19 Mar 2008

Chinese School opens its doors – an Open University and BBC FOUR series

Getting ready for the flag raising ceremony at Ping Min Primary

Getting ready for the flag raising ceremony at Ping Min Primary

TX: BBC FOUR, 9pm, Tuesday 8 April (five x 60 minutes)

Chinese School, a major new five-part series from The Open University and the BBC, gives a unique insight into real life in China today, through the pressures, promise and problems of a nation on the rise. Making use of remarkable access, for the first time a documentary series follows a whole year in the life of a small Chinese town, Xiuning, and its three schools – getting a glimpse of the future through the eyes of schoolchildren and discovering just what makes ordinary Chinese people tick; from what they dream of, to what makes them laugh. This is China as the Chinese know it.

China is balancing thousands of years of tradition and culture with a changing landscape of innovation, Western influences and economic growth. As China hosts the Olympics in Beijing this year, the eyes of the world will be upon her – and Chinese School gives a remarkably intimate and revealing portrait of a year of great change; the year of the Golden Pig.

Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC FOUR, said: “Chinese School gives a fascinating insight into daily life for ordinary Chinese schoolchildren, their parents and teachers, showing modern China as it is rarely seen."

A peak-time series on BBC FOUR, Chinese School tells the stories of children facing huge pressure to perform well in exams, teachers whose success depends on results and parents who have given up everything to support their children’s education. The series captures the victories, setbacks and day-to-day lives of ordinary children studying at three very different schools in the rural province of Anhui.

‘Love Your Eraser’ is the title of a lesson at Ping Min Primary School, a charity run school which aims to give poorer country children a rounded education. Ten-year-old Gan Ping is a class monitor who takes the lead in showing her peers the importance of looking after their few possessions. When the worst eraser in the class is revealed, the owner is reprimanded by Gan Ping and the entire class.

The school day starts at 6am at Xiuning High School, where high achievers are preparing for their final exams. Wu Yu Fei, 17, is the most gifted child in school and bears enormous pressure from her parents, the school and as the head teacher puts it, “The Motherland”. The One Child policy means that all the hopes and dreams that parents have rest on their sole child. Classes stop at 10.15pm but Wu Yu Fei continues studying well into the night with the support of her Mother, who’s given up her job to look after her in this crucial year. Operating on just five hours sleep each night, Wu Yu Fei is determined in her quest for success, and the series follows her progress as she takes her exams and approaches University.

Freda Wolfenden, senior lecturer in the Department of Education at The Open University, said: “Chinese School reveals striking similarities with the UK; the pressures on both pupils and teachers to achieve highly in the exams, highly defined and controlled curricula with regular assessments and the joys and disappointments of the pupils and their families. But the differences are also acute - the sheer scale of the workload expected, the codes of behaviour and the way these are very publicly administered, the emphasis on pupils' holistic development including collective daily physical exercise and throughout, the presence of the Chinese Communist party.”

The series is filmed by independent production company Lion Television, who also made the award-winning African School and Indian School, both also involving The Open University and the BBC.

Editor’s Notes

Chinese School is a series of five 60 minute programmes co-produced by The Open University and the BBC, made by Lion Television. The series forms part of an ongoing project examining education systems around the world. The previous series were African School (Uganda) and Indian School (Pune).

Chinese School kicks off a year long Focus on China from the BBC. For more details of the full season, contact Emma Dalmeida or go to www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice

The Executive Producer for Lion Television is Bill Locke.
The BBC Executive Producer for The Open University is Emma De’Ath.
The Open University nominated academics for the series are Freda Wolfenden, Giles Mohan, Helen Yanacopulos and Maggie Smith.

The Open University and BBC have been in partnership for more than 30 years, providing educational programming to a mass audience. In recent times this partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak time programmes with a broad appeal to encourage wider participation in learning.

All broadcast information is correct at time of issue.
Preview DVDs and images are available from Kath Hardwick.

Related Courses and programmes from The Open University:-
DD100: Introduction to the social sciences
Y156: Understanding children
Y157: Understanding society
Y161: Introducing environment
ED840: Child development in families, schools and society
E841: Teaching English to speakers of other languages worldwide
U212: Childhood
U213: International development
TU870: Capabilities for managing development
TU871: Development: context and practice
TU872: Institutional development: conflicts, values and meaning
TU875: War, invention and development
E846: Curriculum, learning and society: investigating practice
KE308: Youth: perspectives and practice.
C21: Postgraduate certificate in education

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