More Chi­nese par­ents are em­brac­ing en­cour­age­ment­based ed­u­ca­tion

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Chen Xi­meng

Li Bing­song, a 17-year-old male stu­dent at the Chi­nese Track High School af­fil­i­ated with the Semi­con­duc­tor Man­u­fac­tur­ing In­ter­na­tional Cor­po­ra­tion (SMIC) Pri­vate

School in Shang­hai has many col­or­ful and un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences out­side of class.

Li started a pub­lic pro­gram to help chil­dren who live in the Biyun In­ter­na­tional Com­mu­nity in Shang­hai bor­row and read books. He learned the guitar and the guqin, a sev­en­stringed Chi­nese plucked in­stru­ment, and also led a school team that en­tered the fi­nals of a na­tional busi­ness chal­lenge com­pe­ti­tion in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong Prov­ince.

“My par­ents al­ways en­cour­age me to do what I like. Af­ter fin­ish­ing school tasks, I have a lot of free­dom to try all kinds of new things,” said Li.

He con­sider him­self lucky com­pared to some of his peers whose par­ents force them to give up their in­ter­ests and only fo­cus on their studies.

En­cour­age­ment-based ed­u­ca­tion in­volves de­vel­op­ing chil­dren’s in­tu­ition and knowl­edge through en­cour­age­ment, guid­ance and sup­port. Proper en­cour­age­ment can im­prove chil­dren’s self-es­teem and in­de­pen­dence, in­crease their abil­ity to self-motivate and strengthen their per­se­ver­ance.

As liv­ing stan­dards in China im­prove and Chi­nese par­ents be­come more open, they in­creas­ingly em­brace en­cour­aged ed­u­ca­tion by giv­ing their chil­dren space to de­velop their in­ter­ests and hob­bies and ex­plore new things in­stead of only fo­cus­ing on study­ing and

Li’s fa­ther, Li Tian­jun, be­lieves in en­cour­age­ment-based ed­u­ca­tion and has in­flu­enced his son a lot in read­ing and other ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

Li Bing­song said his fa­ther loves his­tory very much and noted that there are a lot of books in their home. He said his fa­ther started to dis­cuss his­tory with him over din­ner when he was a child. Over the years, Li Bing­song has read a lot of books, in­clud­ing his­tory and phi­los­o­phy books, even books on Chi­nese mar­tial arts.

Ac­cord­ing to Li Tian­jun, his son has de­vel­oped a good read­ing habit and reads very fast. He also knows a lot of things, the fa­ther said with pride.

Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing his son’s pas­sion for phi­los­o­phy, Li Tian­jun cre­ated a WeChat group with his son an old friend who loves phi­los­o­phy so that his son could gain ac­cess to some­one who un­der­stood the sub­ject mat­ter well.

“Now, ev­ery time he has some ques­tions on phi­los­o­phy, he will ask for help from my friend,” said Li Tian­jun.

Li Bing­song feels that his par­ents are very open-minded and en­cour­ag­ing. He said they give him a lot of space to ex­plore dif­fer­ent things.

“My par­ents like to dis­cuss many things with me, for ex­am­ple, the re­cent books I read or the movies I watched. Per­haps in some par­ents’ eyes, our dis­cus­sions are not very prac­ti­cal or use­ful. But I think it has its value,” he said.

Li Bing­song also loves mu­sic and art. His par­ents said he chose them on his own, and they do not force their in­ter­est on him.

“It is my son who first pro­posed learn­ing the guitar or guqin out of his own in­ter­est. We bought him the in­stru­ments and hired a teacher. We do not force him to par­tic­i­pate in the grad­ing test ei­ther,” said Li Tian­jun.

When he asked his son why he wanted to learn the guqin, the boy said it helps him to calm down when he loses his tem­per.

“He wanted to learn it to man­age his emo­tions bet­ter,” the fa­ther said.

“This idea was very in­ter­est­ing, and af­ter his mother bought him the in­stru­ment, we found that he likes it very much.”

With the sup­port of his par­ents and school, Li Bing­song has ex­pe­ri­enced many ex­cit­ing firsts in his life. He and sev­eral friends built a pub­lic wel­fare pro­gram in the form of an in­tegrity li­brary that en­cour­aged chil­dren to bor­row over 800 books. The project also won great sup­port from the Green Town so­cial work cen­ter which pro­vided the space and some of the books for free. Be­sides lend­ing books, they also held sem­i­nars and sa­lons their reg­u­larly par­ents. and in­vited chil­dren and

When his co-founders stepped away from the project, young Li ini­tially felt lonely and slacked off. But his mother en­cour­aged him to carry on and went with him to events.

Bal­anc­ing study and life

Like Li Tian­jun, Dai Lian, the mother of a 10-year-old boy named Frank also val­ues en­cour­age­ment­based ed­u­ca­tion.

