Photo of the Weekend: The Stars Exams

Written by Julen Madariaga on April 20th, 2010

Saturday there was some alarming movement down the road. Starting early morning masses of unidentified individuals concentrated near the intersection, partially blocking the traffic. They were visibly nervous, but their expression was firm, clearly they intended to hold the position. They had been there for almost 2 hours when I arrived with the camera.


When I approached, I saw they were parents waiting for their children. It was the “Shanghai City Common English for Children Stars Level Exam“, an official certification of English level for children in 小学 (6-11 yo). From what I understood, it is organized by some bureau of the City of Shanghai one of many private companies. The levels are given in stars: 1 star, 2 stars, 3 stars, and the exam emphasizes oral communication.

Two thoughts: 1- A people that takes education so seriously cannot go wrong in the long term (even if the system is certainly not perfect). 2- It looks like the Teachers of English will continue to be in high demand for years to come. Lucky you who’ll be pocketing the RMBs for explaining how to speak your own language!

UPDATE: I just clarified that the schools organizing this are not official institutions, but just private companies. I was fooled by the clever name on their pamphlet “City of Shanghai bureau of language learning etc.”  Looking on the internet there seems to be a few of these companies, complete with the star ranking system.

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Comments so far ↓

  1. Apr

    1- A people that takes education so seriously cannot go wrong in the long term (even if the system is certainly not perfect).

    There are also young (one-child) chinese that got pushed a little too far by their parents to study english or piano or anything else. Some of these people crack up and end up not following the golden path their parents had envisioned… But I’m sure you know this already. ;)
    - Woods

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Apr
    Julen Madariaga

    Sure, that is why I said that the system is not perfect.

    But my opinion is that all that will change. When China finally leaves the whirlwind of 10% yearly growth, the fierce competition will naturally subside and people will be able to relax a bit and see other options.

    What is amazing is that in spite of the circumstances today, they still keep intact that respect for studying and for the figure of the teacher. In the long term I think this will be an essential factor.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    I was thinking of the expression: 一天为师终身为父

    But then I realized it is a bit sexist, and I couldn’t really use it very well with my Chinese teacher :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Fu Ting Reply:

    @Julen Madariaga,
    I think I can be your “fù” :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    @Fu Ting, LOL, +1

    You are right, I didn’t think of that. And you don’t even need to get surgery like the statues in the previous post!

    [Reply to this comment]

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