How is school lunch in China

Everyday life at school in China

Our partner school, the 5th middle school, is not located directly on a main road, but in the middle of a hutong, surrounded by the low traditional old town houses of the Chinese capital. If you come through the narrow alley of the Hutong, in which countless cyclists make their way and the students of the 5th middle school with their blue school uniforms, then you suddenly stand in front of the large entrance gate of the school and look surprised at the newly renovated facade the school, which with its bright white-red-blue represents a strong contrast to the gray houses in the area. There are several men in uniform and some schoolchildren at the gate, who greet the newcomers with a friendly smile. These students excelled in class and are now recognized as the "school reception committee" for this special task. Since most of the students come to school by bike, there are countless bike racks in the school's courtyard and each class has its own so-called "bike racks".

The Chinese school day is a very long day: it starts at 7.30 a.m. and usually lasts until 4 p.m. If the students still have an elective or a study group, then they will be in school longer. After the 5th hour there is a long lunch break of two hours in the 5th middle school. Then food is given out to those who have paid for school lunches and eaten in the classrooms. The others, who have not ordered any food, go to the snack bar opposite the school or to the nearby restaurant on the corner.

The school day begins with the popular morning gymnastics. All students gather in the school yard with some supervising teachers. In almost military order, the students stand in long rows, alternating between a row of girls and boys. Under the instructions of a teacher, 20 minutes of concentration and gymnastics exercises are done.

After the gymnastics, it goes to class shortly before eight. The classrooms are densely filled with tables and chairs, so that there is hardly any space for an aisle. There are 55 to 60 students in each class. But there is also a place for the small stools on which we exchange students follow the lessons. Our first impression of the Chinese lessons: It seems very orderly to us and, compared to ours, quite calm. The Chinese students do not very often take part in the class with their own contributions. Sometimes a student presents a prepared task in front of the class, and every now and then a student is asked to contribute to the class by the teacher. There are no oral grades, so the motivation to participate orally is not very high. You even keep seeing a few students who are obviously asleep during class. On the other hand, there are also the ambitious and hardworking students who write everything down and get in touch .... and of course there are - just like in Germany - lessons that are interesting by the teacher, and those that are monotonous and boring are.

We were also able to experience physical education, which is very different than in Germany. The students do not have special sportswear; they wear their blue school suits just like in the other lessons. Physical education obviously has a different meaning than it does for us; he's not that performance-oriented. The girls did a little gymnastics on the floor, some of them having great difficulty rolling forwards or backwards. The boys either played table tennis or basketball.

After the lunch break, you always met some students on Monday who cleaned windows or mopped the floor during the break. Monday is "cleaning day" and the students are responsible for cleaning the school themselves.
Monday is also a special day in other respects: every Monday morning there is a roll call at which all students must be present. They line up in long, well-ordered rows in the school courtyard. Then three students appear in goose step with the Chinese national flag and hoist the flag with military ceremony. Then everyone present sings the Chinese national anthem and one of the headmasters gives a speech.

Carmen Bednorz in August 2001