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Shaquelle Mckenzie

Studying a Bachelor Degree in Chinese - (Non Native)

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Shaquelle Mckenzie

Hi to all,

 

I have been searching and looking for any positive responses from student who are currently pursuing their studies in China whether it be a Bachelor or Master's Degree. Please share how It has been studying in chinese for your chosen major among other chinese students having done 1 year language studies beforehand.

 

If you can please answer the following:

 

What degree and major are you currently or have studied in china?

How was your 1 year chinese language study?

Was it enough to keep up with the local students in class for your chosen major?

How well have you manage to do in your exams?

What level of HSK would you recommend one to achieve before studying a degree in chinese?

 

Any other relevant opinions you can share would greatly appreciated.

 

 

 

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agewisdom
5 hours ago, anonymoose said:

I chose to write all my answers in Chinese, which I'm sure had an impact on my marks (because my writing in Chinese is much slower than English, so completing the exams in time was always a challenge), but my rationale was that I already had a first class degree from a/the top UK university so had nothing to prove, and wanted the satisfaction of doing the exam the "proper" way.

 

The other thing is that local students cheat. Cheating is so widespread, that I would say it is essentially not even seen as cheating. Invigilators would always warn that cheating would be punished, but in reality, they would always turn a blind eye. So, you will be at a severe disadvantage if you want to do the exams honestly, which is an additional obstacle besides the language barrier.

 

On the other hand, though, the tutors would often give pre-exam tutorials to the foreign students, in which they would to a greater or lesser extent, let us know what was coming up in the exam - so unfair in favour of the foreign students (but to be honest, I think there are a lot of exams we wouldn't have had a chance of passing without  this help).

 

Is it really that bad for a degree course in Shanghai? Given that you're doing a degree in CLINICAL MEDICINE, one would expect the standards to be higher.

 

1. What form of cheating that's taking place? Hard to conceive this, short of them using handphones to search the internet for answers? Or maybe copying dissertations and essays online?

2. To do a Chinese degree but answer in English? Frankly, it sorts of defeats the purpose of doing a degree isn't it?

3. Helping is ok, like maybe giving hints and tips. But outright pre-exam tutorials esp. if they mirror the actual exams?

 

Guess, capitalism has reared its' ugly head in education causing a drop in standards... Sigh.

 

Thanks for your insights though.

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ChTTay

@agewisdom

 

What’s described is pretty much the case across the board. 

 

Without getting into it to much I wouldn’t say it’s due to capitalism per se as I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon. I feel like it’s more likely collectivism has a stronger influence. No one wants anyone to fail so badly they lose face. The teacher would lose face and potentially their job if enough students failed. The students would have problems, the parents would have problems, they’d then cause problems for the school and that teacher. 

 

As you suggest, there is probably the element of “I’m paying for this so you need to pass me”. Equally, the school has a reputation or wants one where students are successful (which means good exam scores). 

 

These are issues that plague the Gaokao in China as well. 

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agewisdom
4 minutes ago, ChTTay said:

The teacher would lose face and potentially their job if enough students failed. The students would have problems, the parents would have problems, they’d then cause problems for the school and that teacher.

 

Yes, you're right. Unfortunately, this sort of degradation in the standards of education has an insidious knock-on effect. You get fresh graduates that just don't quite cut it in real working life and find themselves unemployable. And various professionals such as doctors and engineers that are of dubious quality... well... a wrong prescription for a sick patient may have dire consequences.

 

Sigh... A sign of the times I guess. Used to be that a degree meant something in the past... Now... It's just a piece of paper.

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anonymoose
9 hours ago, agewisdom said:

What form of cheating that's taking place?

 

In the exams, communicating with other students while the invigilator's back was turned. What shocked me was that even some of the best students were doing this.

 

9 hours ago, agewisdom said:

To do a Chinese degree but answer in English? Frankly, it sorts of defeats the purpose of doing a degree isn't it?

 

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Most of the other foreign students were sponsored by their governments to read a degree in medicine in China. They had no particular interest in China - the objective was just to get a medical degree, which they did.

 

8 hours ago, agewisdom said:

And various professionals such as doctors and engineers that are of dubious quality... well... a wrong prescription for a sick patient may have dire consequences.

