Improving Higher Ed

Write a blog post about one thing you believe should change in higher education.

I think China should change the format of college entrance exam.

On June 5th, 6th, and 7th every year, these are the most important dates in Chinese families, even compared to the Chinese New Year festival, because of the national wide College Entrance Exam. More police will be on the street to clear the traffic around the schools where student will take the exam, and if one car with student going to take the exam gets into the traffic jam, the car will appear like a emergency ambulance, and all the cars will give their way out to this car. All the ongoing constructions with noises will be forced to stop both day and night. Real ambulances will be waiting out side the exam rooms, incase any health issues with students or their parents. The real time news about the exam will occupy all the headlines of newspapers and webpages. The composition topic in Chinese will become the hottest topic across China once it has been released. All of these crazy things definitely happen each year on these 3 special days, as the College Entrance Exam is considered as the most important exam in every Chinese’s life.

Nowadays, some provinces can make their own exams, but in general, students will take Chinese (150 points, 2 and a half hours ), English (150 points,2 and a half hours), English (150 points, 2 and a half hours), and either General Science (300 points, 3 hours, including Chemistry, Physics, and Biology) or General Liberal Art (150 points, 3 hours, including Political Sciences, History, Geography). Within one month, every province will select the teachers from high school and take them to a isolated and secret place, and the selected teachers will grade all the exams in that province. One month later, the grades release. That is the most intense moment to every candidate and their family. Depending on the scores and rankings, the students will apply to an appropriate university. All the highest scores, lowest scores, average scores, numbers of admitted students and other admission statistics of the past a few years are published in a manual for the students as reference. The admission plan of each majors in every university are also open to public. The real application is only the total score of the College Entrance Exam. The university will rank all the scores from all applicants and selects the students with highest scores to meet their new student schedule. One exam will determine whether student get the ticket to get in their dream university or not. If failed, the students need to wait a whole year and take the exam again.

The system needs to be changed. Many aspects, not only the scores, should be evaluated on the potential talent of students. The transcript from high school, reference letters, and personal statement on why you choose the university and major and the plan after graduation should all be took into account. They are difficult to operate in China, since the population of exam takers is huge. But we need to think about it and gradually change it, to give more chance for the student to get better high education, to relieve the pressure from the College Entrance Exam on both student and their family, and to select the best students to receive the higher education.

Scholarly Essay_Sihui

As discussed and agreed by Dean DePauw on April, 1, 2015, I will cover the difference of higher education among China, United States, and Finland based on my own experience.

Part 1 How to Get in University: China, Finland, and the United States

The Chinese College Entrance Exam system has be described in the post named “Improving Higher Education”. I would like to introduce the College Entrance Exam in Finland. It is a nation wide exam as well, and all the high school graduate students take the same exam on the same day. The exam is held twice a year, one in the fall, and one in the spring. There are 4 subjects in total, and native language test is compulsory. But students can choose the best language they master among Finish, Swedish or Sami. For the other three subjects, students can choose from Finish or Swedish, other foreign languages, math, and general studies (sciences or liberal arts). Students can not only choose which subject of the exam to take, but can also choose the difficulty of the exam. For subject math, Finish or Swedish, and other foreign languages, a easier version and a harder version are provided. But students are required to take at least one harder version of the subject. For the students who pass the test but not satisfied with their scores, they can re-take the exams as mangy times as they want or until they are satisfied with their scores, except the native language test.

The atmosphere of the College Entrance Exam is much more relaxing compared to that in China. Students in other grades will keep the normal educational activity, and no police, no headline news. Students can take food to the exam room, and can go to the bathroom during the exam, which are impossible in China. After the exam, every student will get a certificate of taking the exam of 7 levels depending on their performance in the exam. The certificate, together with the transcript from high school is the reference index for college admission.

Compared to China and Finland, the college admission in the United States is more complicated, since the admission office in universities will evaluate more aspects of the applicant. SAT score, personal statement, transcript from high school, resume, and extracurricular activities will all be taken into account. All these aspects will be evaluated, and best applicants will be the winners to get in the university.

Part 2 Financial Aid in Chinese University and Finland

The cost of higher education is always a concern for students and their family. Luckily, the tuition in most Chinese universities are not expensive. In general, the tuition for each academic year ranges from $500 to $1500 depending on the university and more important the major.

