In China, the Gaokao – National Higher Education Entrance Examination – is a crucial milestone in Chinese students’ lives. According to the grade obtained, they will be able to enter a more or less prestigious university. Though several cases of “cross-regional” Gaokao happened since last year, students should always take the Gaokao where they have their Hukou, i.e. in their province of official residence, where they will stay registered for the rest of their life no matter where they actually live, study and work. It means that a student from a less developed town wishing to study in a developed city such as Shanghai will have fewer chances to access a good university because the students with a Shanghai Hukou have the priority over the others. This is the first thing I learned about the Chinese education system when arriving at swissnex China for my continuing training. For someone used to promote the permeability and the average high quality of the Swiss education system, I immediately thought: this is the absolute opposite of the Swiss system!
The next day, when visiting the Sino-Finnish Center at the University of Tongji, I was impressed by the Aalto-Tongji Design Factory, an innovative ecosystem bringing together students, researchers and start-ups around international and interdisciplinary activities. Then I thought: this is extremely innovative, I have not heard of anything like that in Switzerland. Such initiatives are probably very valuable in China, where studies still remain largely theoretical. Exactly like in Europe, universities try to embed more and more internship periods within their curricula. In Europe, student exchanges for internship purposes are increasingly frequent and can be supported by the Erasmus programme. Internship possibilities for international students will certainly also increase in China, even though administrative procedures, e.g. to obtain a visa, can prove complicated. The Nordic Center of the University of Fudan e.g. is building up an “internship strategy” for Nordic students coming to Shanghai. In any case, Swiss students always have the possibility to do an internship in the very dynamic environment of swissnex China. And dynamic might be an understatement: in China – compared to Switzerland, and even to Brussels – decisions seem to be taken and things to evolve at ‘just another speed’. Gaining insight into the daily work of swissnex China was definitely inspiring for me and I thank the whole team for the excellent organization of my stay!
Contributed by Florence Balthasar, European Advisor for Education at SwissCore (Contact Office for European Research, Innovation and Education) http://www.swisscore.org/E/Pages/home.aspx