 

I certainly agree that with a lax enforcement of discipline, there is potential for people qualifying with sub-standard skills. However, perhaps I didn't make it clear in my previous post - the local students were hard-working (this was one of the top universities in China). The cheating in the exams wasn't (in most cases, I assume) an attempt to scrape through, but rather to increase grades in a highly competitive environment. I'm sure most of the local students would have passed the degree legitimately just fine without cheating, albeit with a lower overall GPA. Unfortunately, the system as it is though, encourages cheating. If enough students are getting away with it, why would you disadvantage your competitiveness by not cheating? No one's going to give you an award for not cheating - people will just look at your GPA when you apply for a job.

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agewisdom
1 hour ago, anonymoose said:

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Most of the other foreign students were sponsored by their governments to read a degree in medicine in China. They had no particular interest in China - the objective was just to get a medical degree, which they did.

 

For clarification, was the medical degree taught in Mandarin with the books and other reading materials in Mandarin? Was the medical degree based more on Western based philosophy and methodologies (i.e. akin to a Medical degree taught in Europe/US) or with more a Chinese flavour and incorporate local Chinese medicine and theories? If its' the latter, it would be surprising to answer the questions in English if the majority of the reading materials is in Mandarin and a substantial part of the degree is taught in Mandarin.

 

1 hour ago, anonymoose said:

Unfortunately, the system as it is though, encourages cheating.

 

1 hour ago, anonymoose said:

No one's going to give you an award for not cheating - people will just look at your GPA when you apply for a job. 

 

It's kinda of sad to see this type of thing going on. I'm sure this happened in the past but appears to be more prevalent now. Unfortunately, these slips in ethical standards leads down a slippery road to corruption and all sorts of social ills.

 

Thanks for sharing the information here. Hopefully, our TS doesn't mind that her topic has derailed somewhat by our discussion.

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agewisdom
9 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

The class readings were very difficult for me and I could only understand 40-60% of the lecture; the class discussions were generally too hard for me to follow. I don't think I really understood enough to get much of the class content during the first few terms since I was spending so much effort on trying to follow along, but I didn't mind because it was mostly about improving my Chinese. My listening/reading has improved, and I don't have a particularly hard time following lectures anymore, but it was definitely a struggle in the beginning.

 

It's really heartening to hear about you fighting the tough fight and learning with integrity. The struggle is part and parcel of learning and I personally wouldn't accept anything less.

 

9 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

On the other hand, several of my classmates entered the program with only one year of Chinese and I would say that they have learned nothing after 2 years. They weren't anywhere near the level required to do a reading, they were lucky if they understood 10% of the lectures and their presentations were often barely even related to course content. They still passed their courses usually. Some paid Chinese students to write papers for them, others wrote papers in their mother language and hired a translator and some teachers even allowed them to present/write in their mother language (even if the teacher didn't understand). Personally, I wouldn't suggest it. 

 

I just can't understand people with such a mentality. Not only are they wasting their time but their degree is practically worthless. What's the POINT of doing it? Seriously...!!!

 

9 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

I am getting my MA in Chinese studies (focus is in Late Qing/Republican diplomatic history)

 

Omygod! That's a fascinating topic and I would love to get some insights/resources on this topic from you, if possible. The Warlord Era is one my favorite areas of history (aside from the Three Kingdoms). If only Yuan Shih Kai could have done a good job like Cao Cao... The Chinese History Forum used to be a great repository of knowledge but it's gone for good now.

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anonymoose
36 minutes ago, agewisdom said:

For clarification, was the medical degree taught in Mandarin with the books and other reading materials in Mandarin? Was the medical degree based more on Western based philosophy and methodologies (i.e. akin to a Medical degree taught in Europe/US) or with more a Chinese flavour and incorporate local Chinese medicine and theories? If its' the latter, it would be surprising to answer the questions in English if the majority of the reading materials is in Mandarin and a substantial part of the degree is taught in Mandarin.

 

It was taught in Mandarin. The reading materials were all in Mandarin. Of course, you could supplement them with any other materials of your choosing, but the exams were aligned with the official course book, so in terms of exam strategy, you essentially had to memorise the course book.

 

The degree was in clinical medicine. I hesitate to call it Western based philosophy and methodologies, because objective science isn't limited by country or culture, and the course certainly wasn't presented as Western in contrast to Chinese. The course did cover, however, some minor components in Chinese medicine.

 

Writing the exam in English is not surprising if you have no other feasible option.