The tuition of normal education universities and majors are cheaper, since the government encourages young people to devote their career into education and it will pay part of the tuition for all the students who majored in. Some students in this major will sign a contract, stated that they will work in a fundamental education institution (elementary, secondary, and high school ) as a teacher for at least 2 years, and they get tuition waive in this way. The contracts encourage them to serve in institutions in less developed areas in China, such as west China.

For majors relating to agriculture, forestry, and fundamentals such as biology, chemistry, math and physics, the tuition is relatively cheaper too. For example, I paid $600 per year for major Food Science and Engineering in Northeast Forestry University. Every student in my major also got a stipend of $50 from Department of Forestry and Agriculture in Chinese government each semester, but the students in biology, chemistry, math and physics got a stipend of $80 from Department of Education each semester. They got the stipend because they are more likely to be a teacher after graduation, so the government supports them to get educated.

For majors art, design, computer engineering, medicine and more, they cost of their education is higher than other majors, so they paid more expensive tuition, normally more than $1000 per year. But this amount is also an affordable expensive for most Chinese families from my perspective. So most of students that I know do not take a student loan or work part time to pay for their tuition, and our parents will pay for that.

But there are family that cannot afford their children to receive higher education, and students will can get student loans from the government without interest. After providing the wealth certificate of the family, and the leader of family proving that they are under poverty, the students from this family can get the loan covering their tuition and basic living expense. These students least likely go to graduate school after undergraduate graduation, because they need a job immediately to pay off the debit. I had a talented roommate during my undergraduate, and she took the loan and worked as a tutor for several students during night and weekends. She wish she can get further education, but the needs to pay off the debits and her parents’s wanting her to support their family drove her to find a highly paid job, as a sales representative, even not relating to our major. I feel sad for her, and I wish her to get back to graduate school at some point, although getting back to school after work is much more difficult in China than in the United States.

Besides tuition, the expense of living is quite cheaper in Chinese universities. Most students will live in the dorms on campus, and it costs $100 to $500 per year depending on the quality of the dorms. But most university will only have one type of dorm, and students have no options. I paid $100 per year living in a room shared with other 7 female students during my undergraduate, and it was an old dorm. We sleep in the same room, and everyone has her own bed provided by the university. There are 20 rooms on each floor, and we share 5 bathrooms (no shower) and about 10 taps. All the students take shower at the same place, and there are 2 very big shower room for females and males separately for the whole university. We paid $0.1 cent per minute for the hot running water, and the student ID put in the device before showering will record that. Some newly built university provides better dorms, and 4 or 6 students sharing one room is most common in Chinese universities.

Following are pictures of a fashioned dorm (1) and a tradition dorm in China (2).

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Students are not required to eat on campus, since there are more delicious and all kinds of food outside but near campus. Students prefer to eat off campus, because there are more delicious options to choose. We do not have dining plans, and we pay the food directly, about $1-$2 for a really nice meal. Following is the image of the dining hall in Northeast Forestry University (3).

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The books in China are much less cheaper than in the United States, around $10. We also get used books for more cheaper prices. The gyms are normally free to students, and the buses on campus are also free. These are all the expensive that I can think of for a undergraduate in China.

Most scholarships are need-based, which means students who can prove their family is poor and also get good grades can get the scholarship. Students from middle class level, or whose both parents have jobs, are only eligible for a few scholarships. In my undergraduate school, these students can only get one scholarship from the Chinese government, which is very competitive (only the best one student in my department for 2 semesters can get this one) and one scholarship with the highest only 100$ per semester from the university. But other students from poor families, are eligible for many scholarships provided by the industry or alumni with much higher amount of $500 each semester. The best student can not receive the scholarship more than once. I do not agree with the scholarship system in China, because it is unfair for the students who work hard and come from a not poor family. These students also need the scholarships to approve their talent and hard work. The evaluation on students who is eligible should not be conducted only on the family level, since students in universities are adults and we should make a living by ourselves. I agree that some scholarships go to students from poor families but the receipents should be above a certain level of their academic performance. Harding working and gifted students needs to be awarded no matter what kind of family they come from.  All the universities are strict about the ethic rules. If the students cheated in the exam, or broken other ethic rules, they lost the chance to get the scholarships for the whole undergraduate period.

