Consider this as a further complaint.
As I complained in an earlier blog about child art education, I feel that cannot explain the bad logic in this small town fully.
Essentially, I believe the current contradiction is the parents’ unrealistic high expectation against the lack of educational resources due to the unhealthy competition between a massive number of the educational institution in the same area.
For example, the institution I am helping, there are three more similar child art education institutions within 600 meters. Basically, these institutions would be settled near residential areas, attracting grandparents when they go out shopping with unbelievable selling treats (yes Chinese families love to live together but luckily not mine). A most common trick that been used it to have a try-out lesson. For those institutions with more investment and capital flows, the try-out lesson could last up to three weeks, and if the client feels unsatisfied, a full refund is guaranteed. An unfair competitive environment has been created here. For smaller institutions, they barely have any alternatives but to follow up. Sometimes they can find another method to make up the cost with these try-out lessons. However, for those institutions with the relatively weaker perspective of running businesses, they often gain their cuts by decrease the salary of teachers.
Teachers in my institutions are all well-educated, at least graduated from BA degree to be a tutor of a particular course. But due to the lack of education resource which has been existed in a national scale and the low entrance condition of child art education, most of the local institutions tend to hire teachers ‘can teacher’. That is a wide scale if you ask me. Some teachers I am talking about cannot be graduated from their high school, all they need to be hired is to have friendly smiles and can draw things.
Now due to the average income level, educational level, job types of a nearby residence and my observation, I can confidently judge that students come from the surrounding area mostly have parents with relatively unhealthy expectation. Their expectations could increase sharply, randomly, and apparently above the price they willing to pay. No offence but most of the locals really love to barging, like with an unbelievable low price, to provide a lesson with less than five kids, even one-on-one to their babies. What I can talk about is twelve lessons with £140 that last for three months. Now hopefully you can feel it here. (The average monthly income of the local area is about £650)
So they are able to pay an institution targets clients above the average, but they will not just because they judge the institution with the variety of courses provided, handcraft outcomes of children instead of teaching quality, as well as if the price is low enough.
To attract students, institutions have to have multiple solutions. First of all, pay once with a discount. It commonly transformed like membership cards, free lessons and little presents for children. Another commonly happening thing is to have parties for festivals. I personally witnessed my institution, under the high competitive pressure, forced to hold the mid-autumn festival party. The party cost more than £1700. My boss annoyingly told me every other institution were like throwing every lowing penny they have to hold such festival and parents actually really cares about if there is this kind of party to kill free times their children have, and of course little treats to their children as well. The budget was designed to replace materials of pencil sketching and oil painting classes with some imported brand. Now it has been fully consumed with an unhealthy competition. All institutions are willing to pay such, but none of them would provide extra benefits for their employees, nor improving education qualities! This is very unbelievable. After witnessing this ridiculousness, I did reevaluate if what I was intended – to see if a service of decent education instead of training could have happened in local child art education institutions, is meaningful. When I saw the lousy logic in it, I submitted my resign letter. I was due to abandon this post and to put time and strength to improve myself. I was really disappointed.
Now about the education quality, this is something I really would like to reveal. Although my boss and me consider this as the ‘training of independent decision making, and effective method of expressing ideas’, ‘a cultivation of correct value, and health aesthetic standard’, ‘basic knowledge of art history, and how art exists in the world’, parents tend to judge it by the quality of works their children produced.
To be more specific, local parents commonly judge the elegance of handcraft, paintings of their children. Works considered ‘like being crafted by elder kids’ are the most successful in their eyes. So essentially, parents’ expectations are if their kids can paint/craft like a professionally trained realism painter.
I believe the most imminent training for kids under high school is the encouragement of being creative and thinking independently unless they required specifically to learn painting techniques.
What is more ridiculous is that, we all aware that kids’ skills of the drawing are different. I hate to state it, but some kids just do not have any talent in the picture. Their attendance at the class merely is because their parents signed for them. While these parents waiting outside the classroom, actually expecting to see under the education of the institution, the kids will produce something acceptable to them. So what is the solution for teachers in this 90 minutes lesson?
It actually has become the latent rule in the industry, teachers were asked ‘to help kids a bit’. Now ‘A bit’ is quite a flexible phrase.
After one and a half hour, parents looked at works that evidently not entirely produced by their kids, mostly, they think ‘Ah, it is fine, as long as my kids are happy’. So twisted, they forced their kids to attend classes every weekend even nights of weekdays, now they were considering the happiness of their kids’ childhoods?
So a typical scenario has been created. Once the class begin, every teacher tried their best to talk funny and kindness in order to attract kids with their kindness; playing unrelated games with children to keep them happy and keep the lesson more interesting. Afterwards, teachers start to help out students to make their paintings more like grown-ups. As long as kids are happy, willing to attend the course for another semester, such ‘education’ form will be encouraged and considered as successful to the business.
Before I was assigned to child’s class, I train elder kids realism pencil sketch and grown-ups watercolour. With a relatively maturer system of accepting information and learning, more aged kids are more likely to obtain a skill after a long time of systematic training. Despite the fact that I know the best preparation for younger kids should not be entirely about complex drawing techniques, the name of the course is still ‘techniques of painting’, therefore I have no choice but to do my job.
When I took over a class full of children that used to attend another local institution, I was really shocked. Kids after staying in this kind of art education basically got used to the fact that the teacher may very well end up helping out their work; so they barely paid any attention during the demonstration and explanation. They already stopped treating drawing lessons seriously long before their attendances of my experiences. Most of the students were just having fun with each other, chatting and playing and etc., randomly drew lines on paper and waiting for the teacher to come. They stopped thinking immediately when they saw challenges ahead. There would barely be any attempt of solving the problem because shouting I cannot do that is much more easier. They knew the teacher has to come and help them out. Even when shapes were drawn, they will ask which colour to fit in without any hesitation. And these acts, I guarantee you, dear readers, is not due to confusion, but laziness and dependency.
However, the resignation does not mean I have given up the attempt of improving this situation. While there is still a month until the end of the semester, I will continue to do my best. In the future, if I have to chance to return to western countries for my MA lesson, I will try to spend time on knowing how westerners’ art education is designed for youth. According to my previous experience, I found that Chinese students have a firm believe in techniques, while western students were more commonly found to be creative and bold.