New Chinese Law: Less Homework

From the Straits Times:

China has ordered local authorities and parents to “reduce the burden” of primary and secondary school children by giving them less homework, supervising their use of electronic devices, and ensuring that they get sufficient sleep.

In a notice approved by the Cabinet and jointly issued by nine ministries and agencies on Friday (Dec 28), the government said the authorities, schools and training institutions, as well as families are responsible for fostering a healthy environment for children.

“All parties should… reduce the over-heavy schoolwork that defies pedagogical discipline and damages the physical and psychological health of primary and secondary schoolchildren”.

The notice goes on to list 30 measures that could help relieve children’s workload and improve their health.

…No written homework for first- and second-graders; homework shall not exceed 60 minutes for third- to sixth-graders, and 90 minutes for junior high schoolers.

These Chinese education ministry continues to try to change the education culture. Less “Tiger.”

However, as best I understand it, these regulations do not apply to out-of-school time. So a school might assign no homework to a first grader, but the kid might still be given 90 minutes of extra lessons.

Parents are pushing back.

Chin Jignan provides some helpful context:

Known as jianfu, or “burden reduction,” the policies aim to decrease the academic workloads of primary and middle school students.

On social media, parents have written open letters to the Ministry of Education pleading for teachers to give their children more homework.

Others claim, somewhat sensationally, that the policy’s true motive is to discourage poor people from having children, or that it is destroying the traditional Chinese family unit.

…Parents of China’s schoolchildren, especially the aspirational middle class, claim that the jianfu movement represents a state-sanctioned betrayal of — or at least withdrawal from — the responsibility to make education a force for social advancement.

Parents themselves must then step into the vacuum, swamping their kids with more extracurricular learning to help them stand out from their peers and eventually gain admission to a good university.

But private education services take a toll on a family’s finances, time, and energy. One mother described how she and her husband have drastically cut down on their expenditures to save money for their child’s extracurricular activities, to the point where even everyday luxuries like a cup of milk tea are off the menu.

Zhang Duanhong adds, from Sixth Tome:

To ensure their children are not winnowed out by the system, parents begin competing over educational resources as early as preschool, some turning to private schools to prepare their kids for the zhongkao. Many consider Shanghai’s private schools superior to its public schools — at least at the primary- and middle-school level — in part because these institutions are more willing to skirt the government’s limits on homework and class time.

Competition for places is fierce, however. The best private preschools might receive thousands of applications for a few dozen spots each year. While this may seem over-the-top, local parents truly believe — and not without reason — that only by getting their children into the best preschool, and from there the best primary and middle school, will they receive the best education the country has to offer upon reaching high school and university.

I do agree with the Chinese guidelines for parents. I wish more people followed them here in the USA. We follow these with our 8 and 10 year olds:

– Set reasonable expectations and encourage children to develop their talents; avoid comparing them to others or copying others;

– Increase communications with children and model positive values and behaviour; help children become confident and reliant;

– Encourage children to be physically active and maintain good habits; pay attention to their emotions and mental health;

– Guide children to use electronic devices and the Internet appropriately, prevent them from being addicted to online games or smartphones;

– Ensure that primary school children get at least 10 hours of sleep a day, and at least nine hours for junior high school children and eight hours for senior high schoolers.

10 hours? Check.

Limited access to online games? Check.

Try for an hour a day of physical activity? Check, although a little harder in winter.

Set reasonable expectations? Hopefully.

Communicate a lot with our kids? That’s easy – most fun part of our day!

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