Overworked children will become lazy students

09:54, October 14, 2009      

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Illustration: Liu Rui (Global Times Photo)

In a recent academic conference held by the Chinese Physical Society, Yang Fujia, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that one of the criteria to judge whether the education of a nation is successful is to see if its elementary school pupils learn in a relaxed and pleasant way, and its college students study tensely and diligently.

Such a criterion sounds novel, but is quite enlightening if we think about it.

It's understandable that as a student grows older and becomes more mature both physically and mentally, he learns more and is assigned heavier schoolwork.

However, the actual situation is quite the contrary in China.

Most elementary school pupils will shake their heads to the question, "Do you study in a relaxed and happy way?" Pupils may only have just a few textbooks, however, the depth and difficulty of the contents they are required to learn is way beyond the textbooks.

The schoolbag of a typical Chinese pupil is often as heavy as 4 kilograms. Many pupils jokingly call themselves "teenage mutant ninja turtles" since they carry heavy schoolbags, in which there are a variety of tutorial materials besides textbooks.

According to a recent survey, currently, 60 percent of pupils need "2 to 3 hours" or even "more than 3 hours" every day to finish their homework. Besides, with the arrangement by their parents or teachers, these kids still need to attend various after-school tutorial classes to improve their exam results or participate in different competitions.

All these are aiming at one clear set of goals: to enter a well-known junior middle school, a key high school and then a prestigious university.

But how about college students?

A related survey shows that the schoolwork of college students in Shanghai has been decreased in recently years, more and more students consider their schoolwork as "light."

When selecting classes, many college students scramble for classes with relaxed management and light schoolwork. Classes that require students to watch movies in class and write about their impression of view during the final exam are quite popular among the students.

College students majoring in liberal arts especially regard their learning as relaxed – teachers often have low requirements and assign few homework. If a paper is assigned, a college student can quickly finish it after exploring online.

In many colleges, few senior students attend classes, and job hunting becomes their best excuse. Therefore, the four-year undergraduate education is virtually compressed into three years, and the three-year vocational training into two. Those graduate students do not even meet their advisors once in a long time.

On the contrary, in the US and other developed countries, the schooling of elementary school pupils is often light and easy. A pupil has lots of leisure time for free arrangement – they are able to develop various hobbies and interests, and explore different kinds of alternavtive subjects that fit into their interests.

Later on, students face greater pressure. In first-class universities abroad, the lights in laboratories stay on all night. Many undergraduates and graduates work tirelessly on research subjects assigned by their advisors; their lives are busy but enriching.

People often wonder that why China fosters less innovative talent and nobody based in China has won a Nobel Prize, even though Chinese kids study very hard and receive a solid basic education. We are probably able to learn something from the busy life of elementary school pupils and the leisure of college students.

To reasonably set school work for students at different ages not only shows respect to the rules of education, the physical and mental development of students, but also concerns the cultivation of creative talent and the establishment of a culture of innovation.

Education departments and the entire society should try to alleviate the homework burden of pupils and free them from crammed learning. Kids should have more time to develop their interests and play freely – seemingly irrelevant to exam results, this may lead to significant research discoveries in the future.

Meanwhile, colleges ought to provide students with an atmosphere of independent development and innovation. Teachers and students should interact more. College students need to be busier and pass stricter examinations to attain a higher standard of academic degrees.

The author is a reporter with Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily

Source: Global Times
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