An un­nec­es­sary bat­tle for the best

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai


Be­fore the school se­mes­ter be­gan ear­lier this month, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion had re­leased a set of guide­lines which dis­cour­aged stu­dents from com­par­ing their fam­i­lies’ fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the guide­lines, stu­dents should be thrifty and dili­gent in and out of school, and should strive to save food and re­sources in­stead of com­par­ing with one another what they eat or wear.

While the move was ap­plauded by many school teach­ers and so­cial ex­perts, the chil­dren were nev­er­the­less un­de­terred in try­ing to as­sert their su­pe­ri­or­ity over one another when classes kicked off.

It is com­mon these days for fam­i­lies to travel dur­ing the two-month-long sum­mer hol­i­day as many con­sider it to be an ideal way to broaden their child’s knowl­edge of the world and im­prove their self-cog­ni­tion abil­i­ties. Xue Fanyi had taken her 13-year-old son on a six-day cruise trip to Ja­pan and South Korea in Au­gust. Though the boy en­joyed the jour­ney, a re­cent dis­cus­sion with his class­mates about the trip made him up­set.

“Sev­eral of my son’s class­mates also went on cruise trips dur­ing the hol­i­days and they started com­par­ing which cruise liner was more lux­u­ri­ous and which had a bet­ter itin­er­ary. My son felt in­fe­rior af­ter talk­ing with them,” Xue said. “The chil­dren even talked about what brand of lux­ury cars their fathers drive them to school in.”

How­ever, this prob­lem can­not be en­tirely blamed on the im­ma­tu­rity of the chil­dren. The par­ents, it seems, are of­ten the in­sti­ga­tors of such be­hav­ior when they spoil their chil­dren with un­nec­es­sary ma­te­rial com­forts.

Xie Hanyu has a 14-year-old son who is a sec­ond-grader in a ju­nior high school in Shang­hai’s Yangpu dis­trict. In or­der to spare him the 45-minute com­mute from home ev­ery day, the fam­ily rented an apart­ment near the school that costs 12,000 yuan ($1,889) ev­ery month. They do so be­cause they hope their child can spend more time study­ing in­stead of be­ing caught in traf­fic. Xie said she re­cently dis­cov­ered that apart­ments have be­come a hot topic of dis­cus­sion among chil­dren too.

“They are even com­par­ing whose apart­ments are more com­fort­able and have more ad­vanced fa­cil­i­ties, such as floor heat­ing sys­tem, cen­tral air-con­di­tion­ing, and fin­ger­print ac­cess con­trol,” Xie said.

Another par­ent, Zhou Qun, spent nearly 7,000 yuan on an elec­tronic dic­tionary, a smart phone and a voice recorder for her 13-year-old daugh­ter. “It’s hard to refuse the child’s re­quest to get one as many of her class­mates have it too.”

Zhou Hai­wang, deputy di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Ur­ban and Pop­u­la­tion De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies at the Shang­hai Academy of So­cial Sciences, said that chil­dren re­quire close guid­ance in es­tab­lish­ing pos­i­tive value to­ward money.

“We live in an age when wealth is adored and up­held more than ever, and chil­dren are also im­mersed in such a so­cial at­mos­phere. Chil­dren’s words and deeds re­flect the world of the adults,” said Zhou.

“Such habits will widen the gap be­tween stu­dents from rich and im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies and this will un­der­mine pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween class­mates,” added Yan Wei, a pri­mary school teacher.

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