Zhejiang students at high risk of depression

Updated: 2013-12-13 07:49

By Yan Yiqi in Hangzhou (China Daily)

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About a third of junior high school students in Zhejiang province are at risk of developing depression, although their academic performances are among the best in the world.

A new report by the provincial education department says that 47.4 percent of eighth-graders polled said they are under a lot of pressure from the school curriculum. That ratio is 4 percentage points higher than the national average.

Just under 31 percent said they face the risk of depression.

The report was based on a national survey in May 2012 and covered students in eight counties.

Results also showed 23.4 percent of junior high school students resent their school lives. That figure is 3.2 percentage points higher than the national average.

Meanwhile, Zhejiang students' interest and confidence in mathematics and science are higher than national averages.

In a 2012 Program for International Student Assessment report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, more than 1,000 15-year-olds in Zhejiang who participated in an experimental survey scored 623 in mathematics, 570 in reading and 582 in science.

If those students' scores were to be taken into the formal survey that included students from 65 nations and economies, Zhejiang would rank second, just behind Shanghai, which represents the Chinese mainland in the formal study.

Ye Xiangqun of the Zhejiang Education Department said that although the actual student workload in the province is below the national average, the fact that students still feel intense pressure is worth noting.

"It means we still have a long way to go to reduce students' curricular burdens and realize a balance between good performance and study pressure," he said.

Ye said the education department survey result indicated that good study results are not necessarily based on pressure to study.

"On the contrary, students from schools with more pressure to study performed poorer, which is the reason why we should continue to release students from heavy homework and endless after-school classes," he said.

Ye said that the top three sources of student pressure are the fear of poor exam results, high expectations from parents, and the release of exam results and rankings in class.

Gan Ting, an eighth-grader at Hangzhou Zhaohui Middle School, said she is always anxious between the days she takes her monthly exams and the release of scores.

"I am going to take the senior high school entrance exam in 2015, and my father wants me to get into one of the top three schools in the city," the 13-year-old said. "I'm worried I will fail.

"It's true that the school does not impose homework pressure on us, but the fact that we still have to compete with so many of our peers in the exams for getting into a good senior high school and the following national college entrance exam haunts me."

Besides regular classes, Gan voluntarily takes after-school classes in math and English on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

"Or else I will fall behind. I can't afford to fail in the upcoming exams," she said.

Shao Xingjiang, a professor of education studies at Zhejiang University, said the mental pressure on high school students will not disappear, given the insufficient high-quality education resources.

"Students and their parents are dying to get into top schools because they believe these schools can give them more insurance in getting into better colleges and jobs," he said. "If we can provide more high quality education resources to them, they don't need to be under such a heavy burden."

Although high school resources in Zhejiang are among the top 20 percent in China, higher educational ones is far from sufficient.

According to a 2013 university list published by China Statistics Press, only four universities in Zhejiang are on the top 100 in the country.