An unnecessary battle for the best
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.