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Chinese Students Can Now Choose the Funny, Young Teachers

The new program could disrupt Chinese universities' staid instructional approach. Photograph by WANG ZHAO AFP/Getty Images

Freshmen in the chemical engineering department in China’s southeast Jiangxi University of Science and Technology will now be able to choose their professors based on age, gender, and personality, adding some excitement to China’s often dreary university scene.

The experiment in teacher selection is a first for China, where students are typically assigned at random to a teacher if there are multiple sections of one class, China Daily reported. Not surprisingly, the new approach is aimed at students studying metallurgy and chemicals, the type of old industries struggling amid China’s transition into a more service-based economy and requiring the best students they can attract.

“The service caught my eyes immediately as it meets the taste of youth quite well,” the paper quoted a female freshman saying. “I chose a young female teacher as my head teacher as she might be more considerate compared to the male teachers.”

Ask any Chinese student who’s studied abroad and their opinion of Chinese university classes usually falls somewhere between dull and dreadful. Longer tenured instructors especially use the command teaching style of China’s history, emphasizing rote memorization above interaction and theory. Chinese millennials with exposure to international norms lodge the most complaints.

In Jiangxi, the university surveyed students and found 70% wanted a teacher with a funny, positive attitude, and another 65% desired someone under 40 years old. The university reportedly hired more instructors to meet those specifications.

The head of the chemical engineering said the department will share what it learns about student preference from this pilot program with the rest of the university. In other words, staid Chinese universities may be slowing catching up with the times.