My First Impressions of Huixian, Gansu Province – Tom Kirkham: China, September 2017



依我而言,徽县并不像他们所认为的那样贫穷落后,反而更加突出的是当地人的友好与诚意。徽县充满活力和激情,到处都是人在干活和玩耍。老师们(就是说我的同事) 路上常常会碰到他们认识的人,并且热情地打招呼。

在学校里,学生们活泼,积极。我们西方人习惯评价中国的教育制度只注重于对知识的记忆,以老师为中心的教学方法,大量的家庭作业。习惯认为老师们都很严格,不够和蔼,学生厌学。恰恰相反,学生看上去非常尊敬老师。还有,在中国的很多寄宿学校 (这一所不其中),老师还得承担父母的角色。许多老师觉得英语考试的书面方式不利于学生的口语和听力的提高 – 关于这一点他们一遍又一遍发牢骚!




After arriving in China, I initially spent two weeks training in Beijing. My plan for the year surprised people. Why choose poor, remote Gansu to teach English, of all places? After a few minutes of conversation some people came to sympathise with the aim of my project overseas and understand what drove me to come here. Nonetheless it seems that many in Beijing’s impression of China’s west is far from correct.

To me Huixian seems hardly like the poor, backward Gansu that Beijingers imagine. Instead what stands out is the friendliness and honesty of local people. Huixian is full of life – the streets are filled with people earning a living and others hanging out. The teachers (that is to say, my colleagues) often bump into people they know in the street and say a cheerful hello.

Students at the school too are lively and energetic. We westerners often tend to criticise Chinese education for its undue focus on memorizing content, its teacher-centred teaching style, and its masses of homework. We assume that teachers must all be very strict and unfriendly, that students must end up hating school. On the contrary, it seems that students really respect their teachers. After all, in China’s many boarding schools (this school not being one of them), teachers have to take on something of a parental role. Many teachers recognize moreover that the writing-centred format of the English exam does little to improve students’ speaking and listening – they constantly grumble about this!

The atmosphere in Huixian is indeed lively, but one thing must be made clear. There’s no getting away from it – part of my attraction to this place lies in its low prices, above all at outdoor street stalls, of which there are many. These stalls, run by ordinary local people, are basic and of course people don’t make a whole lot from them. Still, it’s a way of making a living. Most people here do agree that people’s living standards are getting better and better with China’s growth.

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