Su Tang heard what he said and smiled politely. “Thank you for your praises, sir. I hope teacher can look after my brother in the future.”
Zheng Zhong nodded and replied, “You’re too polite. I am currently the teacher of Class A, I also hope to see your brother in my class as soon as possible.”
Su Tang politely gave him a bow as befitting his status as the future teacher of her little brother. Zheng Zhong wanted to say something more, but just then he saw the teacher for Class B coming around to collect his students, including Su Nuo. Zheng Zhong looked around and noticed that all the students had already finished their examinations and the teachers were collecting them. Of course, most of them were following the teacher from Class C or Class D.
Zheng Zhong closed his mouth and just watched as all the students left with their teachers. However, his eyes lingered on Su Tang and Su Nuo as they left. There was an unreadable expression on his face, and it was unclear what he was thinking about.
“What are you looking at? Don’t you feel cold standing out in this hallway?” While he was still dazing off, Zheng Zhong suddenly heard a voice from the side. Looking to his left, there was a middle-aged man with a scholarly disposition standing there.
“Father… didn’t you think that that Su Yongnuo was a little strange?” As it turned out, this middle-aged man was actually the head of the academy and also Zheng Zhong’s father.
When Zheng Zhong had been interviewing Su Nuo just now, he could tell that the little guy didn’t have a particularly deep or wide range of knowledge, but his grasp over the things he did know was very solid. Somehow he seemed quite different from the ordinary children Zheng Zhong usually met, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what the difference was.
“What strange? It should just be that he has a teacher outside that has taught him before. Although that child has only learned the Three Character Classic and the Thousand Character Classic, he seems to be very flexible in understanding and using them. It seems he’s reached some degree of mastery over the two texts.” As an experienced educator, Zheng Zhong’s father was instantly able to point out the incongruity that his son had sensed.
In this era, although there was more emphasis on education and children were more likely to study, most of them still only learned through rote memorization. Thus, most children only have extremely basic foundational knowledge that they had memorized without much understanding of the content. However, Su Nuo was different. He could properly understand the things he memorized, and he was already at the level where he could apply and use his memorized knowledge flexibly. This was all because Su Tang had never encouraged him to just memorize things blindly, rather, she had always explained things to him carefully little by little alongside specific illustrating examples.
This kind of education, coupled with the little guy’s ability to learn quickly, his ability to remember things well, and his meticulous personality which ensured that he rarely made mistakes, all led to him having a great deal more flexibility in his thinking compared to other students his age. Therefore, it was only natural that he seemed different from other children in Zheng Zhong’s eyes.
After his father pointed it out to him, Zheng Zhong also quickly understood. He clapped his hands and nodded in agreement, “You’re right father, that’s exactly how it is. However, when I asked him Su Yongnuo told me that he had only been taught by his sister, perhaps she…”
Seeing his son getting so excited, Zheng Li shook his head wryly before replying, “His sister is no more than an ordinary little girl. His knowledge should just be a coincidence.”
“Father, you should also know that the biggest difference between the students from our small academy and the students from the bigger academies is our students’ inability to flexibly use the knowledge we impart. Otherwise, why would it already be so many years without a single Advanced Scholar appearing from Qinghe Town? Even if we want to, it’s not something our academy can teach.”
“Because of this, many of the students from our academy end up trapped after passing the Child Student exam for all of their lives, and even those few able to break through and pass the Student Member exams are very rare.”
“Meanwhile, students taught by those big academies all learn better and can apply their knowledge more flexibly. Even the emperor’s Imperial Preceptor, Zhong Wen, is said to value his students having more flexibility in their thinking.”
“Father, you’ve already been the master of this backwater academy for so many years, and I know you’ve always hoped to cultivate better students. I think that maybe this Su Yongnuo’s learning method may be an opportunity for us and for the academy.”
Although the headmasters of the academies in Qihuang Kingdom were not officials, they were subordinate to and managed by the Imperial College, so their position carried a certain amount of weight and prestige. That being the case, how could there be no sense of rivalry and competition among them?
If a remote academy could manage to raise an Advanced Scholar, that would reflect well on the headmaster overseeing the academy. Not only that, but it would also draw in more students and more skilled teachers and, with the snowball effect, the teaching environment would improve, which would, in turn, produce even more accomplished students, and so on and so forth. Inevitably, grooming excellent students would ultimately lead to the academies that groomed them improving as well.
The teachers and headmasters at these academies were merely scholars, but even if they never had the opportunity to become powerful officials, so long as they were to be recognized through such channels, they would at least feel that their years of study weren’t in vain.
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