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Controversy over summer homework heats up


12:51, July 11, 2013

BEIJING, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Some young students in Beijing are embracing their long summer days that have not been jam-packed with homework and extra-curricular activities.

Zhang Manxiu's son, a first grader at Beijing Qiyi Primary School, only has to complete two thin homework books for math and Chinese courses. In the past, however, children his age have been bogged down by summer assignments.

"There were used to be several lists on his notebook for daily assignments, but it is now empty," Zhang said.

To cultivate the non-academic parts of students' personalities, Zhang said the school has also arranged classes that play to students' interests, such as drawing, dancing, soccer and music.

Zhang's son gets out of school at 3:15 p.m., and without a mountain of homework to attend to, he then goes to afterschool piano or English classes or plays outside.

Early this month, the Ministry of Education issued a circular, saying that primary and middle schools nationwide should limit the amount of assignments and assign no written homework for students in grades one and two. The schools were also told to reduce the homework loads of students in other grades.

The circular also urged schools to hold meetings for parents to encourage them to avoid scheduling a slew of extra classes for their children and leave enough room for the children to be able plan their own time.

However, Zhang said that in the online discussion group for the parents of the class, many said they were worried about the "no homework" rule. They said they have arranged assignments for their children themselves, even though the school has stopped written homework for grade one and two students.

Moreover, the order to "suspend written homework for lower grades" has not had much of an impact in many other cities around the country, including Henan, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, according to a survey carried out by China National Radio.

Schools in these areas have all assigned homework for students in grades one and two. Both teachers and parents there are worried that no written homework would hinder students' abilities to master basic knowledge, and parents are not willing to see their children left behind at the starting line.

Zhang Lei, a first grader at a primary school in central China's Henan province, has been working on summer vacation homework for the week since school let out.

He has no idea that he doesn't have to do summer homework in his first two years of primary school, and he believes that "teachers will be angry if the assignments are not finished."

Gao Yuan, a nurse, said she pities her 11-year-old son who is juggling a load of summer homework and saxophone, drum and English lessons.

"All of his peers have been working hard since they were very small, and I am afraid of taking the risk of letting him do what he wants throughout his childhood," Gao said.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21th Century Education Research Institute, said the imbalanced distribution of educational resources across the country makes it difficult to alleviate students' workloads.

"Scores still remain the main gauge of evaluating and selecting students for university admittance, leading teachers and parents to put more pressure on their children," Xiong added.

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