Nation & World News

China Weighs Ban On Homework; Teachers, Students Argue Against

By Bill Chappell on August 29th, 2013

Chinese officials hope to rein in teachers who assign too much homework, as the country’s Ministry of Education considers new rules that ban schools from requiring students to complete written tasks at home. Citing undue stress on students, the ministry would also limit the number of exams students take.

The goal of relieving pressure on students was also cited in July, when China’s Education agency issued a ban on written homework for first and second graders during the summer vacation. Readers may recall that last autumn, French President Francois Hollande declared his wish to ban homework, as well.

Chinese officials presented a draft version of a long-term education reform plan for public comment last week. The plan calls for cutting homework, replacing it with visits to museums and libraries, and boosting “students’ hands-on capabilities through handicrafts or farm work,” the Xinhua state news agency reports.

The plan’s goals include “raising the senior high school gross enrollment rate to 90 percent, and increasing the higher education gross enrollment rate to 40 percent,” according to a press bulletin at the ministry’s website.

One rule would prohibit any unified exams for students in the third grade and younger. Students in the fourth grade and above could not be required to take more than two exams per subject in each semester.

The plan would also require that “exam scores and contest awards shall not be used as criteria for school admission in the compulsory education phase.”

Another proposal targets extracurricular academic classes, which many Chinese parents rely on to help their kids get ahead.

“Parents of one Shanghai second-grader said they have this year spent nearly 30,000 yuan (US$4,901) on extra classes such as English and mathematics,” reports the SINA news site.

In the fight over homework, it seems the teachers may have an unlikely ally: their students.

“It’s not that much work,” one girl tells The Shanghaiist, in a video that some of her classmates probably hope goes unseen. “Sometimes it takes just half an hour to 40 minutes.”

“It takes just 40 minutes to do the homework,” another girl says. “If there’s more from my mom, then it takes me just a little over an hour.”

That’s right — Chinese parents sometimes assign homework of their own. As another student explains, his parents require him to complete exercises that are separate from his school studies.

“My parents just bought me some workbooks,” he says. “They just want me to learn better and get into a good junior high school.”

The push to cut homework has also met with resistance among educators, who say it would undermine their efforts to have students retain what they learn. And teachers tell SINA that for issues like literacy, homework is crucial. Others say homework isn’t the real problem.

“If homework or academic assignments are stopped, schools and parents will worry about the possible decline in enrollment rates, which remains the main assessment of education quality,” elementary education director Wang Ming, of the National Education Development Research Center, tells China Daily.

“If we want to have a real impact on easing the burden, the assessment and enrollment systems, which still heavily count on examination results, should be adjusted,” he says.

In June, Xinhua reported four recent instances of Chinese students killing themselves after they received poor scores on college entrance exams.

And The Shanghaiist reports that in 2011, three young girls “allegedly killed themselves over stress related to school work.”

The site also notes that China’s education officials have been urging cuts to homework burdens since 1988, with few positive results.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

Members of the National Guard detain a protester in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday. More than 2,000 National Guard troops spread out across the St. Louis area to prevent another night of rioting and looting after a grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

A Calmer Night In Ferguson, Mo., Amid Increased National Guard Presence

Police arrested 44 people after another round of protests — these quieter than the unrest that erupted after the decision not to charge officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.


People protest Tuesday night in Times Square regarding the Ferguson grand jury decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case.

Protests Of Grand Jury Decision Fan Out Across The Country

While several big cities saw large protests after the decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson on Monday, Tuesday saw protests and blocked highways in at least 14 cities across the country.


The story of Arthur, a stray who adopted a team of Swedish athletes competing in Ecuador, spread quickly after he refused to be left behind.

Dog Follows Athletes Through Mud And Water, And Melts Hearts

After a stray dog met a team of Swedish adventure athletes in Ecuador, he ran for miles to stay with them. Now Arthur the dog is famous — and it all started with a meatball.


Wilson Describes Confrontation With Brown In ABC Interview

Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who killed Michael Brown, says he has “a clean conscience” about the shooting; he also says he’s sorry for the loss of life.


A local business is boarded up in anticipation of another night of unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Tuesday. A day after people set fire to buildings in the city, President Obama said, "I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities."

Obama: ‘No Sympathy’ For Those Destroying Ferguson

Saying he understands the frustrations of people who feel they’re not treated fairly under the law, President Obama also said, “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.”


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments