In this episode, we borrow the plot from the TV series 《小舍得》to explore China’s junior to high school education culture.

哈喽,大家好,我是Kaycee。

内卷

开始之前我想跟大家分享一个我看最近在中国用的比较多的一个词,叫:内卷。这跟我们接下来要讲的有一点关系。这是网语哈,一种slang。它的本意是指人类社会在一个发展阶段达到某种确定的形式后,停滞不前或者无法转化为另一种高级模式的现象。

那这个网语呢,最早来源于几张名校学霸的图片。

大学生们刷爆朋友圈的几张“内卷”图片是这样的:有的人骑在自行车上看书,有的人宿舍床上铺满了一摞摞的书。这些图片最早在清华北大的学霸之间流传。之后,“边骑车边看电脑”的“清华卷王”等热门词语登上热搜,相关的表情包也出现在了不少大学生的社交软件中。

现在呢,这个词又有了进一步的演变,有很多高等学校学生用这个词来代表非理性的内部竞争或“被自愿”竞争。

这一期的内容呢,我们又回到了教育方面的话题。如果要贴一个标签的话,我觉得“内卷”这个标签非常适合我们这一期的内容。

为什么呢,我们来看一看。

教育方式

中国一直有着这种补习班文化。说是补习班、培训班、辅导班都可以。这些词都是大同小异的,可以相互交叉性使用。在中国,孩子的教育往往是家长们最大的焦虑。现在呢,国家开始规范化培训机构了,比如在教室面积、教师人数、消防达标的前提下才会颁发运营执照。国家规定在职教师不可以从事课外补课的兼职工作,小学生也不可以补课。还有很多其它相关的规定,我只是挑出了几个重点,为大家提供一个中国社会关于小孩儿教学方面,补习班文化的大背景,把所有的规定都念出来也挺无聊的,是吧,就不浪费大家的时间了。

那,怎么想到要聊聊补习班文化这个话题呢?最近在追一部剧叫《小舍得》。里面反映的现象,我觉得还挺有意思的。这是一部反映小学升初中题材的电视剧,讲了父母、老师之间不同的教育方式。据《小舍得》原著作者鲁引弓介绍,原著小说里90%以上的素材都是真的,他说:“那些细节桥段都是真的,因为编不出来。比如小说里头写到小孩子补课补到带帐篷去,有人觉得是假的,但实际上这种恰恰是我无法去编的。”在鲁引弓看来,“这种生活中的荒诞,超过了我们的想象”。

确实,小说都源于真实生活嘛。这部剧里的很多剧情确实很真实。为什么这么说呢?因为本人也经历过嘛,亲眼也看过。

那好,我先大概的介绍一下剧里涉及到的两家人和他们对孩子们的教育态度和形式吧。

哦,介绍之前,先说一下,从现在开始就有一些剧透了。如果大家想看这部剧的话而且不想被剧透,可以等看完之后回来再听。如果不介意的话呢,可以继续听下去。

剧里,关键的两个家庭,一方面是田雨岚这个小家庭的“鸡娃教育”,这也是一个最近在中国常看到的流行语,也就是打鸡血式教育孩子。口头禅就是:为了孩子好。这个在中国是很典型的“望子成龙、望女成凤”的一种教育方式。田雨岚对儿子,颜子悠,的管理很严格,跟很多西方国家“放养”式的教育恰恰相反。在这样的“鸡娃教育”里,家长可能从小学一年级就开始给孩子补课,对孩子入学所需要的各种竞赛很重视,各种补习班和升学路线图都画的特别清晰,甚至连错题笔记都比孩子记得要认真。

另一方面是提倡“快乐教育”的南俪这一家。起初,南俪是坚持不让自己的女儿夏欢欢上补习班的,但是当自己的孩子的成绩越来越落后,这带来的恐慌也让南俪把女儿送进补习班了。

南俪和田雨岚之间的关系是这样的。南俪的爸爸和妈妈再她高考前两个月的时候离婚了,离婚之后南俪的爸爸跟田雨岚的妈妈结婚了。所以南俪和田雨岚这两个家庭呢,属于是重组家庭。这里面还有一些其它的小细节,跟我们今天聊的无关,我就不说了。颜子悠上6年级,夏欢欢上5年级。

