Earlier this week, when education authorities in Zhejiang Province unveiled a new set of policy proposals (in Chinese) aimed at making local students less stressed by after-school assignments, you might have anticipated universal acclaim in a country famous for burdensome homework. The guidelines aim to reduce mental strain on schoolchildren and encourage them to improve their mental and physical strength.
However, the news provoked a furor among parents, who criticized the government for placing the burden on them to seek enriching extracurricular activities for their children. It has triggered some significant concerns among students, too. One specific guideline, which gives middle- and high-school students permission — with their parents’ approval — to leave homework unfinished if it’s not complete by 10 p.m., made some students worry that they might have to wake up in the middle of the night to complete their daily workload if the curfew becomes a strict rule implemented by their schools.
Talking to the Beijing News, a twelfth grader, whose surname is Liú 刘, said (in Chinese) that her boarding school had a rule similar to the homework curfew. To make sure students go to bed at a decent hour, her school puts out the lights in dorm buildings at 10 p.m. But without an actual reduction of the onerous amounts of homework, the practice has made her get out of bed at 3 a.m. on some days to finish after-school assignments.
Liu’s experience was deemed relatable by many internet users, who argued (in Chinese) that implementing a homework curfew is no ultimate solution to making Chinese students less stressed out when the grueling and competitive national college entrance exam, known as the gaokao (高考 Gāokǎo), still stands at the center of the country’s education system. “As long as the gaokao still exists, all these burden-reducing measures are just meaningless bs,” a Weibo user commented.
In recent years, Chinese education authorities introduced a new concept called “Happy Education,” which was essentially designed to ease the burden of schoolwork on students. But the initiative has not been successful because more and more Chinese parents have been forcing their children to participate in extracurricular intellectual activities.