Chinese students know anyone could be watching
Thousands of schools in China “are installing webcams in classrooms and streaming live on websites that are open to the public,” reports Javier C. Hernández in the New York Times.
Parents in China’s highly competitive system like the chance to observe their children in class. But strangers watch too.
“What is this boy doing? He’s been looking around doing nothing, like a cat on a hot roof,” one user wrote. “This one is playing with his phone!” added another, posting a screenshot. . . . “When you tell them, ‘It’s possible your parents might be behind your back watching,’ it’s like a sword hanging over their heads,” said Zhao Weifeng, the director of a private school in the eastern province of Jiangsu that installed cameras in its classrooms last year. “Having surveillance makes children behave better.”
“Private schools and charter schools in the United States have in recent years experimented with closed-circuit, private broadcasts to deter crime and misbehavior,” reports Hernández. “Britain is testing body cameras for teachers in part to gather evidence for student disciplinary hearings.”
Even in China, where people are used to surveillance, there are complaints that putting in-school activities online violates student’s privacy.
At Yuzhou No. 1 High, which began live-streaming classes late last year, students now joke that their school should instead be called “Yuzhou No. 1 Prison.” Reached by telephone, several said they were uncomfortable that anyone with an internet connection could tune into their classroom discussions. To avoid the camera’s stare, they sometimes congregate in a blind spot near the front of the classroom, they said.
“A noble person shouldn’t have anything to hide,” said Jiang Jifa, a computer scientist and co-founder of a network of technology enrichment programs.