Alibaba founder Jack Ma is a tech genius, one of China’s richest people, and once long ago, a victim of school bullying. Ma says China would have many more success stories like his if its schools focused less on test scores and more on good times.
At a conference in Shanghai in December, Ma spoke bluntly about the shortcomings of China’s education system. Techinasia.com quoted him as saying:
“I got my cultural education … by having fun. Kids who know how to have fun, are able to have fun, and want to have fun generally have bright futures."
He went on to add that such fun and games are by no means a waste of time: "Many painters learn by having fun, many athletes learn by having fun, many works [of art and literature]are the products of having fun. So, our entrepreneurs need to learn how to have fun, too.”
Ma ought to know a thing or two Chinese education, after all, he worked as a school teacher in the 90s before founding e-commerce behemoth Alibaba and going on to become one of China’s richest people.
And while these may be the gripes of a former education insider, Ma’s beef with China’s schools may be more deeply seeded than that. According to the Financial Post, Ma was bullied by his classmates as a boy because of his size, and his poor grades lead to his enrollment at Hangzhou Normal, a school that has not considered top-tier.
The piece went on to quote Ma’s extracurricular recollections, mainly the time he spent brushing up his English on the street instead of in the classroom, as an amateur guide for laowai tourists. As Ma put it: “I started to become more globalized than most Chinese…. What I learned from my teachers and books was different from what the foreign visitors told us.”
Fine advice for those of you fretting too much about exams at this time of year.
Image: The Real Singapore