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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: November 29, 2010 NO. 48 DECEMBER 2, 2010
Should Government Dictate Students' Social Practice Activities?

The involvement of the government and society can provide support for college students' social practice activities so they don't become a mere formality and have enough attraction for the students. Learning from workers, farmers and solders adds to and reinforces college education. This practice is worth popularization.

Chun Hua (Guangzhou Daily): People are critical of today's college students who they say have very bad hands-on ability although very high scores in exams and know little about the hard lives of common people. As education authorities work out social practice programs in hopes of improving the situation, however, many opponents hold students should pay more attention to their textbooks.

In an examination-oriented education system, Chinese students lack social practice activities, which can be made up by participating in programs of learning from workers, farmers and soldiers. Social experience doesn't have to be solely learning about advanced technology and productivity. Learning from common people's hardships is equally important. These two concepts are not contrary to each other and can coexist.

What's more, the number of urban students is far greater than rural students. An urban student can only be an armchair strategist when it comes to the issues of agriculture, farming and rural areas. Many of them will go to fields related to workers, farmers and soldiers, and some may work in government. Experiences at the grassroots levels of society is bound to deeply affect their ways of working.

Not operable

Tian Dezheng (Huashang Daily): Universities are entitled to organize social practice activities for students. But when the organizer becomes a government department, it will inevitably cause worries. For example, will it become compulsory or contribute to grading even if the government says it won't be connected with credit points and graduation? Those concerns make sense because schools are still subject to government order. If education authorities require college students to, indiscriminately, spend four months learning from workers, farmers and soldiers, it's unlikely the universities and students will reject the concept.

Educational development relies heavily on innovation by schools. From this perspective, how college students should conduct social practice activities should be decided by universities.

The government can call on more college students to be involved in social practice activities but it should avoid setting specific programs and agendas. If the government elaborates on how many days a college student should spend with farmers, it's not advocacy but administrative order.

Xiong Bingqi (Oriental Morning Daily): Ensuring at least four months of social practice activities for more than 700,000 students during their college careers is a plan that can be implemented in two totally different ways. First, based on students' needs, the government creates opportunities of social practice activities for them to choose; second, the government makes it mandatory for students to have this experience. The former is within the government's responsibilities but the latter represents intervention in students' rights to choose and universities' rights to educate students in their own ways.

If the government focuses on creating opportunities for social practice activities, respects students' rights to choose and gives universities enough room for independent education, students would be more than happy to choose social practice activities suitable for them. On the contrary, if the government blindly emphasizes the scale of students' involvement, it will just become a mere formality. In that way, good intentions will end up with bad results.

Tangji Weide (pinglun.cntv.cn): College students need social practice activities related to competence in their majors and the needs of their future employment. That's to say, internships are practical and utilitarian, and may even lead to employment opportunities. Without doubt, no matter how meaningful learning from workers, farmers and soldiers is, if it neglects students' personal choices and interests, it won't provide them with anything meaningful. Even they stay in the countryside, factories or military camps, they will just play at it without doing anything practical, with their minds miles away.

On the surface, Chongqing's social practice activities program for college students is optional but with the government involved, it may become compulsory. Uniform planning and implementation may ignore students' personal wishes when they ignore individual differences and lack flexibility. Therefore, it violates scientific principles. At the same time, education in hardship is already a life course, which calls for long-term experience after entering society. It's not wrong to set a platform for it, but the real problem is it isn't in accordance with students' real needs, which can produce serious side effects.

Ran Yu (Beijing Youth Daily): We shouldn't deny current higher education has many flaws. As products of the education industry, college students keep disappointing society because of lack of competence and unsatisfactory individual accomplishments. It's commonly demanded current conditions must be changed. Against this background, a new round of educational reform is gradually taking place with universities in the lead and canceling bureaucratic intervention as its primary objective. Those measures are taking different paths but have the same destination—improving higher education. Chongqing's social practice activities program for college students also claims improving higher education is its goal.

It's said after learning from workers, farmers and soldiers, college students will know more about the country, the city and common people and become builders of society. The prevalent optimism exaggerates or even deifies the positive effect of the program. But what needs serious consideration is how much of the experience students gather from going to the countryside or working in a factory can ultimately be transformed into students' competence.

If learning from workers, farmers and soldiers is part of educational reform, it may be worthwhile. But officials shouldn't be over-optimistic. Higher education has its own rules. A single attempt is not enough to overcome all the flaws of the higher education system.

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