For graduate studies, the tuition is higher, around $1500 or above. Before 2014, top 20% of the graduate students receive totally free education from our government, which means the tuition is waived and they get a stipend enough for living every month. The rest of the students with relatively worse performance need to pay the tuition and living expense by their own. But starting from 2014, all the students need to support themselves. There are scholarships for excellent students, and the students are evaluated on GPA and research performances and selected each semester. Only the best 10% students can get their total cost covered by scholarship, and 50% students get proportionally covered. I cannot tell it is right or wrong, since it has not been conducted for a long time.

For the students studying abroad, it depends on the programs. As undergraduate exchange programs, since most of these programs are the agreements between 2 universities, students need to cover the expense. But students want to pursue a PhD degree and visiting scholars can get the sponsorship from Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) (4) for whole tuition and living expense, even the 2 way air tickets. But the students who get the support need to sign a contract and agree to come back to China for serving 2 years after graduation, otherwise they need to pay off the money they get. The CSC prefers to support students who get admission in world famous universities and majoring in needed fields in China. The scholarships from CSC are great support for the students and benefit the higher education in China, since most students will come back and get faculty jobs in Chinese universities. Chinese universities favour to get in faculty with abroad degrees(5).

The Finish students are very lucky, because all the higher education is free in Finland. Students will also get a living stipend from government each month, and even the PhD students benefit from the student discounts in public transportation, meals in a chain restaurant around Finland, and the cheaper off-campus housing. There are no dorm on campus in the University of Helsinki, and I assume that most universities will not have on campus housing since it is a small country. The government support the students who study abroad, and I am not sure about the specific amount the government will pay, but they pay a similar amount compared to the cost of educating students study in Finland. Students need to cover the rest if the government do not provide enough financial support.

Part 3 General Student Experience in Chinese University

I attended Northeast Forestry University, Harbin, China in 2010, majoring in Food Science and Engineering in College of Forestry. It is a 4-year undergraduate program with bachelor’s degree in Engineering. There are 60 students in each grade in my department, and about 300 students on the same grade as me in my college. One undergraduate advisor took care of the 300 students. He held a master degree in Philosophy from a top tier university in China, and the reason he got this job is that the university wants undergraduate advisor from better university to bring the advanced education pedagogy to our university.

All students take the same courses in our fields, but as an engineering students, we are required to take at least one course in art, history or politics each semester and we are free to choose which course we take. We graduate based on whether our credits meet the requirement. Most of our course are lecturing and lab. Generally, 80% of the scores are on the final exam, and 10% on homework, and 10% on attendance. I cannot compare the work load among China, Finland and the United States, since I use my second language to study when I am abroad.

Once the Chinese students get in a major, it is very difficult to change the major. During my undergraduate, only the best student at the end of freshman year get the precious to transfer to other majors. More and more universities build the bridge with foreign universities, and provide the chance for their students to study abroad. I got the chance as an exchange student in the University of Helsinki in my junior year. All the sophomore and junior students are eligible to apply, and TOEFL score, GPA are the preliminary evaluation. The second selecting round is interview in both Chinese and English, and the selected 3 students each year will be trained shortly. All the credits I gained in the University of Helsinki are transferable to Northeast Forestry University. I wish more programs like this are available to students and more funding will be provided.

Overall, the higher education in China, Finland and the United States are a lot different. I am appreciated that Northeast Forestry University, the University of Helsinki and Virginia Tech gave me the chance the experience the difference and educate me to a better one.

Reference:

(1) http://edu.china.com.cn/tuku/2012-12/24/content_27529978.htm

(2) http://special.univs.cn/2011/1031/896652.shtml

(3) http://fzuedu.baike.com/article-111177.html

(4) http://en.csc.edu.cn/

(5) http://www.ebiotrade.com/newsf/2015-4/2015420173004141.htm

 

 

Weekly Journal of Sihui’s reflections about higher education

I was late to register this course for 2 weeks, so my reflections will begin on Feb, 9, 2015. Thank you to Dean DePauw and Brenda Harris, the Registration and Program Specialist, for force-adding me and baring with me for being 30 min late for every class due to another class schedule conflict.

2/9/2015

I was introduced to this course, and the Future Professoriate graduate certificate program by a senior student in my department. I think it will be interesting to see the graduate students from the other departments, and to be prepared before I graduate.

