Photographs of Chinese students’ handwritten compositions, featured in the Daily Mail, have generated debate over whether the outstanding calligraphy skills are valuable or are an exercise in uselessness.
The paper featured a story on how a Hengshui High School English teacher demanded neatly-handwritten compositions from his students, which resulted in machine-like work while still being reprimanded for minor mistakes. The Hengshui High School is among the top 100 high schools in China and is known for its success at the National University Entrance exams.
The strict teacher demanded that his students create neat composition where letters have no more or fewer strokes than necessary, as images of the compositions show. The Daily Mail asked its readers:”Can you believe this essay is handwritten?” referring to the photos circulating the web and causing heated debate among Internet users.
The photos amazed readers both in view of the students’ flawless handwriting and the English teacher’s remarks and strict rating of the students’ papers. A teacher note on one composition asks that the student sees the teacher to talk about their handwriting.
The Daily Mail article received over 650 comments and more than 1,500 shares on social media. One reader named ‘jim’ said the incident is typical of an advancing country like China:
“This is another example of why China is rising to the top.”
The user’s comment has been upvoted 82 times. Another user, named ‘Qazplm’ said:
“What’s the point of this? Handwriting is something unique to the person. Why suppress individuality?”
His message has been upvoted 52 times. A Weibo user with the alias ‘wenjinzetui’ said:
“Beautiful handwriting proves an ability,” WomenofChina.cn says.
A different user highlighted the futility of such exceptional handwriting skill, considering how language is primarily used verbally and not in written form. Another user with the alias ‘xiuxing’ said, according to Asia One, that students with good handwriting skill tend to get higher exam scores than those with bad handwriting. The Chinese culture places emphasis on calligraphy, and on the national college entrance examination:
“Careless handwriting may cause a student to lose more than three points,” Yu Delong, Hanjing High School teacher in East China told a Yangzhou Evening News reporter.
A different user on Yahoo! News attempted to explain why the Chinese might place such a premium on calligraphy saying:
“The Chinese view writing as an art form but English writers tend to view it as an extension of their personalities,” Ysbeth said.
According to the Daily Mail, the Hengshui Middle School is a military-style boarding school with over 5,000 students between 15 and 18.