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Teens take lives as homework unfinished

By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei (China Daily)

09:01, May 03, 2013

Two students in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, committed suicide on Thursday after failing to complete homework assignments.

A student surnamed Xie, in grade six of a primary school in the city's Lishui district, was found hanged on a staircase at his home at about 6 am. He was declared dead at a hospital.

The 13-year-old boy got up at 4 am to try to finish his homework, police said. They are continuing to investigate the case.

In a suicide note, the boy said he loved his parents, felt sorry for them and hoped they could bring lilies, his favorite flower, to his grave.

The other student, a 15-year-old boy, jumped to his death at Jixiang Heights, a residential community in Nanjing, at about 11 am.

The student, in grade nine at a high school, failed to complete his homework during the May Day holiday, with the Nanjing-based newspaper Modern Express reporting that his parents suggested he should stay at home and not go to school before finishing his assignments.

News of the suicides triggered heated discussion among Internet users, with many saying the heavy burden of homework, and the current education system, are to blame for the tragedies.

According to an ongoing online survey launched by Teachers' Weekly and, 84 percent of 961 primary and high school students polled by 7 pm on Thursday said they have homework to do every day. Some 47 percent of the students can finish their homework within an hour, while 17.67 percent have to spend at least three hours on it every day.

The survey was launched on April 8 after the Ministry of Education said in March that provincial educational departments should inspect and supervise schools from April 1 to May 10 to help reduce the burden on students.

"Though China has put forward the concepts of 'quality education' and 'reduction of students' burdens' since the 1980s, primary and high school students still face heavy homework burdens," said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing.

"One reason is that test scores are still an important evaluation, or the only evaluation, for a student to get admitted to college. Therefore, it's natural for teachers to leave heavy homework assignments.

"The quality of education at different schools also contributes to the current situation."

He suggested that instead of putting forward "useless" regulations, education departments should improve the evaluation system for college admission and balance the educational qualities of different schools.

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