Teaching Experiences — China Connection

A rise in the number of outlets selling books, magazines and other publications is a sign that many middle class Chinese are learning how to read.

A rise in the number of outlets selling books, magazines and other publications is a sign that many middle class Chinese are learning how to read.

Pictured here in Delmontagne's classroom, students pose with their teacher after making presentations about printing labels, sustainability, substrates and inks.

IN A little over a year, I returned overseas to Wuhan University (my wife, Elena, also joined me) to teach Professional Business English for the printing and packaging industry. What a change has occurred in China in that short time! First of all, the weather: My first teaching assignment there was winter 2006-2007. Cold and damp outside, the same could be said for inside the classroom, the faculty dining room–everywhere. Teaching with a sweater over two shirts, and a leather coat over that, barely kept me warm. But I could walk around the classroom. The students, equally dressed for the weather, were, unfortunately, confined to their desks…but, we all survived.

Returning in the spring allowed all of us to walk around with a light jacket or sweater, and teaching became more comfortable for both me and the students.

The mood of the students this year was altered considerably, not so much by the weather, but by their frequent questioning about whether there is a printing industry ready to hire them after graduation. More than one asked if they were studying a subject that was in rapid free fall. Should they instead be studying packaging, which they believe had an almost guaranteed rocketing growth rate and promise of a good position after graduation?

Reading, Printing on Rise

Their questions had some personal experiences behind it–none of my students in the printing section read a daily newspaper; a few glanced at one infrequently. None of them read a magazine or book other than for required reading. They get their news from the Internet, of course. I realized they are laden down with class projects and homework, so they don’t have much free time to read.

But when you see the number of bookstores and kiosks selling newspapers and magazines everywhere, they should take solace in the fact that print is very much alive in China. On average, residents of the major Chinese cities read two books a year, a figure not much different than here in the United States.

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