All work and no play worries parents

Updated 2018-04-19 10:16:05 China Daily

A primary school pupil in Beijing registers on the list of children waiting for their parents to pick them up after school.

Chinese parents are looking to ramp up extracurricular classes as schools cut back on homework.

China's parents are questioning whether the government's recent move to lessen the schoolwork burden on primary and secondary school students can achieve the intended result.

Since the order was issued in late February, parents in big cities have been discussing heatedly whether to let their children have a more relaxed and happy lifestyle, as the education authorities suggested, or to continue to send them to extra classes in their spare time to learn subjects such as mathematics, English and Chinese.

Since the end of February, the Chinese government's decades-old educational reforms have re-entered mainstream public debate. Known as "academic burden reduction", the policies aim to reduce the academic workloads of primary and middle school students.

The new rules prohibit schools from using enrollment tests to evaluate prospective students and taking a child's extracurricular qualifications into consideration during enrollment. They also forbid after-school training institutions from engaging in exam-oriented training or hiring teachers from public schools.

Parents worry that when public schools are reducing the number of homework assignments, making tests easier and reducing the importance of scores, they must step into the vacuum themselves to provide their children with more extracurricular learning to help them stand out from their peers and eventually gain admission to a good university.

Many have written open letters to the Ministry of Education on social media platforms arguing against reducing the schoolwork burden on their children.

Experts said the government's education reforms can better regulate the after-school tutoring market, but only a complete overhaul of China's exam-oriented education system can reduce the excessive burden on pupils.

Xie Wenfeng, the mother of a primary school pupil in Shanghai, said, "Although I really want my son to have more time to play, I have to remind myself to be rational.

"To qualify for admission into a key middle school, my son has to study hard now. Only by entering a key middle school can he study at a key high school and later at a good university. There's no other option."

With public schools reducing school hours and making tests easier, parents in Shanghai are choosing to send their children to much more expensive private schools, she said.

Xie said there is a popular saying in Shanghai that "if students do not go to private middle and high schools, they will end up in a private college".

Almost all good universities in China are public ones.

Her son attends five after-school tutoring classes, one each in painting, English and piano and two in mathematics, and the family spends around 100,000 yuan (,900) a year on such classes.

"When it comes to education, every family is a 'rich' family," she said.

Xie Meng, the mother of a fourth-grade pupil in Beijing, shares the same doubts about reducing academic workload.

When the school day ends so early, at 3:30 pm, working parents have no choice but to send their children to after-school tutoring classes, she said.

"It is better to attend tutoring classes after school than sit home and play video games," she said.

Her son is interested in mathematical Olympiads, yet the math classes in schools rarely cover advanced concepts because they are considered too difficult for most students.

Many mathematical Olympiad training classes had been shut down recently, she said, which made it more difficult for her son to develop his skills in that area.

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