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agewisdom
10 minutes ago, anonymoose said:

It was taught in Mandarin. The reading materials were all in Mandarin. Of course, you could supplement them with any other materials of your choosing, but the exams were aligned with the official course book, so in terms of exam strategy, you essentially had to memorise the course book.

 

10 minutes ago, anonymoose said:

Writing the exam in English is not surprising if you have no other feasible option. 

 

I always presumed that at this level, the student should answer in Mandarin. Maybe in the rare circumstances of a difficult subject matter or when one is running short of time, one could answer in English. Otherwise, it should be the rare exception rather than the norm.

 

After all, if one answers exclusively in English, it really begs the question of how much the student would have learned from the course, if the bulk of the course materials and the course itself is being taught in Mandarin? I mean... wouldn't you agree? 🤔

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edelweis
37 minutes ago, agewisdom said:

a difficult subject matter or when one is running short of time

like medical studies maybe?

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agewisdom
10 minutes ago, edelweis said:

like medical studies maybe?

 

What I meant are specific subject matters within the medical studies. For instance:

1. Human Anatomy.

2. General Medicine.

3. Orthopaedics.

 

If one is weak in one of these papers, say Orthopaedics, you could answer this in English in part. If you're answering the entire MBBS syllabus in English due to it being a difficult subject matter, that's a flimsy excuse. What isn't difficult? Law? Finance? Physics?

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Shaquelle Mckenzie
18 hours ago, anonymoose said:

 

Anyway, it is certainly possible to get through a degree programme (with a lot of hard work) and come out with a degree at the end. In terms of how much you actually learn, though, I would say it cannot compare to doing a degree in your mother tongue. At least that was my experience

 

Thank you for your experience. 

 

 

 

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Alex_Hart
10 hours ago, agewisdom said:

It's really heartening to hear about you fighting the tough fight and learning with integrity. The struggle is part and parcel of learning and I personally wouldn't accept anything less.

 

10 hours ago, agewisdom said:

I just can't understand people with such a mentality. Not only are they wasting their time but their degree is practically worthless. What's the POINT of doing it? Seriously...!!!

 

 

This depends on your goals. Many foreign students are here to really study, ranging from linguistics students who want to become translators to law students getting their PhDs or specializations in law. These students work hard and don't seem as likely to cheat or coast through the program. Others just want to improve their Chinese and do not particularly care about the course content; maybe they still try to get good grades or maybe they're just focusing on improving their HSK, etc. Some students are here to play around for 2-3 years because of cheap living costs and the relative ease of getting a scholarship.

 

Even the age of students is pretty different from most American unis; I think I'm one of the younger foreign students in the humanities grad program and I'm 25 (only one person is younger than me in the Chinese studies program), there are plenty of foreigners in their 30s and some in their 40s. While some students are taking a break from working, others are trying to defer their conscription, or just wanted a "last hurrah" before entering the workforce. A lot of students seem to think just having gone to a Chinese university is great for their resume (this especially true for a lot of the east and south Asian students who expect to work in companies that deal primarily with China). Some students are here primarily to teach English and make money. 

 

 

16 hours ago, agewisdom said:

Omygod! That's a fascinating topic and I would love to get some insights/resources on this topic from you, if possible. The Warlord Era is one my favorite areas of history (aside from the Three Kingdoms). If only Yuan Shih Kai could have done a good job like Cao Cao... The Chinese History Forum used to be a great repository of knowledge but it's gone for good now.

Resources on this period are endless in Chinese, though a lot of the scholarship written before 2000 is of a rather poor quality. 李侃等's《中国近代史》and 王桧林 's《中国现代史》are typical survey books for new students. There have been dozens of books released in English in recent years, e.g. Rana Mitter's China's War with Japan is a great survey of WWII, Xu Guoqi's Chinese and Americans: A Shared History  studies a few individuals who played outsized (and comparatively positive or less imperialistic) roles in US-China relations, Paul Cohen's History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience and Myth is great, Akira Iriye has written several books on the role of culture in Sino/US/Japanese relations from 1895 until 1950. 

 

As to Yuan Shikai, I can't think of any specific books since I'm mostly doing diplomatic history, but I seem to recall that the Cambridge History of China devotes one or two chapters to the warlords.

