A High School Student's Nightmare

A third-year senior high student from Anhui province posted an essay on Southern Weekend’s online edition to express his sense of burden and despair caused by the current education system in China.

Here is my slightly abridged translation of the essay:-

"I have been driven insane by the Chinese education system. I don’t know how I got into this situation.

The pain began with my elementary fifth year. I was admitted into the ‘select group’. My father began to put his focus on my class ranking. In my sixth year, in order for me to get accepted into a reputable high school, my father sent me to a school a long distance from home and rented a place for me to live and study. During the summer holidays, I would go home and take up all the household chores and look after my baby brother, as my parents were usually busy during this time (both are peasants with little education). I thought this was what I should do as the child of peasant parents. After several months of solitary studies with no one to visit me, and after walking for over two hours to get home, the first question I was asked upon arriving home was how I did at school. I began to understand the importance of my school results.

I have a cousin who does well at school. How our relatives like to shoe-shine his parents during Chinese New Year! My father would admonish me to learn from that cousin and to use my brain more.

Nobody think anything of me. They all look down on me. I know this is a result of my father’s bad-mouthing me. During the summer vacation, I spend all my time helping out with household chores, and he just tells people that I am a slacker. All he cares about is that I get good grades. He used to beat me to make me see his point. Now he uses pressure tactics.

Just on the eve of the high school entrance examination, my father said something that I will never forget for as long as I live. He told me that if I could not get into (a certain high school that was supposed to be the best), I might as well kill myself. I ran into my room with tear-filled eyes – does my getting into a good high school mean more to him than my existence?

After I reached senior high, I have been suffering all kinds of ill health. This school term I have suffered two attacks of severe headache, each lasting for a couple of weeks. The doctor says that it’s caused by too much stress.

My father and my teacher only want good grades from me. But nobody ever cares about how I feel. My class mistress is always on the phone talking to my father to apply pressure on me. Every time I try to speak the truth, she looks untrusting and disdainful. All she can see is that my grades are slipping.

One time, I took with me to class Maupassant’s collection of short stories. But my class mistress saw it necessary to confiscate it because my grades were not good enough. Another time I took another novel to class and it was again confiscated.

A couple of days later, my class mistress called my parents and they came to pay her a visit. She told them that I was having a headache because I spent too much time reading novels. Then she asked me in front of my parents: ‘Tell me the truth: do you want to take the senior high school exam (‘gaokao’) or not?’

I hesitated for a while and then replied: ‘No!’ I shouldn’t have told her the truth. Things got even worse afterwards. My father and my class mistress harassed me for over an hour. My father said to me: ‘Go pack your school bag. When you get home, don’t even think you’ll live!’ On hearing that last sentence, I dashed out of the teachers’ office. ‘I have had enough!’ My heart beat quickened and I was trembling. Then I went back to the classroom and threw all the text books downstairs.

I have thought of committing suicide. But I can’t let the Chinese education system torture me to death. I hate my father, but my hatred is not real. I hate the Chinese education system even more. This system forces families to use examination grades as the only yardstick to judge students.

My father would not have allowed me to go back to school this term, if not for other people’s persuasion. Now I am back at school. But it is a dead end. I can no longer tolerate this. While writing this essay, I ask myself: ‘What should I do next?’"