More Chinese parents are embracing encouragementbased education
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.
Li Bingsong sorts books for his integrity library welfare program for children.
Li Bingsong (center) has a guqin workshop with children at the integrity library in Biyun International Community.