Kids must en­joy school with­out any terms

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

Stu­dents will be back to school or col­lege in China as well asWestern coun­tries very soon. Chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion has be­come an ex­pen­sive af­fair in de­vel­oped economies and has been partly re­spon­si­ble for small fam­i­lies, of­ten with a sin­gle child, in the West. Even in China, de­spite the lift­ing of the one-child pol­icy, not many cou­ples will have a sec­ond child partly be­cause of the ris­ing cost of ed­u­ca­tion.

Ac­tu­ally, the cost of ed­u­cat­ing even a sin­gle child has in­creased over the past cou­ple of decades. School poli­cies tra­di­tion­ally en­cour­age a sense of com­mu­nity. The school uni­form it­self is sup­posed to in­cul­cate stu­dents with a sense of equal­ity re­gard­less of the eco­nomic back­ground of their par­ents— no de­signer uni­forms or smart suits on dis­play.

Inmy coun­try, Britain, we can still see “back to school” signs on store win­dows with af­ford­able note­books (tra­di­tional pa­per ones), pens, rulers and other ba­sics. But the school bags that these items are car­ried in are more likely to re­flect de­signer trends and be very ex­pen­sive.

Since schools can­not re­ally stan­dard­ize posses­sion of other use­ful items, par­ents give their chil­dren mo­bile phones so that they can com­mu­ni­cate with them in need. And by giv­ing their kids the lat­est smart­phones such as iPhone 6, many par­ents cre­ate a vis­i­ble wealth di­vide among chil­dren and prompt chil­dren of even low-in­come fam­i­lies to force their par­ents to buy them ex­pen­sive cell­phones so that they can keep up with the Jone­ses.

It’s nat­u­ral for chil­dren to be in­flu­enced by their peers and feel be­lit­tled with­out what the gad­get mak­ers say are in­dis­pens­able items. As tech­nol­ogy races ahead, economies are kept go­ing in part by new waves of “as­pi­ra­tional” goods that may mo­ti­vate peo­ple to work harder to in­crease their in­comes and re­ward them­selves with these good­ies.

This craze will not end, but is it good for chil­dren to be show­ered with such ex­pen­sive goods be­fore they have com­pleted their ed­u­ca­tion and earned any money on their own? By get­ting such items eas­ily will chil­dren lack the ca­pa­bil­ity of mak­ing their way in so­ci­ety and ac­cept set­backs af­ter they grow up?

Does the flaunt­ing of ex­pen­sive items in school by some chil­dren lead to less for­tu­nate chil­dren de­vel­op­ing in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex? And if high-tech gad­gets be­come a nec­es­sary fea­ture of ed­u­ca­tion, as some claim, will they limit the chances of rel­a­tively poor chil­dren to gain ed­u­ca­tion?

In the early days of com­put­ers in schools, stu­dents had ac­cess to a com­puter only in the school com­puter lab. When cheaper com­put­ers en­tered the mar­ket, schools struck deals with sup­pli­ers to get “af­ford­able” com­put­ers for stu­dents. To­day there is an open mar­ket with a wide range of prod­ucts to suit dif­fer­ent bud­gets.

Stu­dents face peer pres­sure even in col­lege. But since youths in the West en­ter col­lege at dif­fer­ent ages and since some of them al­ready have work ex­pe­ri­ences or work part time, they might not be overtly in­flu­enced by the dis­play of ex­pen­sive gad­gets. Youths en­ter a col­lege when they are in­tel­lec­tu­ally al­most ma­ture and can dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the prod­ucts they need and those they can do with­out.

There­fore, school should be the place of equal op­por­tu­nity for chil­dren so that they can de­velop to the best of their abil­ity with the good­ness of com­mu­nity spirit. Ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults, ap­ti­tudes, abil­i­ties and in­ter­ests will de­ter­mine the post-school path youths will take, but in school no stu­dent should be forced to per­ceive dis­ad­van­tage for not be­ing able to af­ford an elec­tronic gad­get or a de­signer school bag. And for that, schools need to pro­vide the nec­es­sary re­sources and par­ents have to stop overindulging their chil­dren. The au­thor is an econ­o­mist and di­rec­tor of China pro­grams at CAPA In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, a US-UK-based or­ga­ni­za­tion that co­op­er­ates with Cap­i­tal Nor­mal Univer­sity and East China Nor­mal Univer­sity.

So, reck­less pro­tec­tion­ist mea­sures will not help re­solve the global steel over­pro­duc­tion is­sue. But in­May, the United States started an anti-dump­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into some of China’s ma­jor steel man­u­fac­tur­ers, claim­ing they use un­fair means to ex­port steel prod­ucts to the US. Some other economies, such as the Euro­pean Union, Chile, Viet­nam, Aus­tralia, In­dia, Colom­bia, Canada andMalaysia fol­lowed suit. Such re­stric­tive trade mea­sures con­tra­vene the prin­ci­ple of fair mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion.

China’s steel ex­ports to the US and the EU ac­count for only a small part of their steel im­ports. There­fore, the im­po­si­tion of anti-dump­ing du­ties on China’s ex­ports will only help pro­tect their back­ward pro­duc­tion sys­tems with­out solv­ing the prob­lem of their steel en­ter­prises’ weak com­pet­i­tive­ness.

China’s steel en­ter­prises are highly com­pet­i­tive in the global mar­ket and their prod­ucts are val­ued for their high cost to per­for­mance ra­tio. A large part of Chi­nese steel ex­ports have formed a deeply com­ple­men­tary re­la­tion­ship with the steel pro­duc­ers of the im­port­ing coun­tries and thus have pro­moted lo­cal eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has never de­nied the over­ca­pac­ity in its steel in­dus­try. In­stead it has im­ple­mented poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions since 2013 to guide lo­cal govern­ments and en­ter­prises to digest their pro­duc­tion sur­plus.

In Fe­bru­ary, the State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, is­sued a guide­line to make over­all pol­icy ar­range­ments to re­duce the coun­try’s steel over­ca­pac­ity, vow­ing to cut 100 mil­lion to 150 mil­lion tons of crude steel ca­pac­ity in the next five years from the level mapped out dur­ing the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) pe­riod. For this year alone, the plan is to re­duce 45 mil­lion tons of over­ca­pac­ity, and by the end of July, 47 per­cent of the tar­get had been re­al­ized. Now the gov­ern­ment plans to take force­ful mea­sures to en­sure the full-year goal is re­al­ized.

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive ad­vo­cated by China, too, is aimed at strength­en­ing in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion in the coun­tries that be­come a part of it and at pro­mot­ing in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity among them. The smooth im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ini­tia­tive will help drive up the global de­mand for steel prod­ucts and thus pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion and re­al­ize win-win re­sults. Given that in the era of glob­al­iza­tion, steel over­ca­pac­ity is not a prob­lem of any one coun­try, be it the high­est pro­ducer, all coun­tries should play their re­spec­tive roles and work to­gether to ad­dress this thorny is­sue. The au­thor is a re­searcher with the Chi­nese Academy of In­ter­na­tional Trade and Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion, Min­istry of Com­merce.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.