一个具体的主题我想挑出来讲的是相互比较这一情况,以及它所带来的影响。

比较

田雨岚

最突出的就是田雨岚炫耀自己的孩子。饭桌是最好不过的地方了呀,尤其是这种重组家庭的饭桌上。那边南俪的女儿欢欢唱了首歌,这边田雨岚不能落后啊,马上让子悠现场背圆周率,还炫耀已经可以背到2000多位了,场面搞得十分尴尬,但田雨岚却乐在其中。

对田雨岚这样的家长来说,孩子的成绩高于一切,情绪也随着成绩而波动。回家看见子悠没在写作业,立马大怒,并出言责备,最后知道儿子这次考试的成绩不错,又马上对子悠嘘寒问暖,搞的孩子不知所措。

这是母亲拿自己的孩子来做比较。

南俪

我们再来看看南俪这一家。确实,当欢欢的成绩变成班级倒数的时候,欢欢的父母着急了,把孩子送进补习班了。某种程度上,这也算是拿孩子跟全班同学比较吧,但是天下父母,没有谁会完全不在意自己儿女的成绩和教育吧。所以,这是可以理解的。南俪一开始的时候也没有像田雨岚那么的极端,还是很温柔的对待欢欢。

真正开始转变的时候是南俪被降职的时候。被降职的原因之一是因为她的学历不如别人所以被顶替了。这让南俪深受打击,也彻底颠覆了她一直坚信的教育理念。开始逼着欢欢抓紧一切时间学习。

这就是南俪在职场上在学历方面被比较了。

辅导老师:钟益

还有就是剧里的一名辅导老师,叫钟益。钟益在这剧里的角色是挺有争议性的,如果你看弹幕的话,是各种各样的评论。虽然是配角但是角色还是挺复杂的。好,大家可能也猜到了,这种复杂性呢,也跟今天的内容没有太大的关系,所以我们把这些复杂性放到一边。根本上来讲,他还算是个好老师。

为了给孩子们补课,南俪和田雨岚找到了钟益。钟益纠结了一会儿之后答应了,但是要求另外一个学生,叫米桃,免费加入。米桃是贫困家里的孩子,父母都是从乡下来到大城市的,之后把孩子接过来,让孩子享受一下大城市所带来的教育和机遇。米桃很聪明。没有补课也经常拿班级第一。钟益还是很想培养米桃的,想让米桃最终成为成功人士。

那好了,大家这样一起上课。米桃学习好、成绩好。欢欢学习也不是那么的用心,成绩也没有那么好。所以总是时不时拿欢欢和米桃来比较,总是不停地说米桃比欢欢优秀。南俪也是如此,总是让欢欢向米桃学习。家长和老师的双重打压下,欢欢变得越来越不开心,甚至觉得自己的妈妈喜欢米桃超过喜欢自己。

欢欢开始嫉妒米桃,对她的态度也越来越不好。不仅在钟益的辅导班里是这样,就连在学校里欢欢也不搭理米桃,还带动自己其它的好朋友疏远米桃。两个原本是关系很好的朋友,但是不开心的事情越积越多,甚至还因为一点小事发生口角。

还好班主任及时对欢欢进行了疏导。不然欢欢差一点就从一个阳光开朗、乐于助人的好孩子变成了一个自私、霸道的坏小孩儿。

生活中,有太多像南俪这样的家长,也太多像钟益这样的老师,他们总是习惯性地把两个孩子作比较,分出高低。他们以为不停地比较能让稍微弱的孩子知道自己与别人的差距,能激励他们更加努力。然而事实上,往往会适得其反,稍弱的孩子会因为过多的比较而产生自卑、叛逆的心理。欢欢就是这样,南俪和钟益过度地把她和米桃进行比较,差点害了她,让她变成一个自卑、心胸狭隘的孩子。

