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Pupils’ high-caliber research papers stir controversy in China

(People's Daily Online)    16:11, October 13, 2017

Students from Tsinghua University Primary School in Beijing have come under the spotlight after their research papers on an ancient poet were posted online. Noticeable for the sophisticated research methodologies and profound scientific outcome, the papers are questioned by the public for their authenticity and appropriateness.

In an effort to commemorate the 980th birthday anniversary of Su Shi, one of the most renowned Chinese poets in the 11th century, six graders from Tsinghua University Primary School have produced 23 research papers, including one that uses computer technologies and big data to analyze the poet’s 3,458 works.

“The word ‘return’ has appeared 157 times in Su’s poems. Based on the materials we gathered, Su has been banished [by the authorities] for three times. Each time he was exiled, the frequency of the word in his poems rises significantly,” read the research paper.

The research papers have been praised by Chinese netizens, who noted that the depth of the articles is even beyond the capabilities of university students. Some others have doubted the true writers of the papers, with many saying that the articles might be written by the students’ parents.

In response to the controversy, Yi Bo, the math teacher of the students, told Chinanews.com that the majority of the work was done by the students themselves, while the parents only offered limited help.

“Such inquiry-based learning is very common in elementary schools in developed Western countries, which aims to train the children’s critical thinking and expression skills. Though China has been promoting such educational ideas, very few schools have truly tested them,” said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.

“Inquiry-based learning doesn’t have to be high-end. Students in the countryside can also try such learning methods, choosing proper topics to conduct a survey. For instance, calculating the number of left-behind children in their village,” added Xiong.

Echoing Xiong, Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Education Sciences, noted that the key of inquiry-based learning is to cultivate an interest in science and research methods, rather than producing research papers.

“Children in rural areas can conduct research on the relations between cattle pasturing and weather patterns, and develop questions from their life. Self-regulation of learning should be the priority in the children’s education,” said Chu.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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