During my first class, we talked about the university system in the United States. It is interesting to know that the role of president, and how the president is appointed, since they are much different what we do in China. We also talked about the role of provost, dean, faculty, and staff in a university. The appointment by searching is new to me. It also reminds me that I should put the key words in my resume or linkedIn profile, so that I can be searched someday. The introduction of tenure promotion explains why the young professors in my department are busier and more stressful than the senior ones.

Only excellent professors in China have a lifelong position, similar to the Emeritus professors here. Other professors work for universities under contract. I am critical about the tenure promotion. I see some professors with tenure are not as hardworking as the young professors, but they are expected to contribute more since they are more experienced. Self motivation is less effective than the outside pressure at some point. However, tenured professors deserve better salary and compensation for years of efforts.

2/16/2015 I was absent for this class.

2/23/2015 GLC Room G, Communicating Science

We played games in class leading by the teacher, which are funny and new to me. I did not have an interaction class to this extent in China. We played “yes”, “I am”, and “performance” games. We also talked about our own research projects and hometowns privately, and in front of a group of people. I am a bit shy, and I should practice to talk louder publicly. I am very curious to learn the other graduate student study on black bears, and he shared the dumb bear falling in the cliff story with us. If graduate students keep work on their project for a very long time without sharing or talking with other people, we may feel boring or upset about our project. But when the audience show their interest or respect to our research, it encourages and motivates us to work hard because we gain the recognition. I am appreciated that the importance of communicating skills are emphasized in this class, and as an international student we need to strengthen our weakness in communicating in English.

3/2/2015 We continued and finished the overview of higher education (topic one), introduced academic responsibilities such as academic duty, academic freedom, tenure and talked about ethics and professional behavior. For the discussion part, some students brought up the topic of self plagiarism. I have heard about courses covering on ethic for many times since I got here, so I believe this part is extremely important.

3/9/2015 Spring break, no class

3/16/2015 No class

3/23/2015 We talked about the professional expectations, and I feel like I am not ready for job hunting. Not only my research skills, but also I need to improve the communicating skills, to build my confidence, to be stronger to over come the difficulties.

We also talked about the freedom of speech. There is a famous Chinese saying, disasters always come out of human mouth, which reminds us to be cautious on the words.  The Great Pretender story shocked me, and it is our duty, as individual researcher, to stick to the ethic rules. I am appreciated that my department offers the course Professionalism in Food Science and requires every new graduate student to take the course at the first semester in graduate school. I learned the DOs and DON’Ts at the beginning of graduate school.

3/30/2015 International student talked about the higher education in their own country. I admire the student who is the single student from his country, or only a few students are from the same country. The governmental scholarship or the assistantship from Virginia Tech are very helpful. They will not only benefit a single student, his or her family, but also the influence of educated person will expand to the community around him or her. We may say, the life of international students are not easy, but you can help us even with being patient when we are talking to each other. I am lucky that my colleagues in Food Science and Technology Department are very friendly and kind, and my lab mates are interested in Chinese culture and we often talk about the difference between China and the States. They are helpful to correct my pronunciation and bare with my poor English. They show me the interesting things that I never heard of, invite me to parties and football games, and help me search the targeted car and insurance and I can not settle down and live happily without them.

4/6/2015 Two Chinese students, as representatives, talked about the higher education in China. I was late 30 minutes to the class as usual, and they were talking in the front so I did not join them. But we discussed what to cover in emails over the weekends. I am glad they introduced China to the other students, and I am surprised to know that American students know China less than we know about the United States.

4/13/2015 I viewed “Everything is a Remix” Ted Talk by Kirby Ferguson before class. We talked about Open Access in class. I am curious about how the publisher can survive if all the published papers are free to read and the databases are free to access. It was surprised to me that the publishers do no charge any money to the authors if they want to publish a paper on the journal, because in China all the authors pay the journal to get their work published.

4/20/2015 No class

4/27/2015 Two guests from Africa were in our class and talked with us and observed for a while. I think it was much better to interact with students than just talking with the administrators in the university for the visitors who want to know how the higher education system work and bring the good things back to their country. We did the How Millennial Are You? quiz, and the whole class got 95, but I got 92 in this quiz. The idea of cheaper freshman year online courses in Arizona State University is an example for open access and technology applied to education. I do not like to take online courses, since the interaction part is less than the class taken in actual classroom with a real professor and classmates.