Frank at­tends a pub­lic pri­mary school in Bei­jing and Dai and her hus­band give him lots of space to fol­low his in­ter­ests. They be­gan read­ing books to Frank when he was one or two years old, mak­ing read­ing to­gether a fam­ily ac­tiv­ity. Dai said Frank likes The Dangerous Book for Boys very much. The book de­scribes all kinds of games and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties for boys, and once, Frank pro­posed plant­ing sun­flow­ers to his mother be­cause he read it in the book and was very ex­cited to try it.

“We like to give him space and

do not in­ter­fere too much. We try to guide and sup­port him when the sit­u­a­tion calls for it,” said Dai.

“He likes to ask many ques­tions and has his own opin­ions. When he has ques­tions, we dis­cuss them to­gether. We also talk about our work with him. You will find that some of his ideas are very in­ter­est­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing.”

Both Dai and Li Tian­jun think en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to de­velop their in­ter­ests and ex­plore new ideas out­side of the class­room is ben­e­fi­cial to their de­vel­op­ment in the long run.

“We have to ad­mit that de­vel­op­ing the hobby of read­ing has taken us a lot of time and en­ergy, but it does not af­fect his aca­demic per­for­mance. In­stead, it helps a lot in his studies at school,” said Dai.

She added that his school also fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ing the per­son­al­ity of each child, un­like schools be­fore which would have put too much em­pha­sis on aca­demic records at the ex­pense of the child’s so­cial and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment.

She said when Frank was in the first grade, he was en­cour­aged to join the as­tron­omy club he was in­ter­ested in, which would have been im­pos­si­ble be­fore.

Li Bing­song also feels that his school pro­vides a re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment for stu­dents to take part in ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties. He said some­times if stu­dents are in­volved in im­por­tant ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, the teacher would let them out of do­ing their home­work.

Ini­tially, Li Tian­jun and his wife were also wor­ried that spend­ing too much time out­side of class would cause their son to lag be­hind in school. But they quickly re­al­ized that they did not need to worry.

“He lagged be­hind at first, but soon he ran ahead steadily. It is just like a marathon. Ev­ery new thing he tries helps to shape his per­son­al­ity, en­hance his abil­i­ties and in­flu­ence his vi­sion lit­tle by lit­tle. He learned how to man­age his time bet­ter and how to co­or­di­nate and make the best of the re­sources avail­able to him,” said Li Tian­jun.

“He knows more about the so­ci­ety and real life in­stead of be­ing too iso­lated from re­al­ity.”

Dar­ing to fol­low your pas­sion

Gu Luyan, co-founder of a Bei­jing-based ed­u­ca­tion com­pany and the au­thor of two books, is the mother of two girls: a 9-year-old who at­tends a pub­lic school in Bei­jing and a 7-month-old.

Gu said she chose pub­lic school for her older daugh­ter be­cause Gu hopes her daugh­ter could gain a solid foun­da­tion in core sub­jects such as math and Chi­nese. Also, she can learn a lot about tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, which Gu thinks is very im­por­tant.

She and her hus­band al­ways en­cour­age their daugh­ter to dare to be her­self.

“We are not much con­cerned about her grades and rank­ing. We help her tackle the dif­fi­cul­ties and con­fu­sion in ev­ery phase of her study and growth,” said Gu.

Re­call­ing a time when her daugh­ter wanted to be a politi­cian when she grows up, Gu said some of her teach­ers and her grand­par­ents took it as a joke, but she took it se­ri­ously and en­cour­aged her to stick with it. Although the child has changed her mind, the ex­pe­ri­ence has helped her a lot, Gu said.

Li Tian­jun and Gu said many par­ents around them are go­ing the way of en­cour­age­ment-based ed­u­ca­tion, com­pared with the older gen­er­a­tion of par­ents in China.

“Now par­ents pay more at­ten­tion to ed­u­ca­tion and chil­dren’s de­vel­op­ment and growth, and they them­selves grow as par­ents.”

Li Tian­jun agrees. When he was young, he had lit­tle choice and no time to pur­sue his in­ter­ests. Nowa­days, kids have a lot of choices, and the eval­u­a­tion cri­te­rion has mul­ti­plied, he said.

Li Bing­song wants to study phi­los­o­phy in the US af­ter he grad­u­ates. His par­ents re­spect his choice.

“Af­ter hav­ing a solid foun­da­tion in Chi­nese cul­ture and ba­sic sub­jects, we’d also like him to have a broader vi­sion and learn about the dif­fer­ent cul­tures and ed­u­ca­tion meth­ods in other coun­tries. Af­ter that, he can come back to China to de­velop his ca­reer,” Li Tian­jun said.

Photo: Cour­tesy of Li Tian­jun

Li Bing­song sorts books for his in­tegrity li­brary wel­fare pro­gram for chil­dren.

Photo: Cour­tesy of Li Tian­jun In­set: Gu Luyan and her daugh­ter Photo: Cour­tesy of Gu Luyan

Li Bing­song (cen­ter) has a guqin work­shop with chil­dren at the in­tegrity li­brary in Biyun In­ter­na­tional Com­mu­nity.

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