Youth Prepare for Life After WTO

The country's youth appear to be fully aware of the competition they face once China enters the World Trade Organization (WTO). Young people in cities all across the country are currently engaged in night school and in training programs in the hope that further education will provide them with better jobs and thus a better future.

It was five o'clock on Friday afternoon, time to knock off. For many white collars, it was time to say good-bye to a busy week, run away from the office and throw themselves into a leisurely and carefree weekend.

But this was not the case for Lin Wanfang, an office lady in a Beijing-based foreign-funded company. For the 24-year-old, the beginning of the weekend means two days of sitting in the classroom at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE).

Lin, who received a diploma after a four-year college program, began to attend a post-graduate course majoring in international finance in September.

Over the next two and a half years, she will have to spend most Saturdays and Sundays at the university campus.

If she passes examinations in a dozen subjects, she will get a post-graduate diploma issued by the university.

Like Lin, a great deal of young people in China, especially in metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai, are devoting their spare time to various kinds of academic programs.

These kind of learning activities are often described as "charging," referring to charging a battery!

An upsurge of "charging" is currently sweeping across the country.

Advertisements offering education courses are frequently seen in professional newspapers where they also provide readers with job information.

On weekends, almost all major universities and colleges in the big cities are full of "temporary students" like Lin.

Lin recalls overhearing a conversation between two UIBE students when she was reviewing her subjects in a terrace classroom at the university.

The classroom was full of people.

"How many people here are 'real' university students?" a girl asked.

"Maybe we are the only two," the other girl joked.

The enrollment fees for such "charging" depends on different universities and majors, and can range from some 8,000 yuan (US$960) to 20,000 yuan (US$2,400) per year. Considering that in 2000, the average disposable personal income was 11,718 yuan (US$1,411) in Shanghai and 10,349 yuan (US$1,247) in Beijing, the money people pay for their "charging" is a huge amount.

Courses run jointly by a local university and a foreign university can even charge more than this. It may cost as much as US$20,000, or even US$30,000 to do such a course.

However, people are still flooding in.

The main participants are usually white collars, government employees and correspondents.

Most universities are offering courses in economics, finance, business administration, international trade and international politics.

While people who have graduated from universities are returning to campus to get a master's degree, many university students are also attending training classes in their spare time.

The most popular training program is language skill training, mainly English.

The Chinese have a long history of valuing education. Confucius, the ancient great thinker and scholar who is almost known to every household in China, was also the country's first professional educationist in history. "Honoring the teacher and revering his teachings" is part of the heritage of the Confucian ideology, which has been inseparably merged with Chinese culture and the cultural mentality of the Chinese nation.

However, the current upsurge of study does not have much to do with such cultural tradition and national mentality, because the young generation's desire for weekend classes is seldom out of a real love for academic studies.

The younger generation is a generation that is very different to that of their parents and grandparents.

Most of them were born in the late 1970s, when China had just started its ambitious reform and opening up which have now benefited the country greatly.

Brought up in the period of economic take-off and living in a relatively better-off life, they have suffered much less than the 1960s and early 1970s generation.

However, what is interesting is that they also have a strong sense of anxiety about lagging behind.

As China is gearing up for more fierce competition which will be brought by the country's WTO accession, this enthusiastic generation are also gearing themselves up to be better equipped for such competition.

Earlier generations saw the concept of market economy being introduced to China in the late 1970s.

Whilst still at middle school, people learned that fierce competition would be inevitable and rife in the future and that it was important to survive it.

Such doctrine is deeply rooted in the minds of the generation and helps to foster a strong sense of urgency.

The story of Kong Bei, who is working at the Shanghai branch of a renowned transnational corporation, best illustrates this point.

Last June, the girl graduated from the Shanghai International Studies University, one of China's top language universities.

While she was at university learning how to teach Chinese as a second language, she developed an intense desire to attend night school.

When she graduated, apart from getting a degree from the university, she also passed the Test for English Majors (TEM), as well as a national Japanese language test. She completed a half-year computer operation course and a one-year senior interpretation course for English.

"It is necessary to master more practical skills to get a good job," said the 23-year-old.

The skills and knowledge that she has obtained from such courses have helped her enormously in getting a good job.

Now a white collar, she still feels that she cannot give up on learning. As soon as her life as a professional began, she enrolled on a graduate course run by a Shanghai-based university.

Like Kong, most people who devote their spare time to study have a clear objective - to find a good or better job.

The on-going reform is exerting much pressure on them. This has compelled them to be quite realistic and utilitarian. They work arduously, sparing no efforts to fulfill their dream.

(China Daily December 3, 2001)

In This Series

Education Vital for Economic Growth

Youths Trained for Better Prospects



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