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Tough words to graduates hit the nail on the head

By LI YANG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-14 07:10


Zhang Xuefeng, a self-employed education counselor active on livestreaming platforms, provides high school and college graduates with advice on how to choose a major. Despite many university teachers taking issue with his suggestions for one reason or another, the popularity of Zhang among students is undeniable.

What makes Zhang different from other counselors is that he doesn't beat around the bush. He is good at putting forward his suggestions in a straightforward way that borders on rudeness in light of the etiquette of Chinese culture.

For instance, unlike other dream-sellers who dish out chicken soup for the soul, Zhang doesn't mince words when it comes to the harsh realities of the cutthroat competition for good majors and good jobs.

That realistic approach works well, as the students, who are at a crossroad in their lives, desire to-the-point advice, especially those coming from the lower-income families of small towns and villages, who as Zhang said constitute the main body of his customers.

If they cannot find a job with State-run or related employers before graduation, their hukou, or household registration permits, will in most cases be transferred back to their hometown from their schools. Although most small cities have de facto abolished the hukou system that proved its value in the days of the planned economy, it is still there in some big cities as a prerequisite for permanent residency and local welfare.

Most government departments and State-owned enterprises only open their quota of hukou for fresh graduates. That means for most of the college graduates, except those going on to study postgraduate degrees, their college-city identity will expire soon if they cannot secure such a job upon graduation in July. That's why Zhang urges these students to avoid humanities majors and focus on STEM ones instead — majors of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — to ensure they can nurture their core competitiveness in the job market before graduation.

Although it is improper for him to say that graduates of humanities majors will mostly find themselves in jobs in the service sector as "a bootlicker" to their better-off counterparts, many students from common families said they had indeed benefited from his admonishing to find a stable job in big cities with a STEM degree.

Zhang's words might sound rough to some. But the kernels of truth they contain reflect some harsh and ingrained realities of society and thus should not be ignored or shrugged off.


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