China’s one-child policy has created a generation of “little emperors,” who are both spoiled by their parents and pushed relentlessly to study, study, study for the “tall test” that will determine if they get into a university. From Psychology Today
Throughout Jing Zhang’s youth in Beijing, her parents took her to weekly resumÃ©-boosting painting classes, waiting outside the school building for two hours each time, even in winter. Yanming Lin enjoyed perfect silence in her family’s one-room Shanghai apartment throughout her five-plus hours of nightly homework; besides nixing the television, her mother kept perpetual watch over her to make sure she stayed on task.
. . . Your entire future hinges on one test, the national college entrance exam â€” China’s magnified version of the SAT. The Chinese call it gao kao, or “tall test,” because it looms so large. If students do well, they win spots at China’s top universities and an easy route to a middle-class lifestyle. If not, they must confront the kind of tough, blue-collar lives their parents faced. With such high stakes, families dedicate themselves to their child’s test prep virtually from infancy.
A Beijing preschool is said to teach three-year-olds to memorize the first 100 digits of pi. This strikes me as insane.
All these years of cramming may not even pay off. China now turns out many more university graduates than it has jobs for them to do. The “little emperors” don’t like to take jobs they consider beneath them.
Video game addiction is considered a national epidemic. Suicide is “China’s leading cause of death for those aged 20 to 35.”
China’s obsession with perfection was displayed in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics: Organizers chose a “flawless” girl to lip-synch the national anthem; the real singer wasn’t shown because she has a chubby face and crooked teeth.
Update: The South Koreans have a similarly insane cram-and-test system, reports the New York Times. While 80 percent of South Korean high school graduates go to college, only those who ace the test to get into the top three universities are guaranteed success.