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Wuxi school asks parents to buy iPads

By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei  (China Daily)

09:21, July 13, 2012

A primary school in Wuxi has caused controversy after it asked parents to buy Apple iPad tablets for its students.

Zhu Xiaowen, headmaster of the Anzhen Experimental Primary School in Wuxi, East China's Jiangsu province, said that the school wants to improve the students' digital skills.

"The tablets are a good learning companion and a versatile digital classroom tool," she said.

However, according to a survey conducted by the school last month, among the parents of 1,117 students, only 96 agreed to buy the tablet.

Zhu said that parents "have the right to decide whether or not to buy the tablet", but some parents and netizens are unhappy with the school's decision.

"I think I'll have to buy my daughter an iPad if all her classmates have theirs," said Jiang Yijun, the father of a second-grader. "I don't want her to be hurt and isolated if she's the only one without it."

"Is it really necessary to buy an iPad for a primary school student?" asked Jiang. "It will have an impact on the children's eyesight, and they may be less interested in books as well. Some of my friends even complain that their children indulge in addictive games all day long."

Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a non-governmental research group, said that the school's requirement adds an unnecessary burden to less affluent families.

"Some families cannot afford computers and they don't have access to the Internet, let alone buying a tablet," Xiong said.

"It's more important for schools to adopt advanced educational principles and to change their evaluation systems than to embrace the latest technological devices," Xiong said.

A growing number of schools across China are adopting advanced devices to improve teaching effectiveness, according to Xiong.

"But without changing the current teaching methods, which is to spoon-feed but not to inspire, no progress will be made," said Xiong.

Jiang suggested that if schools really need to adopt tablets as teaching devices, they should buy them with their own budgets and distribute them to students for free.

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