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China Daily Website

Pupil workload should shrink in new semester

Updated: 2013-09-01 23:38
By Zhao Xinying and Wu Ni ( China Daily)

Many parents question if proposed guidelines go too far in eliminating homework and tests

Primary school students should have a less-stressful new semester, thanks to new national education guidelines that aim to reduce students" workload. However, many parents question whether the proposed guidelines go too far.

The ministry will release the guidelines soon after it reviews the 5,956 public comments on the new rules. The guidelines were open to public suggestions for a week from Aug 22, and will be revised based on the review of those comments.

Pupil workload should shrink in new semester

Students at Baochu Pagoda Experimental School in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, carry textbooks for the new semester, which started on Sunday.Ju Huanzong / Xinhua 

More than 90 percent of those who commented voiced support for most of the 10 items, including improving transparency in enrollment, forbidding cram schools during weekends and vacations, and encouraging students to exercise for an hour a day.

Hu Ruiwen, the former president of the Shanghai Academy of Educational Sciences, said people have been calling for reducing students" workload for a long time, and the proposed new regulations are a good start.

"In many other countries, students do not have any homework because for pupils who are 12 and younger, spending six to seven hours a day at school is already physically stressful," said Hu, a member of the National Education Advisory Committee.

"They need more time to get more sleep and exercise, and develop their curiosity and their own hobbies."

Cui Linlin, a college teacher whose daughter is a fifth-grader in Beijing, applauded the move to reduce the workload. "Although my daughter is young, she has always been busy with her studies as students have so much homework and so many tests," she said.

"I hope these regulations can be well implemented, so that children won"t be overburdened and can have a carefree childhood."

Although the public is generally enthusiastic about the regulations, some parents are concerned about particular proposals, including eliminating written homework for all primary school students, and reducing or even canceling tests.

Yuanliu Yuxiu, 11, a sixth-grader at Beijing Huixinli Primary School, said she would like to have some homework, especially when a test is looming.

She also would like to attend a vocational school in summer. "If I don"t go to a cram school during summer vacation, I"ll end up wasting my entire summer watching TV or surfing the Internet at home," she said.

Liu Li, 40, a housewife whose daughter is a sixth-grader at a Beijing primary school, said that although she supports the government"s efforts to reduce children"s workload, she questioned the plan to forbid teachers from giving out written homework.

"Compared with homework, going to a museum, library or cultural center sounds more creative and interesting," she said. "But we parents may not have the time to offer our children such empirical homework."

Lu Hong, a mother in Shanghai, said that primary school students not yet in third grade should not do any homework, but older students need to consolidate what they have learned in class through homework as they face middle school entrance examinations.

Lu"s third-grade son sometimes didn"t finish his homework until as late as 10 pm, and his parents had to tutor him. The boy also took extracurricular classes in English, math and Chinese.

"In Shanghai, the competition to get into high school is very fierce, even stronger than the gaokao (college entrance exam). I am more than willing to see his school workload reduced, but what if other parents don"t do the same thing?" she added.

Ren Zhikang, a math teacher at Caihe No 3 Primary School in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said he worries that schools won"t be able to fully implement the policies, regardless of how well-intentioned they are.

"Students" exam results are still an important yardstick to measure whether the teacher has done a good job and how good the school is. So we feel pressured. We will have to ensure the students are competitive in tests, but not give them too much work," he said.

Hu said students should improve their work habits at school.

"They should master knowledge and finish homework at school with their teachers" help," Hu said.

Ou Hailin contributed to this story.


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