Currently, China has a “mania” about learning English. You might see pregnant women singing English songs to their babies, senior citizens in parks practicing English speaking, and students paying big bucks for for tutoring to prepare for the TOEFL test.
Three hundred years ago, people studied English to understand the world and communicate with China’s foreign visitors. When English tests became required for college admission, people started to see learning English as a way to get better career and education opportunities.
English has been a part of China’s formal education system ever since the early 1980s. Now, all children are required by law to begin studying English when they are 8 years old or even younger in some provinces. For many Chinese, English is also important because it enables them to represent China positively to foreigners.
In 2002, Wang Shouren, the chairman of the (NFLTAB) National Foreign Language Teaching Advisory Board within the Ministry of Education, published an editorial in the journal Foreign Language Education saying, “only through the English language can we assist the world in learning about the importance of China’s local experience and knowledge.” His views were accepted by party scholars who believe English is indispensable for creating modern Chinese citizens with worldwide vision.
China has transformed its economy in the last three decades and embraced new values of free competition and markets. China’s 2001 ascent to the World Trade Association, together with its hosting the 2008 Olympics, made obvious the country’s need for additional English speakers. Also, university registration in China has risen from 1.08 million in the year 1998 to 5.67 million in the year 2007, and parents know that their children must be ready for severe competition for jobs and the wealth of the new economy.
Parents’ anxiety and eagerness have created a huge English-language training market together with the formal education system. Parents’ anxiety and eagerness have created a huge English-language training market to supplement China’s public schools.
Private English training schools preach patriotism as a way to enroll English-language pupils. One language training company in China, Crazy English, has taught patriotic jingles like “Master English to Make China Stronger.” Li Yang, founder of the company, appeals to the desires of students to prosper, China’s nationalistic fervor, and the recognition of global competition.
Other training schools that focus on teaching preschool kids, say that English capability as a key to an elite family’s global success in life. The idea of cultivating elite children is very appealing to parents, who have the capability to eventually send their kids overseas for college.
A typical example of school marketing is Rise English, whose advertising materials promise scholars an “American education in China” and the chance to become “future global leaders.” This appeals to parents who believe that intense global rivalry means only elite citizens will thrive or survive. The drastic speed that China has transformed in the past 30 years continues to has shaped how people imagine China’s emerging role in a globalized economy.
If we consider the increasing numbers of Chinese students spending increasing time and money on learning English, it’s a craze that displays no signs of abating.