So young and so little time for fun
Updated: 2012-06-01 08:05
By Cheng Yingqi in Beijing and Liu Ce in Shenyang, Liaoning (China Daily)
Students of a primary school make faces with masks they painted at a student center for after-class activities in Beijing. Fu Ding / for China Daily
Five-year-old Xu Haohan already feels the stress of studies.
Every night after returning home from kindergarten, Xu spends an average of 90 minutes on homework, such as copying new Chinese characters learned in class, or doing arithmetic.
"At the age of 5, Xu can do double-digit addition and subtraction. But the long hours sitting at desks really annoy him, so in most cases, he scribbles the homework, and watches cartoons on TV," said Xu's mother.
Xu is not alone. In fact, the burden of excessive studies among kindergarten children is so common in China that the education authority has found it necessary to publish guidelines to ease the situation.
Last week, the Ministry of Education posted a draft of its study and development guidelines for 3- to 6-year-old children on its website. While emphasizing physical, social and emotional development, the draft has eased up on academic requirements. For example, 5- to 6-year-old children only have to manage one-digit addition and subtraction and know left from right.
"I believe the guidelines would be a great help for parents, but they are not easy to implement in kindergarten," said Li Yan, president of the Jinse Yangguang Kindergarten in Shenyang, Liaoning province.
Li confessed that 60 percent of her kindergarten classes offer courses such as math and English, and only 40 percent of the time is spent on play activities.
"Almost all top class children in a kindergarten can manage the knowledge in text books for first-grade pupils. If I don't teach that knowledge in class, the children will lag behind when they enter primary school, which will harm the reputation of my kindergarten," Li said.
"Under the pressure of exams, no parents want their children to lose the competition at the starting line. So the situation won't change unless the ministry changes the way top universities select students," she said.
Liu Hong, mother of a 5-year-old, said the guidelines could be good news for parents like her.
"I don't want my son to work so hard at an early age. But the 'starting line' philosophy seems to influence every parent, and I feel there is nothing I can do about it," Liu said. "If the guidelines really work to change people's mind, my son might be able to lead an easier life."
The guidelines list children's ideal development levels in health, language abilities, social skills, science knowledge and art, in the hopes of providing proper expectations for parents and kindergarten teachers. But the draft, which is open for public opinions, did not mention whether the guidelines will be compulsory or not.
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(China Daily 06/01/2012 page4)