A class of their own

Updated: 2013-09-29 07:14

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

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A class of their own

Zhang Qiaofeng, who graduated from Peking University in the 1980s, home-schools his son Zhang Hongwu and two other boys.Photos by Liu Guanguan / China News Service


More Chinese parents are home schooling their children - and are themselves getting an education in risk and reward. Zhang Yue studies the pedagogical phenomenon.

Liu Rusong didn't do well in primary school. So, he quit at age 10 - but he didn't drop out. Instead, he made headlines by earning his bachelor's degree in law from Zhejiang University at age 15. "He left school at 10 because he behaved horribly, and his teachers kept coming to us to complain," his father says. "His grades always ranked among his class' top five. Still, the teachers' constant criticism made him depressed." Liu completed six years worth of middle school courses in two years by home schooling supplemented by tutors. His road to academic success, though, has been a lonely one.

The boy's head and voice drop when he talks about his social life.

"I don't have many friends," he says.

Liu has become celebrated within China's growing home schooling circle.

About 18,000 children in the country are educated at home, the 21st Century Education Research Institute's 2013 Research Report into Homeschooling in China shows.

A class of their own

More than 54 percent of parents say their primary home schooling motivation is disagreement with local schools' education philosophy.

The next biggest reason, at nearly 10 percent, is some parents feel their children progress too slowly in institutionalized education. About 7 percent believe their children aren't respected at school, 6 percent "can't bear school life" and 5.5 percent do it for religious reasons.

Those who home-school can't go back on their decision because students need certification proving they've passed previous grades to move onto the next. And home-schooled children can't take the National College Entrance Examination, so they must attend university abroad.

Liu is a rare case. He enrolled by passing an exam issued by the university for people who haven't completed school.

Many surveyed parents comment on cost effectiveness, as ever-fiercer competition buoys tuition costs. Parents sometimes line up for days to get their kids a spot in top schools. There's even an industry in which they hire someone to stand in line for them.

China's elite schools cost hundreds of thousands of yuan (tens of thousands of dollars) a year - even for kindergarten.

On top of sky-high tuitions come concerns about rankings, commutes and quality.

"Schooling has remained the primary concern and greatest hardship for our family since our 15-year-old daughter was born," 42-year old Beijing sales manager Huang Bing says.

Many parents who home-school their children believe the extremes surrounding China's education are largely hype.

Related: Private classes far from home

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