Teach English in Geleche Zhen - Enshi Tujiazu Miaozu Zizhizhou

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The internet is one of the most transformative developments of the modern age, and will have profoundly positive effects on global education. Traditional brick-and-mortar schools are already hard put to justify their sky-high costs and exclusionary admittance policies, and online delivery of world-class courses at affordable prices that are convenient for students and educators alike will usher in (mostly) welcome changes to education around the world. Among these changes will be dramatic increases in the number of students able to attend college and succeed in a global economy that values hard skills (STEM, business, and computer science) and strong English ability through ESL courses. The Varsity Blues scandal in the United States underscores how ludicrous the upper-education industry has become. To recap: the FBI charged a Los Angeles businessman, Morrie Tobin, with fraud. Tobin, hoping for a lenient sentence, offered up information about how top universities had had their athletic scholarship programs turned into slush funds for wealthy parents to get their kids into the most coveted colleges. Water polo, equestrian, and soccer coaches—among others—would agree to offer athletic scholarships to students who had never even played the game in exchange for large cash payments. The FBI went on to secure indictments against some of the most celebrated actors and businesspeople in Hollywood, on Wall Street, and even in China. Experts note that if it hadn’t been for the use of a tax-exempt educational foundation to shepherd the cash through this scheme, from desperate parents to the ‘counselors’ to the coaches and to the test-takers, it’s hard to see how a crime was committed at all. But using IRS tax code in such a way made the scheme too clever by half, and the Feds had a crime to investigate. Otherwise, all this may have been business-as-usual. What is also interesting is that the students who got into these elite universities seem to have performed just fine. Like the legacy admissions programs that benefit the children of wealthy graduates, these kids whose high school records would otherwise be disqualifying seemed not to have struggled with the coursework of a Top 10 global university. Clearly it is more difficult to be selected to go to an Ivy League college than it is to complete the work necessary to stay there. In the United States there is a mismatch between the number of spots available at elite colleges and universities, and the number of students who want to go and who have the requisite grades and ability to pay. ____ China is now the world’s second largest economy, with the attendant booming entrepreneurial and monied class. Here, the disparity between the number of students who wish to pursue higher education and the seats available is enormous and growing. There are other issues that make the situation in China even more stark, compared to developed countries in the West: 1. Chinese boys are expected to have a house, a car, and a strong income before they are considered marriable, this in the world’s most expensive real estate market. (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-01/05/content_14386646.htm) (https://www.numbeo.com/property-investment/rankings.jsp) 2. There are an estimated 30 million more Chinese boys than girls, magnifying the desperation of the parents of boys. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/there-are-more-boys-than-girls/) 3. The difference between white- and blue-collar jobs in China is much greater than in the United States and Western Europe. In the US, an air conditioning mechanic or an electrician can often earn as much as a college graduate outside of STEM or medicine. In China that’s simply not true. In the US, a high school graduate who owns his own plumbing company can command an income, lifestyle, and prestige of an attorney or a banker. But in East Asia it’s unthinkable. So there is a huge premium placed on professional degrees from four-year universities, because only those can lead to high incomes and professional status. 4. Consider the following information. The source data are from the Chinese Ministry of Education, and appears in our Shanghai school’s brochure to parents. (I can attach in separate email, if requested, along with explanatory notes. Your system wouldn't allow me to post the JPEG image). In Hunan province for the year 2017, over 41,000 students took the gaokao ("high test") for application to Chinese universities. Only 4.5% of Hunan students taking the gaokao got a score high enough for admittance to a top-tier university, and only 11.2% were admitted to colleges of all kinds. Comparing Hunan to Fujian province, the students' gaokao scores in Fujian were LOWER than in Hunan, but a much HIGHER percentage of students were admitted to university from Fujian, because of the higher number of local universities in Fujian relative to Hunan, and Fujian's smaller population. This is a glaring unfairness in a system that purports to treat all students uniformly. The disparity for students in Shanghai and Beijing – where nearly a third of students move on to top universities -- is offensive even to parents living there; they admit that their students enjoy advantages that are grossly unfair to those in neighboring provinces, simply because of how many universities are in the top cities. This is all to say that the upper education systems of the two largest economies on the planet are just screaming to be reformed, and gutted from the top down and the inside out. Nobody really believes that the admissions standards in either country are fair, and in the US we are finally asking whether or not a college degree is even worth the titanic expense to attend. Online education is now smashing down many of the assumptions made by the traditional brick-and-mortar universities. Students can enroll in the same classes, taught by the same professors and teachers, and receive the same