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Monday, 24 October 2011

Genius kid’s fast-track education sparks debate

Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium 北京工...

Made In China By CHOW HOW BAN

ZHANG Xinyang has been in the limelight since he was 10. Then he became the youngest person in China to study at a university.

At 13, he continued his master’s degree at Beijing University of Technology. Yet again the now 16-year-old genius made history when he was accepted by Beihang University in Beijing last month to study doctorate in mathematics.

Zhang’s fast-track education has sparked a debate over whether it is against the law of nature or whether it is the right thing for China to do to encourage young children to jump classes and grow to become adults though in reality they are not ready or mature.

In his recent interview with China Central Television (CCTV), Zhang showed his childishness and unreasonable thinking by saying that he had on several occasions threatened to stop his studies if his parents refused to buy an apartment for him in Beijing.

Genius or rebel?: A photo of Zhang grabbed from the Insight programme broadcast on China Central Television recently.

His remarks have caused a stir on the Internet, with many netizens saying that he should not pressure his parents who obviously cannot bear the exorbitant house prices and he should earn his own money to buy the apartment instead.

“What a selfish boy! What use to receive so much education?” said a netizen. Another commented that Zhang should be labelled as an “abnormal kid” instead of genius.

Others said that if Zhang were not China’s youngest doctorate student, his words would not have weighed so much.

“It was we who had different thoughts on an ordinary 16-year-old kid because of his reputation. He is only a rebellious boy like many at that age,” they said.

Zhang was raised by an ordinary middle-income family from Liaoning province. His father Huixiang, who works as a civil servant, discovered that he was smarter than his peers when he was very young.

Since then, Huixiang has educated his son to be an active learner and encouraged him to think and question.

The boy would speak about serious topics from the Iraq war to city image. Sometimes he would argue with his father when they have different views on certain subjects.

Fun it might seem for Zhang to bury in his books, walk into the examination hall together with his older classmates and skip so many levels of education. But, he revealed, in the interview, that it was not enjoyable after all.

When Zhang started to distract from his studies and play with computer games, his father scolded him. At the heat of the argument, his angry father walked out of Zhang’s hostel and walked 50km home in Langfang, Hebei province that night.

“He wanted to punish me but in reality, he was actually punishing himself,” Zhang said of his father’s reaction during the incident.

He said his father would certainly suffer from a more painful heartache than other parents of normal children if he failed to do well in his studies, because of the way his father had groomed him.

“He wished he could feed me with milk forever but it would not happen.

“The later he loosens his grip and let me go, the greater the repercussion would be,” he said.

With tremendous pressure from his parents and high expectations he had on himself, Zhang failed some subjects during his master’s degree and faced the danger of not able to complete his studies. He even thought of killing himself.

In the interview with CCTV, Huixiang said he could not make a difference throughout his life and all he could do was to cultivate his son hoping that he could spread his wings in future.

Huixiang has come out with a book titled The Miracle of Learning.

The book relates how he and his wife raised their son – they had never watched television nor muted TV programmes when their son was around.

When his son threatened him to buy an apartment, Huixiang and his wife had no choice but rented an apartment near his son’s university to persuade him to finish his studies.

Zhang said he started to think about having their own house in the Chinese capital after studying at university and being influenced by the media and the materialistic world.

He claimed that it was his parents who wanted him to pursue his studies in Beijing and realise a dream that they could not fulfil themselves.

“I am not sure if they impose their thoughts or dream on me or not, but I am inheriting my father’s dream. They wanted me to stay in Beijing so they should work hard for it,” he said.

Huixiang said his son changed after coming to Beijing and being exposed to the pomps and vanities of city life.

“He is after only money. He came into contact with such things too early and thought it would be hard to survive without money or even if he has knowledge and ability,” he added.

Zhang was quoted by Beijing Evening News as saying that he had reasoned to his parents, when they were staying in Tianjin, that if they did not buy an apartment then it would be too late as house prices would continue to increase.

He said he was aware of the debate on the Internet over what he said but added that it would impossible for everyone to understand him.

“I would rather maintain a positive thinking. Now I just want to forget about the episode, remain low-key and continue with my studies,” he added.

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