Here is an essay by Michael Sadofsky, titled Dateline: Hong Kong, describing his experiences at a recent conference on education, from the Sudbury Valley School blog. It describes the currrent state of education in Hong Kong that is, in many ways, the fulfillment of the vision of schooling shared by our modern educators as well as by Fichte, Humboldt and Mann – the total takeover of the child’s life by the education process, as well as the parent’s subsumption into that process, whereby they become agents of the schools in this effort.
The conference was pitched on alternative approaches to the mainstream model that was described as: “Behave + study well = University + success ever after.” In HK this means: 800,000+ school children, 150+ months of school, 100+ (high stakes) tests, exams, and interviews, 60 hours of schooling and homework each week, and finally a single exam to determine which 18% enter university.
In HK, two and three year olds compete in interviews to determine their eligibility for selective preschools. As an example, from the South China Morning Post, “Pinky Cheng Mei-nang, 38, is another tiger mum-turned-revolutionary. She once applied to more than 30 kindergartens across several districts for her son, forcing the then two-year-old to endure several interviews a week, sometimes two in a day.” Academies and “cram-schools” are everywhere. It’s competition from the get-go.
Well? Isn’t this what we want? It’s a mean old world out there – better educate the living hell out of kids from the moment of birth, until they are the fit that survive, not the unfit who don’t. How does something like 30 hours of homework a week sound as an after school program? Whether a kid actually learns much of anything academic from all that work is questionable; that he learns that school culture is his culture is ensured – he has no time or opportunity to learn otherwise.
As Fichte says, the ‘State and its advisers’ are to take control of the education of children. The modern refinement: properly educated parents, the kind who sweat bullets over getting their 2 year old into the proper preschool, are the means to this end.
BUT: This conference is evidence that, even in Hong Kong, the homeland of high-achieving kids, this act is wearing thin. When kids start killing themselves over shortcomings in school, that will get the attention of at least some parents. So there’s a group starting a Sudbury School in Hong Kong – about as diametrically opposed to the current practices as can be imagined. I’m praying they succeed. However, if they do, they then pose a challenge to the existing gigantic and lucrative educational structure. Some places – Germany is a prominent (and inevitable) example – simply outlaw any education not in conformity with the national model. I don’t know enough about Hong Kong to imagine how this will shake out. It’s a very good sign that they’re trying.