chinese Students, and the Foreign English Teacher”).

Weaknesses of Chinese Students

Researchers find the Chinese style and culture of learning as different or even mediocre in comparison to Western learning culture. Chinese students are quiet and respectful towards their teachers and books. They further add that Chinese students hesitate to ask questions or express their own opinions in public. They lack the factor of independent thinking thus completely relying on what their teachers pour into their minds (Ballard and Clanchy). They explain that Chinese students learn by imitating their teachers and the textbooks rather than by independent thinking. That is why their learning is reproductive thus lacking analytical or speculative attitudes. Carson and Conner establish the same opinions about these students. They further add that Chinese students rely heavily on memorizing and rote learning (Carson; Conner). Atkinson and Fox assert that Chinese student’s critical thinking is barred by their cultural beliefs in Confucianism. They believe critical thinking to be incompatible with their cultural beliefs in Confucianism (Atkinson; Fox).

Carson and Nelson argue that Chinese students avoid criticism and claiming authority. Influenced by the taught cultural values, they prefer to maintain harmony of the group instead of presenting their critique. Their interaction is directed dominantly by collective goals in contrast to US students who prefer criticism and focus individual goals (Carson and Nelson). Liu finds Chinese students as submissive to authority, who regard teachers as embodiment of knowledge and questioning teachers or challenging their authority is against the cultural values (Liu).

Researchers conclude the above characteristics of Chinese learners as a consequence of their learning culture which in turn is heavily influenced by Confucianism (Flowerdew, Nelson; Oxford).

Political Indoctrination in Education China past and present

Cultural Revolution in China was a socio-political movement started by then Chairman of Communist Party, Mao Zedong to reinforce communism and specifically socialism with Chinese characteristics. This revolution massacred education system and values in China as Mao Zedong termed knowledge as the culprit of social uncertainty. He was against the intellectual activities in the society as being threat to his governance. He viewed the educated lot as more rebellious and less obedient and needed to be reeducated by proletarian class (Huang). The impacts of Cultural Revolution in China can still be felt in behaviors of Chinese students who still hesitate to question the elders.

The People’s Republic of China has merged education with propaganda or indoctrination as part of communists’ reforms 1949-63. With no experience in governance, the new government imitated Soviet ideology thus disappearing advanced Westernized education and culture. Colleges and departments of long standing were eliminated without regard to established traditions or to the interests and scholarly contributions of their faculties. From curriculum to anything was imitated. One biggest flaw in the new system was that Chinese nation was not psychologically ready for this sudden and intensive change. The new system of education aimed at developing class consciousness so that all citizens, would fight for achieving a class. New ideologies were part of almost each subject unofficially (Ipfling).

Communists’ reforms 1949-63 have hurt education in China than anything. The impact was that parents had not only to pay for stationary of their school going children but also had to pay for teachers’ salaries. Dropout rate was highest among female part of the society. Higher education was despised. A 1982 survey reflects that only a high majority of population didn’t go to school beyond 12 years age and only 1% earned a degree. Education was badly despised by the “Red Guards of the cultural revolution” resulting in 130 million school dropouts, rejecting to learn as ‘bourgeois and reactionary’ (The impact of the Communists’ reforms 1949-63).

Political indoctrination in education in China is still active. (FlorCruz) states that Chinese government issued an official document for a new propaganda campaign to preach communism through young teachers aged below 40 years. The government also ensures to pay rewards and promotions to those who teach correct communist ideals. The writer further quotes a Beijing based professor who objects the government struggle to silence the calls for civil rights.

The following excerpts from “2009 Go China!” poem written by a teacher and recited by a Chinese student in a school clearly depict the level of propaganda still existent in the Chinese education system (Tan).

 “Snowstorm, freely falling down to earth, like western values, Despair fills the sky, ice covers the earth, Did China retreat? No. The Olympics were a success! We are victorious!”, “Pathetic Europe will never stop the insurmountable force of our great dynasty; Just the aftershocks from the earthquake would destroy France!”

What Education System in China does in fact?

Education system that is currently in place in China fosters memorization and rote learning instead of promoting creativity and critical thinking among the students. The following cartoon representation well-elaborates the outcomes of Chinese education system. The cartoon depicts that current Chinese Education System discourages creativity, critical thinking and intellectualism for the sake of safeguarding their rule, since these characteristics of educated lot promotes free-thinking and they express and communicate their views openly without any hesitation. While the present ruling communist party ideologically oppose any such stances. They think educated lot to be a threat to their rule and hence blame them to be rebellions.


The current education system model which strongly influenced by cultural reforms in favor of ruling communist party is in no way in par with international standards. Political indoctrination and communist teachings rooted in the system and purposed to block free, creative, and critical thinking among the educated lot is of no use to bring China to forefront as a technologically advanced and successful nation. On one hand, the misinterpreted Confucian theories and so called obedience are deteriorating the creative capabilities of the Chinese students while on the other hand, the schools and college entrance exams are designed to promote only memorization and rote learning while still giving them a feeling of failure upon scoring low on these wrong standards. Such a system can do nothing more than producing puppets. This is an issue of serious concern to be considered. Promotion of free thinking, critical and analytical approaches and rectification of political indoctrination are the major steps required urgently to recover the education system in China from these fatal diseases.



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