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agewisdom
7 minutes ago, Alex_Hart said:

Resources on this period are endless in Chinese, though a lot of the scholarship written before 2000 is of a rather poor quality. 李侃等's《中国近代史》and 王桧林 's《中国现代史》are typical survey books for new students. There have been dozens of books released in English in recent years, e.g. Rana Mitter's China's War with Japan is a great survey of WWII, Xu Guoqi's Chinese and Americans: A Shared History  studies a few individuals who played outsized (and comparatively positive or less imperialistic) roles in US-China relations, Paul Cohen's History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience and Myth is great, Akira Iriye has written several books on the role of culture in Sino/US/Japanese relations from 1895 until 1950. 

 

As to Yuan Shikai, I can't think of any specific books since I'm mostly doing diplomatic history, but I seem to recall that the Cambridge History of China devotes one or two chapters to the warlords.

 

1. Thanks for sharing the books in English. I have Rana Mitter's book. The others, I'll have to look into.

2. As for Chinese resources, do you mind PM me to some of the links you find interesting. Maybe one day... [in the far future], I may have progressed far enough in my Mandarin learning to peruse through some of these.

 

I'm mainly interested in the Warlords and Warlords era specifically.

 

10 minutes ago, Alex_Hart said:

Some students are here to play around for 2-3 years because of cheap living costs and the relative ease of getting a scholarship. 

 

Ah... makes sense then I guess. Still I can never understand that sort of mentality. It's a golden opportunity to learn, why not make full use of it? 🙄

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Alex_Hart
On 12/17/2018 at 8:39 PM, agewisdom said:

Ah... makes sense then I guess. Still I can never understand that sort of mentality. It's a golden opportunity to learn, why not make full use of it? 🙄

Aye, I think it's the same in a lot of American universities though.

 

I think the major problem in China is a lack of "good" institutions, like clear guidelines, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. For example, I still have no idea how teachers actually grade my papers in China. I have asked a lot of my professors for comments on my papers, but almost none responded or sent them to me. Many students feel like they get the same grade (84-86) regardless of whether they throw together a report or spend hours researching it. American professors like using apps like Turn It In to check for plagiarism but I have never been asked to use this kind of thing in China. This incentivizes people who are tempted to cheat or be lazy, and sometimes may allow people even with a year of Chinese to pass courses meant for graduate students (which shouldn't be possible, honestly); they feel like they can get away with it and there is little difference between working hard or taking it easy.

 

I think as the university system continues to develop and improve, this will get better. A lot of professors have started talking about plagiarism, which I understand wasn't really on the radar a decade ago. Younger professors are getting better at clearly stating guidelines on things like citations, grading and whatnot. Even in the actual scholarship, there has been an increasing desire for objectivity and professionalism in fields like history. For example, if you read Chinese history papers written between 1980-2000 about the Sino-Japanese War 中国抗日战争, there is a lot of loaded language against the Japanese, against the GMD or pro-China/the Communist party. Words like coward or traitor are used often, and they often read like editorials rather than what is now commonly accepted as "historical writing" due to a lack of clear references. Post-2000, this has decreased a lot. While it continues in the mainstream Chinese press and in school for kids, it isn't necessarily all that acceptable in Chinese universities anymore. American scholarship on China went through a similar progression; much of the history written in the 50s and 60s was obsessed with "who lost China?" in reference to the Communist victory; it made a lot of assumptions about preferred outcomes and tried to diagnose what went wrong. By 1980 with the dissipation of McCarthyism and the opening of China, this has largely dissipated.

 

I expect we'll see a continued trend towards professionalization in Chinese universities. As this occurs, these other problems will also improve. This also means increasing the standards for foreign students so that they can actually perform well in a university setting.

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agewisdom

Thank you for the fascinating insight into the higher education system in China, Alex_Hart. I find your experience interesting. Guess it pays to be careful before enrolling in any such course.

 

Btw ~ Any opinions on Xiamen University? Either here or PM would be appreciated.

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Alex_Hart
2 hours ago, agewisdom said:

Btw ~ Any opinions on Xiamen University? Either here or PM would be appreciated.

There is a very informative thread for Xiamen University here. There was an active poster who was a student at Xiamen that frequented the forums, but I'm not sure if he's still active. 

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agewisdom
14 minutes ago, Alex_Hart said:

There is a very informative thread for Xiamen University here. There was an active poster who was a student at Xiamen that frequented the forums, but I'm not sure if he's still active. 

 

Ah many thanks. :D

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