5/4/2015 We talked about the pros of cons of Scholar and Canvas. I like Canvas more personally, because the webpages load quicker in Canvas than Scholar. In Scholar, the grade pages load extremely slowly. Feedbacks were collected at the beginning of class. Then we began the topic about what needs to be changed in higher education. Students brought the tenure debate again. I talked with one professor in my department, and he worked in France for a few years and then came back to the United States still being a faculty.  He told me his own experience as a faculty in the United States, the tenure track, and in France, the non-tenure track. In France, he was less stressful because there was no pressure of getting tenure at the first a few years. The research faculty got fundings from the government or industry or third party institutions without applying or summiting the proposal. But the research projects were fixed, and he did not have the choice to choose the interesting field that he wanted to explore sometimes if the assigned projects did not match his research interests. Compared in the United States, the young tenure tracking professors are flexible to apply for the interesting projects, although the funding are highly competitive. I think the tenure system is better and more encouraged for talented researchers and ordinary researchers are pushed to work hard this way. We discussed more questions from students. We are more interesting on how to find and get a faculty job. My department is trying to hire 2 new faculty member recently, and one potential candidate is visiting our department this Friday. I will go to the research and teaching seminar and the welcome meeting to see how the process is.

I really enjoy this course, especially the discussion interaction during our classes.

Being faculty

I wish I can be a faculty member after I get my PhD degree in Food Science and Technology, or maybe after post doc to be more competitive. But I did not think about my being a faculty philosophy until I took part in this course, since I just started graduate school, and there is at least 4 years before I graduate and hunting for a faculty member position.

Preparation is never too early. I would like to be a faculty member with major appointment on research, and no more than 20% appointment on teaching, and 10% appointment on extension. Within the agriculture field, grant land university like Virginia Tech will require the faculty to contribute to research outreach and apply the research results to practice and benefit the local people, called extension. I think it is an efficient mode to communicate between research lab and practical or economic output.

As a research scientist, I am willing to take no more than 2 graduate students a year, so that I can put more effort and time on mentoring them, not only on academic research, but also on long-term successful life and career. Encouragement but not push is very important, especially students are at their low point. I am responsible to let them know that failure or disappointment are common thing in research and life, but we should be perseverant and optimistic. Our smartness and hard work will lead us to come out of the darkness before the sun raising. As an advisor, I am always be there to ignite the inspiration of students, and work with them to solve the problem.

For the teaching part, I would like to provide a broader view to the undergraduate and graduate students on the subject that I am familiar with. Through the introduction, I hope some students can find the fields that truly attract them and worthy to spent the rest of the life on. Not only with the skills or knowledge I teach them to make a living, but to enjoy them, and contribute and help other people.

 

Sports are very helpful for getting to know each other, cooperating with each other, releasing the stress from work, and keeping good health for work. So I will arrange the monthly sports activity in my lab, and also welcome other friends and colleagues to join us.

In general, with the knowledge and experience I gained, giving and helping the students and the society is the core philosophy as being a faculty member.

 

 

Open access

I found that International Journal of Food Science is an open access journal.

This journal is published by Hindawi Publishing Corporation from New York, USA, and Nasr City, Egypt.

The aims and scope of this journal is “International Journal of Food Science is a peer-reviewed, open access journal that publishes original research articles as well as review articles in all areas of food science”.

This journal offers the free full text of all their published articles to all readers around the world. The readers who are interested in the articles can even download and distribute the article to someone else for free. This free version promotes the popularity of their published articles by giving more convenient access to potential readers. The value of the published journal is increased since more people easily read the articles compared to the non-open access journals.

The journal will charge 600 dollars (Article Processing Charges) on the authors for one manuscript of research article or review article once the manuscript is selected to be published. Kindly, the journal will not charge the authors from low income countries, whose gross domestic product of less than 200 billion US dollars. Additionally, the authors belong to an institute, which is a member of Hindawi institutional membership program, will not be charged of the Article Processing Charges. But the copyright of the published articles is still belong to the authors. Others who want to cite the articles should also give credits to the authors, and cite properly.