Advisor decries emphasis put on English learning


“Undue importance attached to English learning is sabotaging Chinese education and improper methods of teaching English language are squandering social resources.So I suggest we begin to emphasize Chinese and professional education more,” Zhang Shuhua, a member of the CPPCC National Committee, China’s top advisory body, said at the ongoing annual parliamentary meeting.

China is in the middle of reform and opening up, and English language is regarded as an effective tool to facilitate the process, according to Zhang, a CPPCC member and principal of the Information Intelligence Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, but he warned that many government departments and institutes are attaching so much importance to the language that a single-minded craze to learn English is hurting people’s professional development and reducing their native language proficiency.

Once put forward, the proposal soon attracted public attention and made rounds in social media.

Based on an online survey by of 95,751 netizens, 90.6% of respondents supported the view of Zhang, sharing the concern that excessive English teaching and learning may hurt Chinese education.

And 42.82% of the respondents believe the ‘overwhelming popularity’ of English has also dragged down professional education. Another 27.69% agree that the current weight and importance put on English learning is irrational and would result in waste of social resources.

In any case, it seems the craze for English has indeed reached the peak in China.

“Our kids are forced to learn English from kindergartens; during the primary and high school period, English is listed with Chinese and Math as the top three subjects; in college, students with poor English marks are left in danger of failing to earn their degrees,” Zhang Shuhua said, adding that in such circumstances, most college students begin to neglect their major courses.

And the result is that the “college education in China has been degrading these years, and has now reached almost the bottom level” compared with other countries.
Even for the postgraduate entrance exams, English marks could wield the power of veto. Every year professors could see students talented in their majors being phased out for failing the English exams and those with good grades in English but mediocre performance in specialized courses going through.

Worse still, in China, almost all evaluations for professional positions would include English exams no matter how relevant the subject is, and whether or not English will be needed for the day-to-day work.
“In one word, English proficiency is seen as a prerequisite for surviving in the society,” commented Zhang.

According to him, the craze is also squandering valuable social resources, because of the gap between theory and practice in English teaching.

“From primary school to college, every Chinese student would spend 12 years on learning it. And finally they are only supposed to pass several exams,” said Zhang, citing Zhang Daozhen, one of the most venerable English teachers in China, who once labeled English learning in China as ‘dumb’, because even after long years of strenuous learning, most students could barely communicate in English or even utter some words correctly.

@但山律师:Having worked as a high school teacher for 16 years, I totally support the proposal by Zhang Shuhua. Both teachers and students are wasting their valuable time and energy considering the fact that most Chinese people would not work in the fields where English communication is a must.

@黄昏佳人2012:When it comes to learning English, Chinese people could really go crazy. I suggest making it a selective subject in high school. And we should value Chinese teaching and learning more. For middle school students, Chinese ancient literature, modern literature, aesthetics, and logic should be made compulsory courses, as these subjects could help elevate civil culture.

“Irrational ‘craze’ for English does exist in the society. But, every coin has two sides. If we refuse to learn the most widely used language in the world, we could hardly gain any progress. Language is a tool for us to learn from another culture, so we need to learn and use it well,” Cao Zhiming, the principal of Beijing Guangming Foreign Language School, said.



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