颜子悠

最后我们回到颜子悠这里。在田雨岚施加的压力下,子悠确实心理状态上出了些问题。不断的学习压力和日益封闭的内心让子悠没有地方得到发泄。

每一次他在田雨岚陪伴下参加数学竞赛都发挥失常。田雨岚其实是子悠的心魔。可是田雨岚关心的只是成绩,并没有注意到自己儿子心理上的变化。一次一次的逼迫让子悠心理压力越来越大。最后,子悠抑郁了。这只是一个六年级的孩子啊,10岁、11岁左右,就已经焦虑、抑郁了。

面对这样的结果,田雨岚也是很心疼的,在家人的劝说下,她也明白了成绩不是靠逼出来的,也是需要适当地引导。

这剧里讲的,很多都是很真实的事实。在中国,上了好的小学,才能上好的初中。去了好的初中才有机会考入好的高中。去了好的高中才更能考上好的大学。那这一环一环的升学需要看的是什么呢?不就是成绩嘛。就像剧里所描述的,拿到好的成绩,很多时候不补课是很难做到的。所以不补课也不行,补课过油了也不行。我觉得呀,这部剧的重点之一就是让父母们拿捏好程度。不要过于激进,也不要过于放松。每一个孩子都有自己的优势和弱势,教育就是怎么样去引导发挥优势,去补强弱点,这些都是需要有大智慧的。不能把自己的焦虑转嫁到孩子身上。我们应该尊重每个孩子的不同之处,应该经常鼓励孩子,对他们的每一点进步都及时表扬,这样才能让孩子变得更自信,也能让他们在自己擅长的领域有更好的发展。

最后我想再强调一句,这一期呢,主要还是讲中国的情况。最后的总结呢,也只是针对中国现在的现象所总结的,并没有想去跟西方的教育方式去比较。如果大家听了这一期的内容,想自己去比较一下的话,我觉得是可以的。这也是批判性思考的一种嘛。说到底呢,还是希望大家可以稍微,更进一步的了解中国的教育情况。这一期主要讲的是对于小学生而言的教育方式和培训班文化。其中也给大家带来了两个网语:“内卷”和“鸡娃教育”。大家可以看看以后有没有适合的场合,可以用上这两个词。

那好,我们下期见。

English translation (as translated by Amber Godsland)

Hello, hi everyone, I’m Kaycee.


Involution

Before I start I would like to share a slang word I’ve seen being used more in China — “involution” or 内卷(neijuan). It’s somewhat connected to what I will talk about today. It’s an internet slang. Its original meaning refers to the phenomenon that after human society reaches a particular form of development, it stagnates or cannot transform further to a more advanced level.


This internet slang first originated from some photos of elite students from top schools.

University students’ Wechats have been bombarded with “involution” photos: some people cycling whilst reading books, and some people’s dormitories full of piles and piles of books. These pictures were first circulated among top students of Qinghua and Peking University. Later, “Qinghua Involution King” who “rides a bike while looking at the computer” were popular words which started trending. Related emoticons also appeared in many college students’ social media. 

Now, this word’s meaning has evolved further. Many college students use this word to express the irrationality of inner or “voluntary” competitiveness.

For this episode, we will return to the topic of education. If I was going to tag it, I think “involution” is an especially appropriate tag for this episode’s content. Why? Let’s see.

Education Style

China has always had a kind of extra-classes culture. We could say “extra classes”, “training classes”, or “tutorial classes”. These words are basically the same, they can be used interchangeably. In China, a child’s education is the biggest worry for parents. Now, the country has begun to standardise training institutions. For example, operating licenses will only be issued on the prerequisite that classroom sizes, teacher numbers, and fire prevention have reached certain standards. The country stipulates that teachers cannot undertake outside extra classes for part-time work, and primary school students also cannot take part in extra classes. There are many other related rules, but I have only picked out some key points to provide everyone a background to child education in China and the culture of extra classes — reading all the rules would be boring right? I don’t want to waste everyone’s time.

