China on Monday banned written exams for six and seven-year-olds in primary school. The move comes as the country embarked on a sweeping education reform last month, where the excessive workload of schoolchildren and prohibitive costs of tutoring are increasingly criticized.
Education in China is particularly competitive and elitist, in order to pass the lifelong exam, the “gaokao” which determines whether or not you enter higher education at the end of high school.
“Too frequent examinations overload the students and subject them to enormous pressure,” said the ministry, adding that it “harms their mental and physical health”.
The authorities had already set the tone last month, by banning private tutoring classes on weekends and during school holidays. The move caused an earthquake in the lucrative commercial education sector and made employment for millions of teachers uncertain. Obsessed with the success of their offspring, Chinese parents usually enroll their children in a multitude of out-of-school courses, which are often very expensive.
Those who can afford it also buy accommodation near the best schools so that they can send their children there. A phenomenon that is causing real estate prices to jump.
Still, the financial burden of a quality education is often what turns Chinese couples off having children, as authorities seek to boost birth rates amid an economic slowdown.