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Plan to teach a million kids filial piety in five years

(China Daily)

08:45, November 01, 2011

A child helps her mother put on makeup during a thanksgiving event held in a kindergarten in Jiyuan city in Henan province on May 6. A plan to cultivate 1 million filial children in China during the next fi ve years has given rise to heated public debate. MIAO QIUNAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

BEIJING - A plan to cultivate 1 million filial children in the next five years has sparked a fierce debate over whether children can be taught to feel grateful to their parents.

The special committee of filial piety under the China National Association for Ethical Studies announced on Sunday that it aims to help 1 million children between the ages of 4 and 6 learn about filial piety, which is deeply rooted in China's traditional culture.

"Our program will cultivate 1 million filial children and they will set a moral example for all the children in our country," said Wang Haibin, head of the committee.

The 100-day training program will teach the children filial piety through stories and games. Volunteers will check on the children's performance in three years to ensure that "filial piety can be a way of life", said Sun Chunchen, secretary-general of the association for ethical studies.

"I signed up my 6-year-old son for the program because I believe it's important for children to understand the hardships parents have to endure to raise them and for them to become persons with a sense of responsibility to their families," said Yan Xiaohong, 34.

A mother of a 2-year-old girl from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, was less enthusiastic about teaching filial piety.

"I don't want my child to be a robot and do whatever I ask her to do," said Liu Jie, 27.

"It's pointless to sign up for programs like this if they overemphasize parents' authority, and they may prevent children from having independent thoughts," she told China Daily on Monday.

Sun Yunxiao, deputy director of the China Youth Research Center, said filial piety entails respecting and caring for parents and other aged relatives, not obeying them.

"Children should learn to understand and respect their parents, but when parents require their children to do everything they want them to do, filial piety becomes a shackle," he said.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a private, nonprofit policy research body, worried that the program will consist of nothing but empty talk if it is merely based on textbooks.

"It's useless to read classic moral teachings if children don't have enough of a chance to practice them in daily life," Xiong said.

Nowadays, a lot of parents in China only care about children's academic performance and the only thing children need to do is to get high scores in exams, he said.

Xiong said parents should encourage their children to do housework to teach children about sharing family responsibilities.

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