A view of China from the Indian side
Indian educationist, Dr Urvashi Sahni shares her experience of China - the land of plenty in terms of population and affluence. An invitation from Microsoft Research, Asia got her a glimpse of the Chinese education system, along with the regular tourist attractions - The Great Wall of China, and more.
An immediate impression of China is that everything is magnified to a huge scale! It’s huge, it’s vast!
Parts of it look just like India - the rural, the downtown. But I noticed that despite the affluence all around, the people don’t look as happy as they do in India.
My first impression of Beijing was that of vastness and abundance. Beijing has developed so much, and all in a span of less than two decades! The people too seemed highly disciplined.
School education in China
China was a curiosity driven trip. I’ve been meaning to go for a long time, to find out what makes the country tick. Besides the touristy things, I got a feel of their education system. They are eager to learn from all around to improve on their education and other systems. Their government schools with awesome infrastructure are no match even for our private schools.
There schools have the latest facilities and technology, but the quality of education does not measure up, as the human resource is not as good as their facilities.
China has no religion, so no communal riots. I think it’s a blessing. The downside is that values have taken a dip here, the locals say
English for a reason
Practically nobody speaks English here! Though, regular schools and special schools are catering to the demand for knowledge of English for the sake of optimising hold over the global market. For them English is a just a tool to use for the career graph. They have no cultural affinity with it whatsoever.
The Government's role
The government enforces rules and discipline to the T and that makes everything and everybody tick in China. But where the fear of the law is not there, the same people break even with wilful confusion. When I boarded a bus from a village I nearly broke my arm in the mad rush to board the rickety bus! Whereas, at railway stations, there is perfect law and order.The same people form a queue to enter the platform and get their paper ticket punched.
Automation in all spheres of public life is out of the world here! Yet, the benefits of development have spread to select areas only so far. The far-off villages wait their turn in grim squalor and poverty to be touched by the government’s magic money-wand.
Chinese cuisine: Cantonese, Sichuan, Mandarin, Muslim...
The spread of Chinese cuisine is again vast. The food is delicious! With all kinds of meat and fruit to choose from, I sampled quite a variety.
In China, everybody eats with chopsticks here and the meal is more like snacking on a variety of dishes. The rice, however, is served at the end of the meal. I asked for rice to be served in the beginning so that I could mentally feel like I had my full meal. I tasted fried bees at Kunming.
I had fun exploring Tienanmen Square, the Ming Emperors’ centuries old tombs, the Forbidden city, the summer palace of the emperors, and of course The Great Wall of China.
The summer palace is sheer 5 miles of painted corridors! The Great Wall - 6000km! All things in China speak of vast spreads. Restaurants have 100 tables each. Internet cafes have 100 computers each. Traffic jams at Beijing are colossal too, yet not anarchic.
Religion in China?
China has no religion, so no communal riots. I think it’s a blessing. The downside is that values have taken a dip here, the locals say. The government’s rules and regulations are the religion that works in China.
Though, Muslims have managed to preserve their haven of cultural affinity within the community. Muslim cuisine is also kept alive, which means abstinence from pork. Even school canteens provide pork-free food to Muslim children.
Shopping in downtown China
Local markets are colourful, crowded places, with a plethora of handicrafts and machine-made stuff.
Ming vases, Chinese lanterns, wicker baskets, silk paintings, and a whole lot of other interesting handcrafted articles show that their traditions are well alive, despite the deluge of machine-made goodies.
...It’s just that our Indian rupee is five times less than their yuan, so gives lesser buying power.