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China releases new measures to ease students' study pressure

A sleepy student rubs his eyes during a ceremony held to open a new semester at Xiangming Junior High School in Shanghai on September 1, 2015. Photo: China Daily

In the past year, the Chinese government has come up with a series of measures aimed at reducing heavy workload of students of primary and middle schools, with the latest one being released on the eve of the new year, amid its push for quality-focused education.

On the last working day of 2018, the Ministry of Education and other related government agencies jointly issued a notice to reaffirm the responsibilities of the authorities, schools and extracurricular class providers in creating a healthy environment with reduced homework and examinations for primary and middle school students.

"All parties should reduce the heavy school work that goes against the pedagogical discipline and damages the physical and psychological health of students of primary and middle schools," said the notice, which lists 30 measures for both schools and parents to alleviate children's academic burden.

On schools' part, teachers are not allowed to assign written homework for first and second graders, and homework for third to sixth graders and junior high school students shall not exceed 60 minutes and 90 minutes respectively, with the difficulty of assignments not going beyond the requirements of curriculum, according to the notice.

No more than one unified examination shall be held every semester for lower primary pupils, and no more than two unified examinations for other students, said the notice.

The notice also sets May as a deadline which the local education departments must meet to submit their specific plans for alleviating workload for students.

As for parents, they are encouraged to set reasonable academic expectations for their children and have their sights on the cultivation of children's talents. They are also asked to guide children to use electronic devices to prevent Internet addiction, according to the notice.

The notice reiterated the importance of practically implementing an August document, which urged the local governments to work with schools, families and healthcare organizations to prevent the prevalence of myopia among children and adolescents. One of the key measures to reach the goal is to ease homework burden on students.

In 2018, the Chinese government began to seriously address the problem of excessive study pressure, not only through multiple releases of measures aimed at reducing heavy workload of students, but also by strengthening supervision of after-school tutoring, which is irrationally extolled by many Chinese parents who think that extracurricular classes could lead to their children's supereminence among peers.

In August last year, the State Council, the country's cabinet, issued what was billed as the sternest policy to regulate the extracurricular training sector, which has seen rampant growth at the cost of defying the educational rules and affecting teenagers' healthy growth over the recent years.

According to the policy, all after-school training institutions are not allowed to provide courses for the purpose of "passing examinations ahead of or beyond public schools' syllabus", and are encouraged to offer courses that help "foster hobbies, creativity and practical abilities".

And in a sweeping government drive last year, many problematic extracurricular class providers, especially those in big cities, were forced by the authorities to suspend operations due to lack of schooling permits, business licenses or eligible teachers.

As of the end of last year, more than 400,000 after-school tutoring institutions across the country were covered by the drive, with over 240,000 extracurricular class providers completing rectification as required by the government, according to domestic media reports.

All these measures and policies, however, may face difficulties in the backdrop of China's current education system, in which heavy workload or extracurricular education can increase the chances being enrolled into famous schools in the country.

Statistics released by the China Institute for Educational Finance Research under Peking University showed that 47 percent of students covered by China's basic education system received extracurricular education in 2017, with per capita educational spending amounting to 5,616 yuan. These students on average spent 5.4 hours to attend after-school classes per week, according to the statistics.
 


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