Anhui school fistfight video slaps China’s education system
Published: Apr 21, 2016 05:23 PM

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

A video clip of a brutal fistfight between a teacher and his middle school students in Anhui Province recently went viral, sending shock waves throughout the interwebs about the unruly state of China's educational system.

In the video, which was filmed last week by another student, a middle-aged male teacher asks a boy to submit his examination paper, but the student refuses, clutching it in his hands as the teacher attempts to take it. The disagreement quickly escalates after the teacher slaps the student, with several male classmates jumping in to viciously beat the teacher.

According to local Market Star Newspaper, a joint investigation was carried out by educational and public security authorities - but only after exposure on social media. The headmaster of Mengcheng County Fanji Middle School claims that the teacher, surnamed Ma, did not suffer any serious injuries and that the students involved, who are about to complete their compulsory nine-year education, have resumed their normal school life.

Comments on social media have ranged from outrage over the dire lack of respect these students have toward their teachers to calls for more severe punishments. Others question the background and upbringing of the students, placing the blame on their reprehensible behavior on their parents.

As the mother of a ninth-grader in Shanghai, I can attest how testy both teachers and students are around this time of year. Final exams are right around the corner, which will determine if students can enter high school, which places a huge amount of stress on everyone.

In Shanghai, which is reputed to have the best educational resources in all of China, competition is especially fierce. Only half of the city's ninth graders are predicted to be recruited by senior middle schools (what in the West is called "high school") to continue their studies. Those who don't make the final cut will only be able to attend vocational or technical schools.

At present, my daughter stays up until 11:30 pm every night doing homework or other supplementary studies and examination prep materials. She is understandably frazzled, which, on top of all her teen hormones, has made her a moody mess.

But no amount of academic pressure justifies the defiant behavior witnessed in that Anhui video. Respecting one's teacher should be paramount in any school setting, and parents are obliged by Chinese custom to raise their children to revere their teachers just as they would an extended family member.

We should applaud the teacher involved in the altercation for standing up to this rabid pack of students. In the video, not once does Mr Ma back down, even when five different students are stomping on him. As one netizen commented, despite the fact that these students have clearly given up on their studies, the teacher has not given up on them.

With so many millennials raised without proper parental guidance or simply given anything they want by over-indulgent parents, students have taken their educations for granted. The amoral mindset of people in today's China has also rubbed off on our youth, who grow up not caring about anyone other than themselves.

Everything about the sad state of our society and the shambles that China's educational system is in can be witnessed in that one video: not a single student stepped in to defend the teacher, and even his own school administration is trying to wave it off as a minor incident. This is exactly what one would witness on the streets when, for example, a Chinese woman is being beaten by her lover and pedestrians just stand around watching (and filming it on their phones).

Chinese parents and our school system have become so obsessed by scores that it seems we have completely set aside our moral education. High marks have replaced high manners as students strive to get into the best schools instead of striving to be the best person they can be. As a result, China's teachers must sacrifice their dignity in order to cater to this spoiled, selfish generation of little emperors.

It frightens me to think that those mean-spirited students in the video are the future of our society, and unless China's educational system is immediately revamped and reformed, I fear that the next generation will have nothing left to inherit from Chinese culture except cruelty and amorality.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.