By: Jay Kamat
In China, there is a system called “zhong dian ban” that allows high performing students to have access to better educational resources. While similar to Advanced Placement courses in America, and International Baccalaureate classes elsewhere, “zhong dian ban” is very different in China due to several reasons. Rising Star Magazine interviewed two former “zhong dian ban” students, Abby and Sean, who now are both very successful entrepreneurs, to better understand this Chinese system.
Q: What exactly is “zhong dian ban”?
Sean: “Zhong dian ban” is a unique class, special in different grades. They pick certain students, depending both on their grades and their family status. This means you don’t need to be the best student to be in “zhong dian ban,” you can either have an elite status in the government, or an elite status economy-wise.
Q: Would “zhong dian ban” be in addition to the standard curriculum as an extracurricular?
Sean: “Zhong dian ban” is not outside the curriculum, it is the curriculum by itself. They have different standards.
Abby: Higher standards.
Q: Did “Zhong Dian Ban” classes begin and end at the same time as the normal classes?
Abby: But, some children in schools like mine had evening classes, one more, called [Self Study].
Sean: They get the students together, after dinner, and make sure they do actual work. They will make sure they finish their homework.
Abby: It was called optional, you could choose to attend or not, but for “zhong dian ban” students, everyone attended.
Q: What would happen if [“zhong dian ban” students] didn’t attend?
Abby: Nobody wouldn’t attend, because not everyone got this chance. When you pick up “zhong dian ban,” that does not guarantee you always have a position there. If your performance is not as good as they expect, then you would be kicked out.
Sean: However, “zhong dian ban” is usually [made up of] two types of people: you are either really good at studying, or you are really elite in a certain status. Those elite in certain status people don’t care, they won’t get kicked out for sure.
Q: How big are “Zhong Dian Ban” classes?
China’s classes are really big, they have 50 to 60 people per class. At each grade level they have at least 5 to 6 different classes.
Abby: For every grade, there is only one “zhong dian ban” class, the others are regular classes.
Q: So everyone in “zhong dian ban” stays together for the entire day?
Sean: China’s school system is like this: if you are in one class, you are always in one class. Your classroom will not change, your seat will not change. Only your teacher will change.
Q: What were some advantages of the “zhong dian ban” system?
Sean: You get better teachers, tutoring, etc. Usually in “zhong dian ban,” the teacher will give a head start to what is on the tests, and what is not. For example, for essays, the teacher will probably give you five different essay topics, and one of them would be on the test. They will tell you to write all five essays, and the teacher will help you edit it, and on the test, all you need to do is rewrite one of the essays.
Abby: You also have more chances to be admitted by a good college. A lot of the colleges have relationships with the famous high schools, and they offer early admission to “zhong dian ban” students.
Q: So “zhong dian ban” students are guaranteed a spot in good colleges?
Abby: Nothing is guaranteed, but it gives them more chances. For example, if you are in “zhong dian ban”, and I am not, and all of our exam grades are the same, and everything else is the same, they will pick you for sure.
Q: Do you think the “zhong dian ban” system allowed you to perform better than you could have otherwise?
Sean: That’s a really hard question… “zhong dian ban” takes away all your GE, or general education classes, and they concentrate only on the major topics, like religion, math, science, language…
When there’s a test coming, they will take out all the GE courses, so you don’t take your music class, art class, PE class, whatever isn’t related to the major topics. It’s pretty hard to tell if it is good or not, if you look at the news, when they compare Chinese students to US students, they say that Chinese students don’t have a lot of creativity. “Zhong dian ban” is like that too, they try to get you ready to perform during the test.
Q: If you had “another chance”, would you choose to be in “zhong dian ban” again?
Sean: If I had the chance, I would not go to “zhong dian ban.” They speed you up on certain [topics], but you lose a lot of your youth. So, pretty much, you don’t have a lot of fun. All of your friends are playing outside, but you are still studying. If I had one more chance, I would not go.
Abby: I’m the opposite, I would go. Compared with my other schoolmates, not in “zhong dian ban,” I think that the majority of the “zhong dian ban” students are doing much better.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say?
Sean: “Zhong dian ban” is something that if you don’t go through yourself, you won’t understand. With this interview you may get a little idea of it, but it’s a system inside China, you cannot use your judgment from [America], like advanced placement courses, [to describe it]. “Zhong dian ban” is totally different.