Re­form can re­duce study bur­den of pupils

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS -

Win­ter va­ca­tion has be­come the third se­mes­ter for stu­dents of pri­mary and mid­dle schools in cities. A Chi­nese So­ci­ety of Ed­u­ca­tion sur­vey shows Chi­nese par­ents have in­vested more than 800 bil­lion yuan ($116.5 bil­lion) in pri­mary and mid­dle school stu­dents’ ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes. And many peo­ple be­lieve stu­dents are over­bur­dened by stud­ies dur­ing va­ca­tions be­cause of par­ents who make ir­ra­tional choices and in­sti­tu­tions that of­fer ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes only to make prof­its.

But blam­ing only par­ents and “spe­cial” in­sti­tu­tions for the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, with­out re­form­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, will not al­le­vi­ate stu­dents’ study bur­den.

Forc­ing chil­dren to at­tend many ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes may not be good for their healthy de­vel­op­ment. But since the dis­tri­bu­tion of ed­u­ca­tional re­sources is highly un­bal­anced in China with key pri­mary and mid­dle schools ac­count­ing for a bulk of the re­sources, par­ents who can af­ford to pay have no choice but to send their chil­dren to ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes fear­ing that they­may not be able to get ad­mis­sion to key pri­mary and mid­dle schools, and even­tu­ally fail to en­roll in col­leges.

The eco­nomic out­put of social train­ing in­sti­tu­tions in China reached 800 bil­lion yuan last year, and train­ing classes for the pri­mary and mid­dle school cour­ses ac­counted for a ma­jor­ity of the over­all out­put. But the pro­mo­tion of social train­ing in­sti­tu­tion alone is not to blame for that.

The mas­sive mar­ket for train­ing classes for the pri­mary and mid­dle school cour­ses has de­vel­oped to meet the un­rea­son­able de­mands of ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes be­cause of the un­bal­anced dis­tri­bu­tion of com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tional re­sources and the senior high school en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion and na­tional col­lege en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion. So the exam-ori­ented ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is to equally blame for the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

The ed­u­ca­tion author­i­ties al­ways re­quire lo­cal pri­mary and mid­dle schools to re­duce the bur­den of ex­ams and home­work on stu­dents. But only when the exam-ori­ented ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is re­formed can par­ents stop send­ing their chil­dren to ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes and not fear that they might lose the com­pet­i­tive edge in fu­ture com­pe­ti­tions.

Some so-called ex­perts sug­gest schools hold only half-day classes to re­duce stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion bur­den, but sug­ges­tions such as these are what sound like mu­sic to the ears of social train­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

It is ironic that ed­u­ca­tion author­i­ties ad­vice par­ents not to fo­cus on their chil­dren’s aca­demic scores and tell schools to lower stu­dents’ aca­demic per­for­mance re­quire­ments, but con­tinue to ad­mit stu­dents to high schools and col­leges on the ba­sis of their en­trance exam scores.

There is no rea­son to doubt the good in­ten­tions of the ed­u­ca­tion author­i­ties when it comes to re­duc­ing stu­dents’ bur­den. But ad­min­is­tra­tive reg­u­la­tions and re­stric­tions can only re­in­force ad­min­is­tra­tive power while hardly achiev­ing the orig­i­nal goal.

One rea­son for the un­bal­anced dis­tri­bu­tion of ed­u­ca­tional re­source is that the ad­min­is­tra­tive author­i­ties over­see the process. For in­stance, al­most ev­ery given area has some “su­per” senior high schools that by de­fault get a ma­jor­ity of the lo­cal ed­u­ca­tional re­sources and good stu­dents. These schools, which ag­gra­vate the un­bal­anced dis­tri­bu­tion of ed­u­ca­tional re­sources in lo­cal ar­eas, are al­ways sup­ported and pro­moted by lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tive author­i­ties be­cause they add weight to their po­lit­i­cal achieve­ments.

It is dif­fi­cult to re­form the senior high school and na­tional col­lege en­trance ex­ams mainly be­cause the ed­u­ca­tion author­i­ties are un­will­ing to del­e­gate their power to other agen­cies. The sep­a­ra­tion of ad­mis­sion and exam scores would re­quire the ed­u­ca­tion author­i­ties to del­e­gate the power to eval­u­ate exam scores to social pro­fes­sional agen­cies, and the in­de­pen­dent right of run­ning a school to the school of­fi­cials, and to give stu­dents the right to choose the school or col­lege they want to get ad­mit­ted to. And all this can be achieved— and stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion bur­den can be re­duced— only when the exam-ori­ented ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is thor­oughly re­formed.

And all this can be achieved— and stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion bur­den can be re­duced— only when the exam-ori­ented ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is thor­oughly re­formed.

The au­thor is deputy di­rec­tor of the 21st Cen­tury Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search In­sti­tute.

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