Does anything change?

I am a member of various WeChat groups for bloggers in China and in Beijing. Mostly, I remain silent, unless something particularly interests me or the discussion is about something I know. But sometimes other members post their latest blog posts, and it can be interesting reading what others write about and also how they lay out their blogs. One such article, here, got me thinking about my latest post. The author describes her experiences of communication and cultural understanding in China. When I write, I tend to draft the post in Word, sometimes sitting on it for a while, depending how ‘current’ it is, and the theme of the post.

I wrote the following, but then, reading the article mentioned above, thought about whether it was a little too strong, perhaps a little too angry. When I was informed about what happened below, I was certainly annoyed, as were my colleagues, and, as with much here, there seemed to be no explanation as to why the decision was taken. But, I have toned it down (a little), from what I originally said (the word ‘incompetent’ appeared more than once in the original draft). Now, let me begin with a bit of context. We are rapidly approaching the end of the semester, and as such, all eyes are on the final exam. I was wondering whether there would be as monumental a cock-up as there was last semester (see here), when the level of English in the listening exam questions were poor at best and embarrassingly woeful at worst. There was a myriad of issues – grammatical, Chinglish, copy and paste errors, as well as statements being vague, or ambiguous (questions where any answer could be the correct one), and questions and answers which did not even make sense.

At the start of the semester, we were told that in the textbook (which has eight units), we were to cover units 1-4, 6 and 7 in class. We should not do unit 5 or unit 8. Missing out unit 5 seemed a little odd, but we thought nothing more of it. Last week, the foreign teacher team received a message to say that the listening exam would consist of units 1-6, excluding 7 but including 5. The message ended with ‘Sorry for the inconvenience’….

Why has it been decided, all of a sudden, to include unit 5 on the exam when it has not been covered in class, and exclude unit 7, which has been? That is a good question and one which can only be speculated on. We – and by we, I mean me and my foreign teacher colleagues – suspect that whoever wrote the exam, included unit 5, for some reason and then the English staff could not – or would not – change it. It would not require much amendment; only the questions relating to unit 5 would have to be removed and in its place those pertaining to unit 7. It affects their classes too, but they do not seem to mind messing around the students. I will be honest and say it is the department’s incompetence, rather than my own. Still, it does not make us look great. I suspect the students will understand, but that is not really the point.

I have not seen the exam papers yet, so whether they will be as poorly written as last semester, remains to be seen. However, I am not holding out much hope that a lot will have changed ….

My students at the moment are doing their speaking exams. This is a group presentation. It follows similar themes to last semester, but I have provided them with more time and split the exams over two weeks. I am really pleased and proud of the students and what they have achieved. They need to do an advertising campaign about a career, sport or new product, pitching their ideas to their classmates and fellow university students. Included in their presentation was a leaflet they have to produce, a PPT and a video (which is optional). Last semester, the leaflets were a bit hit and miss – some were like leaflets but many looked more like posters. This semester, however, having shown them a model of good and bad leaflets from last semester, students have risen to the mark and produced some quite excellent ones. I am always amazed at what they can achieve in such a short period. One group was talking about volleyball and even produced a very professional-looking leaflet, on expensive paper.

Last Friday, one group spoke about acting (as a career), and after class, the four young ladies who presented (their group name was ‘Superstar’) asked for a photograph with me.

I have one more day of presentations and then three weeks of lessons left before I have finished for the year. And, given all the changes that will happen next year, and it very likely being my last one here, it will be a nice long break too, before returning for one last time.

2 thoughts on “Does anything change?

  1. It’s so challenging to feel helpless when it comes to our students, especially knowing that high grades are so important to them. Also, although the fault lies in the company/higher ups, it is very possible that the blame will fall on the teachers. It’s really a challenging situation. I wish you and your students luck and hope you find a way to support them!


    1. Thanks. I am honest with my students when I make a mistake or forget to do something but equally I make it clear that the exam stuff is the fault of the department and no me. Whether they believe that or not I don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

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