How is China's education system different from other parts of the world? Jennifer Holstein, a journalist from the United States who has studied and taught in China, may have the answer.
When she was 16, Holstein went on a gap year experience to a high school in Beijing. She would wake up each morning at 6:30 to a song playing on the school's loudspeaker. Classes would start at 7:15 and end at 5:30, and then dinner was followed by another round of classes — known as "night study" — which didn't end until late at night.
"It was no doubt the hardest year of my life as a student, but it was also the most rewarding. I left my study program with so much knowledge and so much respect for the learning process," Holstein said in her speech.
China has attached great importance to education since ancient times. This is even more the case today as it tries to bridge the gap between rich and poor and urban and rural communities through educational equality.
Holstein gave examples of how China's literacy rates have improved dramatically — from 65 percent in 1982 to over 96 percent in 2018.
She also shared the notable story of Zhang Guimei, a teacher who has fought for the right of girls in rural Yunnan province to get an education.
In terms of access to education, China is a world leader in affordable quality public education. Holstein said that in the US, college students have an average of $28,000 in debt, while there is practically no student debt in China due to much more affordable higher education, allowing more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience economic mobility.
"Education can be the defining and distinguishing factor of change in the lives of children and young adults looking for a path to a better life. And for a society or a country, education has the power to lift people out of poverty, to help train more doctors to treat the sick and develop cures to illnesses," Holstein said. "An educated population is an empowered population."