Writers' Block: A book of essays recently published by a Beijing high school student whose writing was deemed so poor that teachers wouldn't mark her assignments has won critical praise from readers-and sparked discussion about China's rigid education system, the Straits Times reports. In school, author Gu Yang's teachers often reprimanded her for writing about subjects that were "beyond her age," such as moral education and God. "What stifled Miss Gu were her teachers, who were obsessed with the rules," says Michael Yu, director of a language institute in China. "They should have done more thinking on how to manage talented ones like her." Apparently, Gu's not the only frustrated author in school; her editor has just released another collection of essays by teens on subjects they dare not write about in class.
Hue and Cry: Following complaints that British students spend too much time learning about ethnic minorities, an independent government agency has proposed "white pride" lessons, according to the Express. A report from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority says that classrooms have produced a white English stereotype of "bowler hats, roast beef, rolled umbrellas" and argues that efforts to combat racism have "left white pupils feeling they could not be proud of their own culture and identity." Despite the study, the Department of Education says it has no plans to change the curriculum. "There has been a problem that we do not teach our children to be proud of our history, but I think 'white culture' is a dangerous term," says Damian Green, an education official.
Omissions Commission: Parents and teachers in Japan and Korea have formed an alliance protesting controversial junior high school textbooks they say whitewash atrocities committed by the Japanese military during World War II. Used in Japanese classrooms since last year, the textbooks don't mention, for example, that Japan forced hundreds of thousands of Korean women into sexual slavery between 1932 and 1945. The new group, called the History Education Asia Network, will research ways to align Japanese and Korean historical perceptions and will campaign against the rightist group that wrote the textbooks, the Korea Herald reports.
Numbers Game: With enrollments dwindling because of falling birthrates, elementary schools in Prague are resorting to novel recruiting methods, reports the Czech News Agency. Schools write personal letters to parents, who may send their kids to the public school of their choice, imploring them to register their children. Teachers go on recruiting trips to kindergarten classes dressed up as animals to appeal to kids. And in some cases, schools openly smear their rivals. "Competition among elementary schools is huge," observes one school director. At least 30 schools in Prague have closed in the past year.
Vol. 13, Issue 7, Page 9Published in Print: April 1, 2002, as Dispatches