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All work and little play for Chinese kids

Friday December 03, 2010 11:07:08 AM, Arun Anand, IANS

Beijing: Yuang, the mother of an eight-year-old who studies in a public school in the Chinese capital, says, "My daughter hardly gets time to play. She goes for school at six in the morning and comes back by evening. After that she has to finish loads of homework."

Parents in China have been expressing concern over the last few years about the growing burden of studies and the pressure of examinations, especially on school students - at the cost of creative activities.

A recent global survey which ranks Chinese students at the bottom when it comes to applying "creativity" and "imagination" is all set to refuel the debate on the Chinese school education system.

For instance, on weekends, Yuang's daughter learns piano and takes private coaching for mathematics and English. "If she gets time after that, which is rare, then she may play for a couple of hours," said Yuang.

The scenario is repeated for student after student in state-funded public schools, with children right from the elementary level being pushed by parents and institutions to prepare them for a fiercely competitive global scenario.

"If she doesn't study hard and stops taking extra classes, how would she do well in high school? And she may not easily get admission in a good Chinese university. How will she face the growing competition?" Yuang says explaining why her daughter takes private coaching classes even during weekends.

The survey covering 21 countries was conducted by the International Educational Progress Evaluation Organization. It said Chinese students excelled in subjects like mathematics. But when it came to "creativity", they were fifth from the bottom. They were tied for the last place when it came to using their imagination.

Students say they do feel very pressured.

"When I was studying, I was always bogged down by assignments which took my time even when I used to return home after attending school," said a Peking University student on condition of anonymity.

Indicating the sense of urgency that seems to have gripped Chinese society in tackling this issue which figures quite prominently in private conversations among parents of school students, state-run English newspaper China Daily recently expressed serious concern in an editorial over the anomalies in the Chinese school education system.

Commenting on the findings of the global survey, the daily said, "That our students rarely get the chance to use their imagination was an open secret among Chinese people. Now, a global survey has brought it to the notice of the rest of the world".

"The survey results are not shocking, given the way our children are taught in schools and at home...Right from the day they enter school they are pushed into a culture of exams and more exams...And to pass those exams, they are made to learn by rote standard answers," it further commented.

(Arun Anand can be contacted at





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