So, how should we understand the culture of extra classes? Recently I’ve been following a series called “小舍得 (Xiǎo Shèdé)”. It reflects this phenomenon and I think it’s really interesting. This is a TV drama that explores the theme of going from primary school to middle school. It talks about the different education styles of parents and teachers. According to the original author of “小舍得 (Xiǎo Shèdé)” Lu Yingong, more than 90% of the material in the original novel is true. He said, “These details are true because it cannot be made up.  For example, in the novel it is written that the children bring a tent for extra classes. Some people think it is fake, but in fact this is precisely what I cannot make up.”  In Lu Yingong’s opinion “This kind absurdity in life surpasses our imagination”.

Indeed, the novel originates from real life. Some of the storylines in this show are true. Why do I say this? Because I have personally seen and experienced it.  

So, I should probably first introduce the two families involved in the show and their methods and attitudes towards their children’s education.

Oh, before the introduction, let me first say there will be some spoilers from now on. If you want to watch this drama and don’t want it to be spoiled, you can come back and listen again after watching it. If you don’t mind, you can continue listening.

In the show, there are two key families. On the one hand, the “chicken child education ” of Tian Yulan’s small family, which is also a recent buzzword often seen in China, which is to educate children by “injecting chicken blood”. The mantra is: for the good of the children. This is a typical education method in China of “hoping one’s son becomes a dragon and hoping one’s daughter becomes a phoenix”. Tian Yulan’s management of her son, Yan Ziyou, is very strict, which is contrary to the “free range” education of many Western countries. In this kind of “chicken child education” parents may start to give their children extra classes from the first grade of primary school and attach great importance to the various competitions that their children need to enter school. The various outside classes and the road map for entering school are drawn clearly, and parents even take notes on wrong questions more seriously than their children.

On the other hand, there is Nan Li who advocates for a “happy education”. At first, Nan Li insists on not letting her daughter Xia Huanhuan attend extra classes, but when her child’s grades slip more and more, the panic this brings makes Nan Li send her daughter to extra classes.

The relationship between Nan Li and Tian Yulan is like this — Nan Li’s father and mother divorced two months before her college entrance examination. After the divorce, Nan Li’s father married Tian Yulan’s mother, so these two families of Nan Li and Tian Yulan are part of restructured families. There are some other minor details in this, which have nothing to do with what we are talking about today, so I won’t talk about them. Yan Ziyou is in Grade 6 and Xia Huanhuan is in Grade 5.

Another topic I want to pick out is how they compare themselves to each other and the impact this brings.

Comparison

Tian Yulan

Tian Yulan stands out most when she shows off her children. The dining table is the best place, especially the dining table of this kind of restructured family.  Nan Li’s daughter Huanhuan sings a song there. Here, Tian Yulan who cannot fall behind, immediately asks Zi You to recite the number Pi on the spot and shows off that he can recite more than 2,000 places. The scene is very awkward, but Tian Yulan enjoys it.

For parents like Tian Yulan, her children’s grades are above everything else, and their emotions fluctuate with the grades. When she returns home, she sees Zi You not doing his homework. Immediately furious, she scolds him. Finally, knowing that her son achieved a good exam grade, she immediately asks Zi You what’s wrong, making him lost for words.

This is a mother making comparisons with her own child. 

Nan Li

Let’s take another look at Nan Li’s family. Indeed, when Huanhuan’s grades become the lowest in the class, Huanhuan’s parents are anxious and send their child to extra classes. To a certain extent, this can be regarded as a comparison between the child and the whole class, but nobody in the world would be uncaring about their children’s grades and education, so this is understandable.

At the beginning, Nan Li is not as extreme as Tian Yulan and treats Huanhuan very gently. The real change starts when Nan Li is demoted. One of the reasons she is demoted is that she is replaced because of her inferior education to others. This hits Nan Li hard and completely upends the educational philosophy she had always believed in. She begins to force Huanhuan to use all her time for studying.

This is how Nan Li in her workplace is compared in terms of academic qualifications.

Tutor: Zhong Yi

There is also a tutor in the show called Zhong Yi. Zhong Yi’s role in this show is quite controversial. If you look at the on-screen comments, there is all kinds of commentary. Although it is just a supporting role, the character is quite complicated. Okay, you may have guessed that this kind of complexity is not connected to today’s content, so we’ll put these complexities aside. Basically, he is still a good teacher.

