Friday, May 27, 2011

Another example of why I don't like working for Chinese universities

I've just finished a month of business training seminars for a major state-owned enterprise. Although this SOE has its own - enormous - 'training campus' to the north of Beijing, and thus could quite easily (you'd think) arrange such training for itself, it chooses to sub-contract to an outside supplier. That supplier, in this case, is a small commercial English school based on one of Beijing's better-known universities (the exact nature of the relationship with the university itself is unclear; often such commercial entitites seem to be essentially autonomous, and are merely paying some kind of fee to use the university's name and facilities to enhance their 'credibility'). Why anyone would choose this particular school is quite baffling to me; but, evidently, quite a lot of people do. It must be down to guanxi. Or because they're CHEAP.

I've worked for them many times before, but.... they are as outrageously incompetent as every other Chinese school - and especially every university or university-based school - that I've worked for here (I bitched about this course right at the outset).

Latest case in point: they've just asked me to provide a mark for each of the students on the course.

Today - after the course has finished.

No mention of any requirement or expectation for the students to be graded was mentioned before the course started, or during the four weeks that it was running. Hence, I didn't run any formally assessed exercises, and didn't keep many notes on the students' performance in class. I could come up with some marks retrospectively, but, you know, it's not easy. This is really the kind of thing that you should PLAN FOR from the outset.

But 'planning', you see, just doesn't happen in China. Not in the education sector, anyway. People just bumble along, improvising their way as haphazardly and inefficiently as possible. You are never told whether you are expected to grade students.... UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE. You are never told how to grade them (10-point scale, 20-point scale, percentage, A-to-E letter grades... Greek letters... half-marks... +++ or -?, etc.). You are never told why they are being graded. And, worst of all, you are never told the expected range of marks (if I think 85% is an "outstanding" mark, but the students or the course organisers are going to be disappointed if anyone scores less than 90%, I need to know that; and if, as here, there are several different trainers teaching different components of the course, we need to try to make our grading fairly consistent - we shouldn't have one guy giving everyone scores in the 80s and another giving a spread from 65 to 95 and another giving beta pluses and alpha minuses).

I weep and chew the carpet in frustration at this kind of mind-blowing incompetence.

Oh, and they haven't given me a mark sheet or a name list either...

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