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Education reform can solve myopia problem

(China Daily)    08:44, August 10, 2018

  Shi Yu/China Daily

Editor's note: The Ministry of Education and the National Health Commission have been soliciting public opinions till Aug 21 on a draft guideline to curb nearsightedness among schoolchildren. Two experts share their views with China Daily's Zhang Zhouxiang on how to resolve China's myopia crisis. Excerpts follow:

Good diet and outdoor activities vital for kids

According to the draft guideline, local governments should take measures to lower the percentage of primary school students with myopia below 38 by 2030, and that of middle school and high school students below 60 and 70, respectively.

Nearsightedness is a complicated phenomenon, but it has two main causes: Hereditary and bad reading habits.

Heredity accounts for about 40 percent of myopia cases. Children whose parents suffer from acute myopia have a higher risk of inheriting the condition. Bad reading habits, such as reading while walking or riding a bus increases the risk. For those who are already nearsighted, bad reading habits deteriorate their condition. At the same time, most ophthalmologists say outdoor activities could lower the risk of nearsightedness and slow the worsening of the condition.

Therefore, local health authorities should first take measures to ensure schools plan their academic roster in a way that children get to spend at least two hours on outdoor activities every day.

Even if children get more than 40 minutes a day to engage in outdoor sports or other activities, they face even a lower risk of myopia in the following three years. Visibility is much better outdoors during the day and children don't have to make an effort to observe what is around them.

Second, they should advise the school teachers to educate the children to improve their reading habits, by sitting straight while reading, reading under proper light, and taking rest for at least five minutes after every half an hour of reading.

Third, the local health authorities should instruct the schools to advise the students' parents to provide a healthy diet with minimum amounts of sugar and soda for their children.

Besides, since electronic devices are considered harmful to the eyes, many parents try to keep their children away from them. In fact, medical experiments show human eyes get more tired after reading on smartphone, iPad and computer screens.

But we live in the internet age, and it is almost impossible to prevent people, children included, from using electronic devices. The key to keeping healthy eyes therefore is to form good habits so that our eyes do not get tired after reading.

Shi Aiqun, seniormost doctor in the Ophthalmic Department, China-Japan Friendship Hospital

Exam-oriented education system to blame for crisis

The harmful effects of a high myopia rate are quite obvious. To begin with, it is becoming rather difficult for the military and civil aviation authorities to recruit pilots.

Moreover, people with myopia could suffer more complicated eye problems with advancing age, which could force them to spend more on medical care and increase the burden on the social security system.

But the two central departments' move to assign the job of controlling the myopia rate to the local authorities could help solve this problem.

As medical professionals agree, a principal cause of the high rate of myopia among schoolchildren is the heavy academic burden, which forces them to read and write for long hours both in the class and at home, and gives them no chance to spend time outdoors.

The examination-oriented education system, which pays little or no attention to children's outdoor activities, is to blame for that. Also, some primary and secondary schools stop pupils from playing outdoors for fear of accidents.

Without solving these two root problems, it is almost impossible for the local health authorities to take measures to lower the myopia rate among schoolchildren.

Therefore, the key to lowering the nearsightedness rate is a total reform of the education system, so that a pupil's performance is evaluated comprehensively instead of being based only on exam scores. Let us hope such a reform is implemented so that fewer children will be forced to wear glasses in the future.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute

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(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

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