In order to get extra classes for their children, Nan Li and Tian Yulan approach Zhong Yi. After struggling for a while, Zhong Yi agrees but asks another student, Mi Tao, to join for free. Mi Tao is a child from a poor family. Both parents come to the big city from the countryside, and later bring the child along, so the child can enjoy the education and opportunities that the big city brings. Mi Tao is smart, and often gets first in the class even without extra classes. Zhong Yi still wants to nurture Mitao, and wants Mitao to ultimately become a successful person.

So that’s it, everyone has class together like this. Mitao studies well and gets good grades. Huanhuan doesn’t study hard, and her grades are not as good. So Huanhuan and Mitao are compared regularly, and it’s said constantly that that Mitao is better than Huanhuan.  Nan Li is also like this, always making Huanhuan learn from Mitao. Under the double pressure of the parents and teachers, Huanhuan becomes more and more unhappy, and even feels like her own mother likes Mitao more than herself.

Huanhuan becomes jealous of Mitao, and her attitude towards her becomes worse and worse. It’s not only like this in Zhong Yi’s tutoring class: Huanhuan does not even acknowledge Mitao in school, and also drives her other friends to alienate Mitao. The two were originally close friends, but unpleasant things accumulate more and more, and they even argue about a minor incidents. Fortunately, the form tutor gives Huanhuan some timely guidance. Otherwise, Huanhuan would have changed from a warm, cheerful, and helpful kid to a selfish, domineering and bad kid.

In life, there are too many parents like Nan Li and too many teachers like Zhong Yi, who are habitually comparing two children and distinguishing their successes and failures. They think that constant comparison can make the slightly weaker children understand the gap between themselves and others, and that it will motivate them to work harder. However, actually, it’s frequently counterproductive. A weaker child will develop an inferiority complex and rebellious mentality because of so much comparison. Huanhuan is like this. Nan Li and Zhong Yi compare her excessively with Mitao, which almost hurts her, turning her into a self-loathing and narrow-minded child.

Yan Ziyou

Finally we return to Yan Ziyou. Under the pressure exerted by Tian Yulan, Ziyou’s mental health shows some problems. The constant pressure of learning and his increasingly closed-off heart leaves Ziyou nowhere to vent.

Every time he participates in a Maths competition accompanied by Tian Yulan, he breaks down. Tian Yulan is actually Zi You’s demon. However, Tian Yulan only cares about grades, and does not notice her son’s psychological changes. Again and again this makes Zi You’s psychological pressure heavier and heavier. Eventually, Zi You is depressed. This is just a sixth-grade child, around ten or eleven years old, already anxious and depressed.

Facing this result, Tian Yulan is distressed. Persuaded by her family she understands grades cannot be produced by force, but with appropriate guidance.

Many of the things in this show are true. In China, only by attending a good primary school can you then attend a good middle school. Only when you go to a good middle school can you get a chance to enter a good high school. Only when you go to a good high school can you be admitted to a good university. So what do you need to see to get to a better school? It’s just grades.

As described in the show, getting good grades is often difficult without extra classes. So, it doesn’t work if you don’t have extra classes, and it doesn’t work if you do have extra classes. I think, one of the key points of this show is to make parents grasp the extent of this: don’t be too extreme and don’t be too relaxed. Every child has their own strengths and weaknesses. Education is how to guide the strengths and reinforce weaknesses. This all requires great wisdom. You cannot pass your own anxiety onto your child. We should respect the differences of each child, and we should always encourage children and praise them promptly for every bit of progress. Only in this way can children become more confident, and they can better develop in their areas of expertise.Finally, I want to emphasise something. This episode mainly focuses on the situation in China. The overall summary is only a summary of the current phenomenon in China and is not intended to be compared with Western education methods. If you have listened to this episode’s content and want to compare it for yourself, I think that is okay; this is a kind of critical thinking. Ultimately, I hope that everyone can understand the education situation in China a little more. This issue mainly talks about education methods and extra-classes culture for primary school students. In this, I provided two online phrases to everyone: “involution” and “chicken child education”.  You can see later if there are suitable occasions to use these two words. Okay, see you next episode.