Homework Load Adds to Kids' Strain

July 26, 2018
Editor: Liu Yang

In its first report on the quality of China's nine-year compulsory education, the Ministry of Education has found that primary and middle school students are under great academic pressure, with many spending hours each day on homework.

The report, released on July 25, was based on a survey of 572,314 fourth-and eighth-grade students between 2015 and 2017 by the ministry's National Assessment Center for Education Quality.

Questionnaires were also sent to 19,346 primary and middle school principals and 147,610 teachers.

More than 30 percent of fourth-graders surveyed said they spent more than half an hour doing mathematics homework each day. For Chinese language, 40 percent spent at least half an hour, the report said. For eighth-graders, it was 50.2 percent and 45.5 percent respectively.

Some students spent more time. For example, the survey found that 8.7 percent of fourth-grade students spend more than two hours a day on Chinese language homework.

More than 30 percent of students said they felt great academic pressure, and almost half of eighth-grade students found mathematics difficult to learn, prompting many children to attend after-school training classes, the report said.

It found that 43.8 percent of fourth-grade students attended after-school math tutoring classes.

In the older category, 23.4 percent of eighth-grade students attended math tutoring classes.

Last year, the ministry released a guideline saying that families and schools must cooperate to guarantee 10 hours of sleep for primary students and nine hours of sleep for middle school students. However, the report found that only 30 percent of fourth-graders sleep more than 10 hours, and only 16.6 percent of eighth-grade students sleep nine hours.

To relieve students' academic burdens, the ministry has released several guidelines since February to regulate after-school training institutions for primary and middle school students.

As of June, more than 200,000 after-school tutoring institutions were checked nationwide. More than 12,000 of them changed their programs to be compatible with school schedules, according to the education ministry.

Yang Dongping, dean of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the root cause of high pressure for primary and secondary students is the unbalanced allocation of educational resources, leading to intense competition.

Competition starts at a young age, with many parents doing whatever it takes to enroll their children in the best kindergartens. This, in turn, leads to easier access to better primary and secondary schools and then to better universities, which get the best teachers and most resources, Yang said.

"Compulsory education should not only be free but, more important, free of entrance exams" to get into the next level of school, Yang said.

(Source: China Daily)

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