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An antidote to money-oriented education

The writer, Wang Li, is committed to rediscovering the education of the good old days in the 1920s or 1930s and her book, Looking for the Lost Education Tradition, deserves serious consideration, not just by the government, but also by parents.

What makes her study so significant is her own experiences as a primary and middle school teacher, and thus her personal knowledge of where the problems lie in our education system.

In one of the pieces, a primary school in Huai'an adopted a detailed code of conduct for students to learn about leading a decent and healthy life. In another remote village, students were taught how to get along with others.

What the education tradition required of students nearly a century ago turns out to be what many of their counterparts lack today. The requirements of the past are still necessary today.

It seems the convenience and material wealth industrial development has brought us has failed to expand our vision when it comes to social progress. Education is no exception.

Few parents tend to see beyond the immediate achievements of having their child enter a key primary and high school, and then a prestigious university, before finally landing a decent job.

Teachers are too concerned about the bonuses they can get from their students' performance in exams and the credit attached to the number of students they help enroll in key universities.

However, competition throughout society is much more fierce than it used to be in the 1920s or 1930s. No school president, those in key schools in particular, can afford to shift the priority from students' exam scores to enhancing their development and instilling the qualities students need to contribute to society.

Suzhi jiaoyu (well-rounded education) is a common expression today. But it remains on the lips and has seldom been given serious consideration and implemented. An increasing number of people consider it a label, under which anything that might distract students from their exam preparations can be listed.

The lost education tradition, which emphasized the importance of equipping students with enough qualities to contribute to the building of a nicer world to live in, needs to be regained as an antidote against today's education that overemphasizes techniques to do well in exams.

It is understandable that all parents hope that their children will get the best and most out of life. Yet, the world would be a nicer place to live in if the majority of people were not only thinking about what they can get, but also about what they can give.

Both parents and schools need to develop a vision beyond the immediate benefit to both students and schools of a good exam result.

To realize this, it is not just the education system that needs to be redesigned, efforts are also needed to create an environment in which there are no extra classes to push parents and students. In other words, schools should not be an industry with profit as its priority.

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