Surveillance cameras in primary school classrooms – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for September 28, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

“Classrooms are public places. There shouldn’t be an expectation of privacy.”

“Students are treated as animals while classrooms are used as prisons. If this is the core value of our education, we are doomed.”

These two comments (in Chinese) indicate how public opinion is divided over news that a primary school in Jiangsu Province has decided to install surveillance cameras in all classrooms for parents to spy on their children.

The presence of the cameras was disclosed by a parent named Adai 阿骀 on the social media platform Weibo. In a post (in Chinese) published on September 25, the father said that parents of all the students at his son’s school had each contributed 100 yuan ($15) to install closed-circuit cameras in all of the school’s classrooms. By downloading an app on a smartphone, he said, “my wife and I now can monitor every second of my son’s classroom.”

The post went viral on Chinese social media with questions raised about whether the installation of cameras without the students’ consent was an invasion of their privacy, and whether it is desirable for parents to observe their kids at school in real time. While an online poll (in Chinese) shows that more than 60 percent of parents who participated in the survey disagree with the school’s decision, Adai said that in a WeChat discussion group for parents of his son’s class, over half of them “were in strong favor of the installation.” “My son told me I was the last parent who hadn’t yet paid the fee among all the classes of his grade,” Adai wrote in a following post. “He asked me to make the payment immediately. Otherwise, he would be treated differently.”

This is not the first time that surveillance cameras have been used at educational facilities in China. This summer, school feeds emerged on dozens of live-streaming platforms. With webcams placed in classrooms, parents, along with millions of internet users, are free to observe young students in class.