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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Chinese way

If you haven't done it already you should try to see the first episode of the BBC's "Chinese School" (the iPlayer link is here). The main character is a teenage high-flier who's expected to do well in the national examination and go to the top university. You get the impression that the whole nation holds its breath when these tests come around. If you do well you can join the elite. Underperform and you are destined to be factory fodder. When the exams take place planes are diverted and traffic is calmed to ensure that nothing interrupts the concentration of the candidates.
The day after the exams they're not down the pub or off to Ibiza. They're sitting studying the answer sheet and trying to estimate how well they did. I can't imagine anything more purgatorial. Anyway, our student looks at the answers and bursts into tears. She thinks she's messed it up. She's inconsolable.
Not surprising really. When the results came out she'd got 98%.