Education: Competing Against the World
A major strength of the Chinese system is the esteem placed on education. Inequality is a problem, however.
FAST TRACK: Xu Pu was targeted for the gifted track at age 11. the 13-year-old, whose course load includes physics and chemistry, hopes to enter a university at age 14.
Xu Pu, 13
11th Gifted Class, No. 8 Middle School
Family: The only child of an Army member and his midwife spouse.
School: Xu Pu rides her bicycle 20 to 30 minutes to reach the subway for a 12-minute ride to school. Beijing is a city of more than 15 million.
Courses: Mathematics, physics, chemistry, history, geography, politics, Chinese and English (in which her English name assigned by her teacher is Anna).
Xu Pu (pronounced Shoo Po) was plucked from the usual educational track in Beijing when she was but 11 years old. A teacher recommended she sit for a long assessment test, and she wound up in the 11th Gifted Class at No. 8 Middle School in Beijing. The 13-year-old, conversant in English, attends school from 7:20 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. each day and typically has two hours of homework. What does the young teen do for fun? "We don't have too much money to play now. We have to work hard." She hopes to enter a university at 14. Most go at 18.
Xu Pu, like many of her 31 classmates, has her eye on Beijing University but says she also would like to go to Oxford or Harvard. She doesn't know what she wants to study but enjoys biology and law. She loves sports, especially swimming, and singing, dancing and drawing. In P.E. on Fridays, the students climb mountains, swim or enjoy other activities. She goes to school from September to June but has a winter holiday from mid-January to mid-February.
In June, after exams ended, she and her family planned a vacation and also prepared to move. Their four-room apartment is to be demolished to make way for construction for the 2008 Olympics.