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Anxiety

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If you happen to be running an international education in any given country, or indeed any education at all, I have some advice about how to conduct the first week in order to make sure that the level of anxiety your new students are suffering is as high as possible.

First, separate the students into three groups, based on their skill in a certain area (I’ll use Chinese as an example). Then tell the students in the A class (the best one), that they are a lot better than the A students last year, that they are the pride of the school and that they get most time of all students in classrooms with air conditioning (or something else which makes the learning environment endurable). So far, I think this is fairly common practice in many countries, although some Scandinavian countries might be a bit hesitant about the decision to split the class in this way. Now over to the important bit.

Second, after a couple of days in the first week, when everybody is still nervous and don’t really know what’s up or down (or anything at all), tell the students in the A class that they are too many and that you need to “eliminate” three students (in Chinese, I recommend using 淘汰, which is used, among other things, for Darwinian elimination or elimination through competition). If you want to, you can also add some sort of pseudo-explanation and say that there are two A classes this semester and that changing class is not really that bad (even though simply by saying so, you are actually enhancing the importance of a change). After some more testing, you then select a few students and discuss with them what they think (this is a nice touch, but can be removed if you want to enhance the anxiety further).

Third, now that a few students have switched classes, you wait a day or two and then repeat this procedure again. Tell everybody that you need to remove another two students, and then do some additional testing and discussing with some students until you have the desired number in each class. Neat, or what? As you can see, this procedure can be reiterated as many times as you like, you don’t even have to remove students every time.

There are some additional things to take into consideration if you plan to go through with this kind of scheme. Be aware that it’s not very nice to the teacher who has to tell the students different things all the time (they definitely don’t know about how the decisions are made, shoot the messenger is common practice, I think). Also, don’t expect people to ask many questions after you do this, because most of them will still have the feeling that every time they go to class, they are being tested, and perhaps they will be the ones who are eliminated in the next round. This will also make sure that all students think that they are about half as good (or half as much worth) as they truly are.

By way of ending this post, I’d also like to propose a way of making some money by selling the broadcasting rights to some TV channel and run a show like Big Brother. This isn’t something I have personal experience of, so please note that it’s just pure speculation.

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