In this episode, I talk about what’s known as an “education factory” in China. This “education factory” is held in a rural area in the Anhui province and holds roughly 20,000 students, which is 4 times the reported local population. Why is it called an “education factory”? Let’s find out! 

哈喽,大家好。我是Kaycee。

中国高三的学生们最近刚忙完高考。高考一般是每年6月份举行,今年因为疫情的关系推迟了一个月。高考可是相当的残酷,是中国大学录取学生的唯一标准,考的分数决定你去哪所大学。

我们知道,中国人对教育是非常看重的。教育可以改变命运。 所以高三,高考的时候往往是学生和家长们最紧张的时候。对于一个贫困家庭或者普通家庭的孩子来说,考好了可以上好大学,在中国就是所谓的一本大学,竞争力非常高。大学毕业,更有可能找到好的工作,有稳定的,较高的收入。落榜了很可能就是干体力活,低收入。

中国目前大概有13,700 多所高中,其中在安徽一座偏僻的小镇里有一个极其特殊的学校,叫做毛坦厂中学。毛坦厂可以说是一个教育工厂,来这儿读书的大部分都是农村孩子,有些也是高考挂科了的孩子。

为什么叫教育工厂呢?

毛坦厂中学是中国最神秘的“备考学校”之一:这是一所强化记忆工厂,有2万名学生,人数是这个小镇的官方人口的四倍。他们不分昼夜地学习,为高考做准备。毛坦厂中学的学生大部分来自农村,而高考为他们提供了一个机会,让他们不被农田和工厂生活所局限,能靠努力学习和高分来改变家庭的命运。

本来中国教育系统就比西方国家的教育系统更严厉一些。但是我们看看毛坦厂学生的日程,大概就明白为什么管它叫教育工厂了。

毛坦厂的生活大概是这样:早上 6:00 起床,6:00 早自习,7:30 早自习结束,吃早饭,8:20 上课,中午 12:00 午休,下午2:00 上课,大多数都是吃了午饭,立马回到教室随便趴一会就看书,下午 5:30 下课,然后吃晚饭,6:30 晚自习,一直到 10:30,就是做题做题做题,11:00 学校关灯,大多数同学都是下了晚自习一直看书到 11:00 熄灯再回去。

回去就是洗澡睡觉,住宿舍的大多数还要用小台灯再看会书,外面租房的还要学习到一两点。宿舍是12人一间,上下铺,有个阳台。每天的生活真的是三点一线,教室食堂宿舍,几乎没有任何的娱乐活动,很少有和外界的联系,也很少跟自己的父母见面。

学习方法主要是靠死记硬背和不断的做题,考试。周考,月考,不断的循环。还有就是一定要听老师的话。不听话的话,有些老师真的会打人。

比起工厂,对于我们这些一出生就很幸运的人来说,这更像是一所监狱。但是对于在那儿读书的农村孩子来说,他们这么努力的读书真的是为了改变自己的命运,改变父母的命运。他们特别拼命就是为了能上名校,实现梦想。我们所认为的打引号的“工厂”或“监狱”,对于拼命想实现梦想的人来说,那就是天堂

在这儿,希望中国刚高考完的孩子们,尤其是毛坦厂的孩子们,能拿到好成绩。我们下周见。

English translation (as translated by Amber Godsland)

Hello, hi everyone, I’m Kaycee.

Final year high school students in China have just finished the Gaokao (the college/university entrance examinations). The Gaokao is normally held at the end of every June, but it was delayed by a month this year due to the pandemic. The Gaokao is quite cruel: it is the only standard by which Chinese universities admit students, and the exam results determine which university you can attend.

As we know, Chinese people value education highly. Education can determine your fate, so students and parents are most nervous during the final year of high school when students sit the Gaokao. For the children of both impoverished and ordinary families, passing the exam can lead to a good university. The competition is fierce for places at top universities. Graduates are more likely to find a better job with a higher and more stable salary. Failure will likely lead to low-income manual labour.

China currently has more than 13,700 high schools, among those is a very special school in a small remote town in Anhui called “Maotanchang High School”. It could be said that Maotanchang is an “Education Factory”. Most of the students who study there come from the countryside. Some are students who failed the Gaokao.

Why call it an “Education Factory”?

Maotanchang High School is one of China’s most mysterious prep schools; a factory for strengthening the memory. It has 20,000 students, which is four times that of the local town’s population. They study day and night to prepare for the Gaokao. The majority of the school’s students come from the countryside. The Gaokao provides them with an opportunity to lead a life not just limited to fields or factories. Studying hard and attaining a high score can change a family’s fate.

China’s education system has been considered more stringent than Western countries. By looking at a Maotanchang student’s daily schedule, we can see why it is dubbed an “Education Factory”.

Life at Maotanchang looks like this: 6am: get up, 6am: self-study, 7.30am: end morning self-study and eat breakfast, 8.20am: start class, 12.00pm: break, 2.00pm: start class (most students immediately return to the classroom to read after eating lunch), 5.30pm: finish class and eat dinner, 6.30pm: self-study, until 10.30pm: practice questions, practice questions, practice questions, 11.00pm: school turns the lights off. Most students study until lights off then return to the dormitory to shower and sleep. 

Most dormitories have small desk lamps so students continue studying. Students who rent flats outside study until 1am or 2am. Dormitories are twelve students to a room, with upper and lower bunks and a balcony. Everyday life follows the same cycle — the classroom, the canteen, the dormitory — with nearly no recreational activities and little contact with the outside world, they don’t even see their parents much.

The main study method is rote learning with non-stop practice questions and exams, with a continuous cycle of weekly and monthly exams. The teacher must be listened to, if not then some teachers really will hit their students.

For those of us who were born lucky, it seems like a prison instead of a factory.  But the students from the countryside are studying so hard to change their own fate and the fate of their parents. They will do whatever they can to realise their dreams and attend a top university. We may consider it a “factory” or “prison”, but for those striving for their dreams it is heaven.

I hope the students who have just finished the Gaokao, especially those who attend Maotanchang, achieve great results. See you next week.