Elite primary school students’ research — now on social media – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for October 10, 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.

“All credit should go to their parents.”

“Just think about how these kids got to the primary school affiliated with Tsinghua University in the first place. For some people, their families are a determining factor of what they can achieve.”

A class of sixth-grade students at the primary school affiliated with the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing has recently been at the center of an intense debate (in Chinese) on education after results from their research (in Chinese) on the ancient poet and politician Su Shi 苏轼 (aka Su Dongpo 苏东坡) were widely circulated on Chinese social media.

The research, according to the class teacher, was to commemorate the 980th birthday of Su Shi. It covers a wide range of 23 topics related to the famous author, such as “Brand value of Su Shi in promoting tourism,” “Further study of Su Shi with the help of big data,” and “A summary of how modern Chinese evaluate Su Shi’s legacy.” Some pictures shared by the teacher show students gathered in front of a row of computers, seemingly engaged in an intellectual discussion about their research. Another picture shows students in an all-English class about the poet while the instructor stands next to a projector screen that reads “The Incorrigible Optimist” in, of course, English.

Many internet users believe that the students’ parents actually did all the work, because the scope and depth of the research are recognizably beyond the academic capabilities of sixth-grade students. In the “big data” article, the young researchers developed a computer program to analyze high-frequency words in all of Su’s 3,458 poems, though, as the students confessed in the final report, the research was conducted with “a little help” from their parents. The school ranks (in Chinese) 14th among second-tier primary schools in Haidian District of the country’s capital city.

In major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the competition for good education has become more and more fierce in recent years, and many parents are willing to do anything in order to seek a coveted spot at an elite primary school for their kids. Earlier this year, two primary schools in Shanghai received punishment by the Municipal Education Commission for giving tests to parents during the admission season. Meanwhile, in Beijing, the local government has introduced measures to cool the market for properties in good school districts.