Earlier this week, a full-fledged discussion broke out on Weibo about whether or not learning English is a waste of time for Chinese people.
It all started on Monday when 花千芳 Hua Qianfang, a farmer turned self-taught writer, published a post on Weibo, claiming that English is "a useless skill to most Chinese which robs children of their precious childhood." The post has since been deleted. Meanwhile, he accused those who advocate English education as "self-diminishing slaves of Western ideology." The post, suffice it to say, set fire to the powder keg and drew over 20,000 comments.
Later, the debate reached a new level when 王思聪 Wang Sicong, a Chinese businessman who is also the only son of Wanda boss Wang Jianlin, joined the fight by replying to Hua: "I can't believe there are still dumbasses who have never traveled to a foreign country in the year of 9012." The term '9012' — a popular way of exaggerating the year 2019 on the Internet and often used when attacking someone with a traditional or old-fashioned mindset – pointed out the narrowmindedness of Hua's statement (His post has also been deleted).
This could have become a meaningful and fruitful discussion as the two represent different social classes and could shed light on the issue from different angles. Nonetheless, the debate quickly escalated into a dirty verbal brawl, as both somehow took the whole thing very personally.
The merits of teaching English in China have been debated since 2001, when the Ministry of Education published a new regulation requiring all students to start learning English in primary school. Although English has become as significant as Chinese and Mathematics in terms of education, many consider that Chinese students' English capabilities develop too slowly despite that fact that many parents and their kids devote huge amounts of time toward learning the language. Last year, the pass rate of CET-4 and CET-6 (English skill tests all college students have to pass if they want to graduate) only amounted to 39.8 percent.
In 2017, Li Guangyu, delegate of the Two Sessions, even suggested to take English out of the gaokao and make English an elective course (the proposal wasn't approved, of course), reports ifeng. According to Li, students spend too much time and money leaning the language which may offer little to no help on their future occupations. "The cost of Chinese children learning English in one year can reach approximately RMB164 billion," stated Li. "The same amount can be used to construct 0.8 Three Gorges or launch 204 Shenzhou spacecrafts."
"In that case, isn't kindergarten enough for kids?" retorts one netizen. "After all, we can still communicate without learning Chinese. Mathematics has become useless as well since we have Alipay and WeChat Pay to do the job. Most people don't need to have contact with foreigners so English is also unnecessary. Knowledge of history and geography can be acquired through Wikipedia. As for physics and chemistry, a great number of people never get the hang of them, anyway. Just dispatch our little ones a phone after they graduate from kindergarten and they can start their precious childhood immediately."
[Cover image via Pexels]