diploma as the students who fork over six figures in tuition and room and board. Online students can keep their regular jobs and remain in their hometowns. Last year, my group put in the University of Texas High School at a private school here in Shanghai. UTHS is one of the top online high schools in the United States, and our school teaches the subjects in class with live teachers, and the students take tests and access much of the class materials online. The students are all Chinese, with (relatively, for China) strong English skills. Our findings: 1. Their performance in math and science was about two years ahead of their US counterparts. Our 8th grade students had no trouble in Algebra II, which is a course for 10-11th graders in the US. In Chemistry and Physics they were also strong, after learning the English terms. In short, we were very encouraged by their performance in math, science, and computer science. 2. We had significant problems in English, History, and Geography, the courses that required a lot of English reading, comprehension, and writing. The volume of English work required to successfully pass these courses was too much for them, as their English level was at least two years BEHIND their US peers. A method needs to be developed by which we substitute ESL English for Chaucer and Flannery O’Connor, and I’ve been working with officials at UTHS and Florida to do exactly that. 3. The use of laptop computers and smartphones was encouraged at the beginning, but midway through the first semester we realized that it was posing huge issues. Students would open live chats, video games, streaming movies, and shopping pages and would click back and forth if they sensed a teacher might be watching them. We then forbade the use of laptops by students except when taking quizzes and tests, and we wrestled back some of the control in the classroom. 4. Online allows for students to be self-paced, which works well in theory for independent and self-motivated students working alone. It doesn’t work nearly as well when you have twelve students who are all at different places in the course; it’s chaotic. Administrators need to ensure that in this respect that online programs are run like a traditional school, and all the students are in the same place on a given day, doing the same work. For the online program for high school and university to work properly, strong ESL programs have to be in place from primary school and up. We will be training Chinese teachers with strong English skills how to perform high-quality English training in an American-style classroom. This will keep our costs lower than using native speakers for the job, and allow us to go into areas underserved—or not at all—by international education programs. Our plans for next year are more ambitious. We will be using Arizona State University’s courses for our high school students here in China, and our students will receive college credit through our dual-enrollment program. We are at this very moment putting it into a school in Southwest China, in Yunnan province. Yunnan is one of the poorest provinces in China, so it will represent a challenge for us to keep costs low. But if our program can work in Yunnan, China, we believe it can be made to work anywhere. ___ What do these developments mean for the ESL industry and the teachers? Instructors of English will be at the forefront of testing new methodologies of teaching at all levels, from primary school through university level, and in all course work, including STEM fields. Our vision for our schools here: ESL instructors will be paired with Chinese teachers in the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, biology) who will teach the students in their native language, then our ESL teachers will step in and explain the English vocabulary of what they’ve learned in Chinese. All the testing will be in English. Top ESL teachers in China, who already enjoy incomes that are comparable to university professors in America, may command even more, even though their educational qualifications may be only at the Bachelor’s level. Instructors of university-level accounting and physics, for example, can be BS degree holders, yet be able to earn what PhD’s do for teaching in American colleges. ___ I have had several careers. I was in the US Army for nine years, in intelligence operations in Europe and Asia. Then I was the controller of a manufacturing and distribution company. I moved from there to money management at Principal Financial Group, then Morgan Stanley, before going to a Private Equity firm. In 2012 I came to China and started a software company that wrote programs for hospitals and labs that do DNA research. I’m still there, but am only needed a few hours a month, and in 2016 began to explore how we could bring online education from the US to China. It has been the most rewarding and stimulating endeavor imaginable. I’m having to confront fundamental questions, such as: Is it necessary for foreign students to learn courses such as world history, geography, and literature, given that every hour they spend in those courses is one hour they can NOT spend in English or a STEM course?; If I can greatly reduce the cost of students to attend, but am still faced with high demand relative to my capacity to provide teachers and classrooms, what is an appropriate price to charge for tuition?; Should I dissuade students from studying the soft sciences, given that careers in STEM and Business will be far more rewarding financially?; and Strong English skills are as critical to success as technical knowledge and hard work, so how do we train our ESL teachers to deliver the highest quality English education possible? How these questions are being answered by schools such as ours, here in China and around the world, are the most important issues in education today. In fifty years, most of the top executives in global companies will have received their degrees from the same schools we know and revere today, without ever having set foot on the actual campus.