Global Education

Chinese teacher experiences nation’s past

By Daniel Fuchs
Published: November 2010

China has had a tumultuous history in the past 65 years or so, experiencing massive changes in nearly every aspect of its culture and structure. Lijian Zhao, Chinese teacher and Technical Assistant at South, has seen much of it happen.
Zhao, who lived in China from 1945 until her departure to America in 1991, remembers very little about her early childhood, which occured during China’s involvement in World War II.
“I remember the airplane bombings, Zhao said. “But I don’t remember much else.
Zhao’s life in China was particularly influenced by the Cultural Revolution, a period during the 1960s and 1970s when Chinese culture and governmental structure made incredible shifts.
The movement led by former president Mao Zedong involved support groups called the Red Guard.
Zhao supported this movement, which was spearheaded by Chinese youth.
“I was very active in rebelling against school authorities, Zhao said.
“No rules or regulations could bind us.
After the Revolution, however, Zhao saw what she felt were flaws that had developed in Chinese culture, education, and society. She felt she had been betrayed by Mao Zedong.
“When I was young, I was an optimist, Zhao said.
“We did not understand our mistakes until 1976 [, the death of Mao and the end of the Cultural Revolution]. The Red Guard was just a scapegoat.
Zhao worked as a university professor during the 1980s and recalls the significant differences between the American and Chinese education systems.
“Chinese teachers spend spare time with students, Zhao said.
“Teachers often organize outings and picnics, and I enjoyed that student-teacher relationship.
Disciplinary action in Chinese schools was also incredibly different.
“Chinese teachers tend to be stricter and yell much more than American teachers, Zhao said. “They enforce many more rules.
During this time as a professor, even after the Cultural Revolution, Zhao witnessed many changes within China’s education system.
“There was a major resurrection of learning as graduate schools resumed, and colleges enrolled more students. Chinese education had been revived.
In 1991, Zhao embarked for America for personal reasons.
Following a visit to China this past summer, Zhao looks at present-day China with overall optimism, even despite its past.
“China’s economic situation is a lot stronger, Zhao said.
“China is able to organize many international activities.
Zhao remembers the major differences between society and freedom in China and America.
“In America, you can do anything you want, Zhao said. “I can speak whatever I want to speak.
Even so, Zhao remembers her past fondly. “I had a wonderful life.

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