Faced with the workload and costs of support courses, the Chinese Ministry of Education wants to alleviate the heavy pressure on students from the start of their schooling
China on Monday banned written exams for six and seven-year-olds in primary school, as the country seeks to ease pressure on students seen as a birth brake. Beijing embarked on a sweeping education reform last month, where the excessive workload of schoolchildren and the 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.
According to new guidelines released on Monday by the Education Ministry, it will no longer be possible to hold written exams in the first and second year of primary school. “Too frequent examinations overload the students and subject them to enormous pressure,” said the ministry. This “harms their mental and physical health,” he said. 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. But the financial burden of a quality education is often what deters Chinese couples from having children, as authorities seek to boost the birth rate amid an economic slowdown.
Faced with the aging of its population, China ended in 2015 the one-child policy, introduced in the 1970s, without however managing to stem the decline in births. In 2020, the country recorded just 12 million births, leading Xi Jinping’s government to further relax its family planning policy, with couples allowed to have a third child.
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