Ed­u­ca­tion is like the rab­bit-tor­toise race

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Amother re­cently posted on the in­ter­net a long list of ex­pen­sive ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes for her child, in­clud­ing 12,000 yuan ($1,786) a year for English, 14,000 yuan for logic and math­e­matic, 7,000 yuan for danc­ing, 11,000 yuan for pho­tog­ra­phy and 6,000 yuan for draw­ing, and com­plained that she is not rais­ing a child, but a money burner.

Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes for stu­dents are not a new topic. Still, they end up fray­ing pub­lic nerves when­ever they come up in dis­cus­sions, which is sur­pris­ing be­cause par­ents are free to pro­vide their chil­dren with cus­tom­ized ed­u­ca­tion, in­clud­ing spe­cial af­ter-school classes, to make up for their in­ad­e­quate school and fam­ily ed­u­ca­tion.

But the prob­lem is that most of the non­govern­men­tal train­ing in­sti­tu­tions usu­ally of­fer sub­jects aimed at im­prov­ing chil­dren’s per­for­mance in school. In this sense, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes are not sim­ply money spin­ners.

The wide­spread anx­i­ety among Chi­nese par­ents over their chil­dren’s fu­ture is un­der­stand­able. It is not in­hu­mane for anx­ious par­ents to get their chil­dren ad­mit­ted to spe­cial train­ing in­sti­tu­tions and over­bur­den them with ex­tra work. This can be con­sid­ered a re­sult of the broad so­cial en­vi­ron­ment in China.

Since the con­cept that their chil­dren should not lose at the start­ing point is deep-rooted in their minds, many par­ents force their kids from the kin­der­garten stage to at­tend spe­cial classes to ex­cel in their class. How many par­ents would dare to chart a dif­fer­ent course for their kids when they see other chil­dren at­tend spe­cial classes and per­form well in school?

The prac­tice of “good” schools set­ting ad­mis­sion test pa­pers in such a way that only the “best” stu­dents — those who have “ac­quired” ex­tra knowl­edge and skills — are se­lected and the fierce ed­u­ca­tion race ahead make even the most cool-headed par­ents worry about their chil­dren’s fu­ture.

Iron­i­cally, some par­ents say stu­dents are un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to at­tend ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes partly be­cause the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties have taken mea­sures to lighten the school and home­work bur­den on chil­dren.

The mea­sures to al­le­vi­ate the home­work bur­den, they say, have put them in a dilemma: if they fol­low the rules, those stu­dents who do not will gain ad­van­tage in fu­ture ex­am­i­na­tions. And af­ter con­sid­er­ing the pros and cons of the au­thor­i­ties’ mea­sures, many par- ents choose to push their chil­dren into ex­tracur­ric­u­lar classes — which is a clas­sic case of the “pris­oner’s dilemma”.

The pocket-pinch­ing ed­u­ca­tion model many Chi­nese par­ents have adopted is a re­sult of not only the wellde­signed pro­mo­tion tac­tics of some train­ing agen­cies that cater to wor­ried par­ents’ psy­cho­log­i­cal needs, but also em­ploy­ers’ di­ploma-ori­ented re­cruit­ment prac­tice, rigid man­age­ment of the State-run ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and peo­ple’s con­cern about their chil­dren’s fu­ture in the in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive job mar­ket.

Par­ents’ thirst for qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and choice of di­verse ed­u­ca­tion mod­els for their chil­dren call for deep­en­ing of re­form in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

To put a brake on the ris­ing ex­tracur­ric­u­lar train­ing trend, the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties should take proper mea­sures to pro­mote bal­anced distri­bu­tion of ed­u­ca­tional re­sources, change the cur­rent eval­u­a­tion sys­tem that mainly fo­cuses on stu­dents’ scores, and set up a sys­tem that sep­a­rates stu­dents’ en­roll­ment from their exam scores. The prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with the ed­u­ca­tion model — lighter school ed­u­ca­tion bur­den com­bined with in­tense af­ter-school train­ing — can­not be ad­dressed if the au­thor­i­ties don’t take tar­geted mea­sures.

Ed­u­ca­tion in­volves var­i­ous as­pects of so­ci­ety, so one can­not ex­pect deep­ened ed­u­ca­tional re­form to be im­ple­mented overnight. While tak­ing steps to se­cure a brighter fu­ture for their chil­dren, par­ents should re­al­ize that life is not a sprint race, but a marathon in which one can­not suc­ceed by run­ning at top speed right from the out­set.

Chil­dren should not be viewed as a learn­ing ma­chine. In­stead, they should be cul­ti­vated into all-round tal­ents with high moral val­ues, and good in­tel­lec­tual and phys­i­cal qual­i­ties.

Par­ents’ thirst for qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and choice of di­verse ed­u­ca­tion mod­els for their chil­dren call for deep­en­ing of re­form in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

The au­thor is a Zhe­jiang-based mid­dle school teacher. The ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished in China Youth Daily.

SONG CHEN / CHINA DAILY

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