Facing a grim job market for which they are unprepared and feeling cheated of not insignificant amounts of time and money, university graduates are ramping up their criticism of colleges. In case this scenario sounds familiar, it’s happening in China.The Wall Street Journal notes that a 2006 survey on Chinese attitudes to higher education has resurfaced on Chinese microblogs and is attracting considerable attention. That poll found found 35% of recent Chinese college grads “regret” having gone to college, while 51.5% said they “didn’t learn anything useful.”For readers in the US, the parallels are all too stark:
“I don’t understand why I am asked to spend so much time studying English and take so many general courses when my major is Classical Chinese,” said one web user in Guangxi province. “We are disappointed because we expected so much and spent so much money,” said another user in Guangdong.A number of microblog users complained that they are facing unfair competition for jobs from the children of the powerful and wealthy. One said, “Competing to win a job has now become competing to show who has a more privileged daddy.” A tougher job market has raised the volume of such grievances.
The growing discontentment would seem to undercut China’s reputation as an educational powerhouse. Despite there being more than 2,000 universities in China, its top-ranked school, Tsinghua, is ranked 30th in the Times Higher Education ranking of 2012. Frustrated by the poor options at home, China’s youth are increasingly choosing, when they can afford it, to study abroad – the number of graduates at Beijing’s top high schools receiving offers from colleges abroad has jumped 40% this year.Beyond putting a dent in the illusion of China’s educational prowess, these findings also indicate that increasing numbers of students across the world – and not just in the US – are wondering whether the traditional university school system is worth the effort and the cost.