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While spending time with a migrant family who is working in the city, I asked about their child, who is living in their village. They said he was doing well and the mother opened up her purse and took our her identity card, flipped through some other papers, and then took out this piece of paper for me to see.
This paper captures all the test scores for each student in the 3rd grade and is sent to every parent. It lists every student’s name (blurred) and their test scores for each subject (language, math, English, social behavior, science). She pointed out her son’s name, and I asked how do you feel about his scores, sh said at least he’s not causing the family to lose face - to be embarrassed.
Open test score viewing is standard practice for the entire Chinese education system from villages to cities, starting from 1st grade through the end of high school, though some colleges still continue this. After parents receive the score, the main teacher holds a meeting with all the parents, openly comparing test scores. The main goal is to shame the parents whose children have low-performing test scores and to praise the high scoring ones, asking them questions like how many hours does your child study a day and what are you doing to raise your child’s scores. This creates a competitive environment, as the even the high scoring students can become anxious about being supplanted.
This is an everyday instance that exemplifies how privacy is understood and identity is shaped in China. In the West, test scores with this level of detail are a private matter that is up to the individual to share, but in China it’s conceived as an open topic.
An individual’s test performance affects how other parents, teachers, and the entire school views the student’s family.
Students aren’t judged for trying their best, rather the idea is that you’re judged for how you compare to others. No special snowflakes here.
#triciainchina #livefieldnotes

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