The nights I lost my sleep

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Recently I lost sleep on three nights.

blue skyOne was on the day I learnt English as a testing subject will phase out in Chinese university entrance exam in the near future. The second was on the day when I learnt some online platform will sell university degree soon (I was worried about higher education quality dilution). The third night was completely a product of my bizarre imagination. In my dream, I was back to Hong Kong in front of the star ferry pier. I saw the most breath taking blue sky ever in my life and could not stop being awed. In the same dream, I found out the reason for such purity was that the government banned on car driving that day due to an international political conference . My heart ached in the dream and I could not sleep any more.

Last night I was reading newspapers on the flight. Every cover story tells about control on wechat. The truth is sitting on the flight seat I just felt love. The feeling of being surrounded by love was so strong that I could not feel frustration any more. It drove my fear and anger away. If there is a bottle to lock the exact moment, I wish to keep forever the ability to understand and forgive.

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Why there are so many Chinese MOOC platforms

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It will not surprise me any more when I hear another MOOC platform is built and ready. These MOOC platforms can be under university or commercial company roof. Like having breakfast, every day I hear people telling me how great their platforms are, ‘we are the best’. I am not used to hear people giving so much compliment about themselves. How much substance there is to support it, I don’t know.

I put a lot of thinking trying to understand why. Why MOOC platform so quickly become commoditised in China. Meanwhile in the US and UK, most universities are very content just providing courses.

At university level, the essential funding models are different. In China, universities are funded by the central government. In the US and UK, universities have to pay their own bill, largely from tuition or endowment. The funding channel leads to different decision making mechanics. When a US or UK university makes a decision, they more or less need to consider return of investment , using a commercial framework. When a Chinese university makes a decision, it looks upwards: who is the boss and what is this boss thinking.

At people level, there is less of a diversity, more of a convergence of how people think and act. If one person thinks – building a MOOC platform sounds like a good idea. The same idea occurs to many others. Very few people goes to the second or third step – how am I going to be different? What happens if every one else is doing the same stuff? More people want to take the ride, reaping short term profits. Fewer think longer term and really ask questions beyond a short term lucrative picture.

One then would challenge, what about Japan and Korea? Why wouldn’t Japanese and Korean universities join the crowd of MOOC platform as they are conformist societies as well. The answer is performance metrics vary. Probably Chinese universities are measured by achievement list including ‘have you built a MOOC platform’ whereas in other parts of the world, the KPI is probably profits and loss of the institution.

plant vegFor my father’s teenage life, he was sent to work in a Chinese farm for two years. During the time he was supposed to study, he was planting vegetables one day and taking the same vegetables out the other day. He was kept very busy and led a tough life destroying the same stuff he created the day before. For his precious two years, his net contribution to the society was zero.

I hope people learn a bit more from building platforms than my father planting and de-planting vegetables.

Segmentation

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steven wozniakI am continuing to meet people in the China MOOC space. The market has started segmentation.

Some are professional skill based. Some started by universities. Some do vocational training. Some can provide credits soon.

The popular ones are those which give you certificates and credits and degree.

Do not be afraid to do things they never taught you to do. – Steven Wozniak. 

Guan – Manage lovingly

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Guan is a very Chinese character and I found it hard to locate an English equivalent. If a junior person is doing something not seen as ‘right’, the senior person would feel the obligation and duty to ‘Guan’. (It never goes the other way). This means a gentle guidance for this person to act according to the ‘correct’ way. I saw somewhere the translation as ‘Manage Lovingly’ which is probably the closest to what it really implies.

protective loveWhen I was a kid, I wrote differently and I walked differently. My neighbours suggested my mom to ‘Guan’ me, ‘ your daughter’s way of writing and walking is very strange and not normal, you need to ‘Guan’ her.’

I was confused and afraid when I heard that comment. I was confused as I felt if I was able to write and walk capably, why I would need guidance.  I was also concerned if the ‘correct’ way was not my natural way, would it be really hard for me to spend a lot of effort in order to mimic the common code.

Luckily my wise mom responded ‘ Oh, just let her be whatever she is’. I was so relieved and happy to hear my mom would not manage me lovingly.

This Guan, meanwhile, is reflected in the formal education system. In primary schools, high schools and universities, one role is created for each class to ‘manage lovingly’. This role is usually taken by a teaching staff who knows the class well due to his/her interaction with the class through teaching activities. She/he communicates with teachers and students to have a good understanding of daily events. Then she/her makes her/his own judgement when and where to step in to interfere, to perform the duty of ‘Guan’.

Once I received a task to help with ‘Guan’. The task was to observe who speaks in class without being asked, to write down their names and report to the ‘Guan’ teacher. Unable to make sense of the task, I just called sick the day I was supposed to be on duty.

Our ‘Guan’ teacher is dear to us and I still meet her today after so many years out of school. However, somehow it is really hard for me to tell her to love us differently.

English out of Chinese University Entrance Exam from 2017?

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It is said that Ministry of Education (MoE) will cancel English as an official subject for university entrance exam. This will start from 2017. MoE is to further confirm the details later.

There are a lot of voices debating this decision.

My optimistic hope is that every one is a self-directed learner who can leverage the internet to learn whatever they want.

Hundred Family Jacket

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I am so sorry I cannot put too much here for a lot of reasons. I am so sorry. 

hundred family clothAccording to the old Chinese tradition, when a mom becomes pregnant, she collects pieces of cloth from one hundred families and sews them together into a jacket. One stitch after another, every stitch puts the love of the mom to the baby.

In 1997, a British family was considering adopting a child. They had 2 boys already. Somehow they could not adopt a third one in UK where they live. One day the Mum was reading a newspaper talking about the orphanages in China and they then knew they should try to adopt from China.

The whole family embraced the idea and gave a name to this baby even before she was born. As it was the first case to adopt a Chinese baby in their neighborhood, it was a learning process. After much screening & paper work the family received the news of their daughter.

This little girl was abandoned at 6 weeks old & lived in an orphanage until she was matched with this family at 9 months old. From the moment she was united with her family she grew in strength & stature.

In the same orphanage, there was another baby who got sick. The family asked what could be done and after careful negotiation the family were allowed to help.

This was the beginning of The Good Rock Foundation.

For seventeen years Good Rock has been working for vulnerable and marginalized children and young people in NW China. With younger children, it is to provide love, education and medical care. With young adults, it is to provide vocational training so that they can leave the orphanages with real work employability.

The baby girl grew into a joyful young lady. She treasures her hundred family jacket.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to help Good Rock Foundation via xuminji@gmail.com