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Students' summer vacation troubles working parents


09:17, July 15, 2013

JINAN, July 13 (Xinhua) -- For students, summer vacation is a time to relax and free themselves from school. But for their working parents, the two-month vacation period could be a trouble.

Since their jobs won't allow them to take paid leave for that long, parents who are reluctant to leave their children alone at home have to find alternatives. Summer camps, study tours and child care centers have subsequently sprung up to meet demand from busy parents.

Mu Jin, a white-collar worker in Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province, decided to register his 10-year-old son at a summer camp, as he doesn't want to trouble his own parents to take care of the boy.

"My apartment is too small to house three generations. Besides, it is too heavy a burden for my aging parents to take care of my son for that long," said Mu.

One local summer camp charges 9,780 yuan (1,594 U.S. dollars) for a 21-day package. Another camp charges as much as 16,800 yuan for just six days, with daily expenses approaching 3,000 yuan.

Some schools and agencies offer overseas study tours that are popular among well-off families who believe that the trips can broaden their kids' minds.

However, such study tours offered by agencies in the city of Quzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province, as well as for-profit tours offered by companies in north China's Shanxi Province, have been suspended after a tragic plane crash on July 6 in San Francisco killed three Chinese students.

Nearly half of the 141 Chinese passengers aboard the ill-fated Asiana Airlines Flight 241 were students and teachers participating in overseas summer camps.

In addition to summer camps and study tours, some parents enroll their children in English, math and drawing classes to enhance their abilities in these subjects.

"Our center offers specially designed English courses and training classes for summer vacation," said Liu Mei, a teacher from Dell English, a branch campus of Longman Schools under U.S.-based education company Pearson Education.

A 12-day phonics package costs 4,780 yuan, including 72 teaching hours, textbooks and recording materials, according to Dell English's official blog.

"The enrollment rate for our courses looks optimistic," said Liu, without disclosing how many kids have registered.

While parents are trying to find a place where children can learn safely, the children themselves prefer to be left alone.

"I don't want to go to 'school' during vacation," said Bao Zhenyang, a middle school student from Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang.

Bao complained that his regular schoolwork was boring and tiring enough, and that vacation should be a time for fun. "All I want to do is play computer games at home," he said.

Bao's parents, however, do not believe leaving him alone at home is an option.

"What if something dangerous happens?" his mother said, adding that she is more concerned about his safety during vacation than during the school year, when he is looked after by his teachers.

Child care centers have also become more popular among working parents. The Beijing Haidian Pupil Care Center has tailored a summer vacation program that allows parents to leave their children in the center's care from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.

"We offer free Math Olympiad classes for half an hour every other day," said a teacher from the center surnamed Yang.

The Ministry of Education called for schools and parents to encourage students to arrange their own time and have a safe vacation earlier this month.

Zhang Xin, an associate professor at the School of Public Administration and Policy at Renmin University, advised establishing a non-government organization that can organize social activities for children during vacation periods.

"In addition to staying at home, summer camps, training classes and child care centers, there should be a fourth option for summer vacation," he said.

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