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As school opens, do make children happier!

(China Daily)

09:43, September 01, 2011

It's time for school again. Ready or not, children are returning to school today for the next installment of battle of the brains.

President Hu Jintao underlined on June 1 - Children's Day - that every child in the country should live a happy life, so many institutions offered kids a lesson on being happy the day before they went back to class.

A long summer vacation is supposed to be a magic time for children, a chance to escape stress of competitive learning. But many children in this country are not happy, because they are under tremendous pressure to study. Most parents believe high academic credentials mean a better school and a brighter future. So they send their children to extracurricular classes like music, English and math to develop their talents.

According to China's Law on Compulsory Education, public primary and secondary schools don't require entrance exams, students are supposed to be assigned to schools according to their residency. However, a student can enroll in another desired school, if the student excels at math or English, or has a special talent in music or sports.

Studies conducted by the China Youth and Children Research Center show that more than half of Chinese secondary-school students study overtime and don't get enough sleep. Ten years ago only 50 percent of Chinese minors were being deprived of sleep by their studies. That figure has since increased to 80 percent, according to a survey of students from rural and urban areas in 10 provinces. And more than 70 percent of students in primary and middle schools take after-school tutoring classes, which are a heavy burden on the children.

For kids life is much more stressful now than it was for older generations. Take Beijing, many kids used to play with their peers in the hutong, small alleys where Beijing residents used to live, nowadays most kids live in tall buildings, with very few playmates. And anyway they are so busy taking after-school classes and don't have time to play with each other.

The role of education is not only to pass on knowledge, but also to develop a healthy character and an ability to learn. The heavy workload on children is the result of high expectations from parents, fierce employment competition and our flawed concept of education.

Now Chinese officials and celebrities are calling on the whole of society to make our children happy. But their appeal will come to naught if schools and parents care about only the good academic scores the children get at school.

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