Going to school in China is hard work. Will new reform give more room for play?

A new reform school reform seeks to lighten the burden on Chinese children and their parents. Photo:Jupi Lu / Pixabay

September has arrived: It is time for Chinese kids to go back to school.  

During the summer holiday, the central government has formulated a strict new policy that the provincial and regional governments are now busy implementing. The new rules apply to the nine compulsory years of school in China.   
The aim is to put an end to the vicious spiral of ever-growing loads of after-school tutoring and homework, and has been called “an education revolution.” 

But why is a revolution needed? What is it that the government wants to change?  

What has life so far looked like for the more than 200 million students, who daily go to school in the world’s biggest education system? 

To play or not to play? 

We asked Sumino’s project assistant Rui Yang to tell us more about the studying culture in China. Rui – or Susan as she is called in English – used to work as a teacher in China. And before moving to Finland three years ago, her son attended school in China as well. 

Chinese school starts early in the morning, typically around 8 a.m. The pupils go back home for lunch around 11.30 and back to school a couple of hours later. The school day is typically at 4 p.m.  

“A grandmother or someone has to pick the student up from school, take them home and cook for them. Not all places are safe, so they have to pick the kids up and bring them back to school,” Rui explains. 

What about the children, who do not have anyone to take care of them in the middle of a working day?  

“There are also private companies that will pick them up and give them lunch and have them take a nap, and then send them back to school,” she explains. 

When the kids get home, it is time to do homework. There used to be up to two hours’ worth of home studies, says Rui.  

However, the new Chinese reform aims at easing the pressure on students and their parents not least. Therefore, the government has put limits on how much homework schools are allowed to assign, and how much help it requires from their parents. 

The new policy, also stressing movement and creativity during the Chinese school day, appears to be much needed. 

“To be honest, most kids have not had much time to play. They’ve had to study and perhaps they have had some training related to a school course,” Rui described a typical afternoon and evening after school.  

Confident kids in Finland 

One of Rui’s main motivators to move to Finland with her family, was indeed the country’s famous school system.  

“I thought that it would be a good place for my kids,” she says. 

Her oldest son, who is 10 years old and just started fifth grade, enjoys school much more after the move to Finland.  

The teachers and the studying environment are totally different from China,” she notes.  

“In Finland, teachers are almost like friends, they treat their students as equals. In China, students are often a little scared of the teachers.” 

Generally, there is much more pressure on kids in China, Rui says.  

“In China, it is just about scores, also for the parents.” 

She especially enjoys the way that Finnish schools encourage kids to explore things instead of just telling them what to do.  

“I can see that my kids become more confident,” says Rui, whose youngest son is five years old.  

”In China, we would quarrel with our eldest about his homework. In Finland, he can do it himself.” 

With the new reform, Chinese children might get to experience a bit of the same as their Finnish counterparts.  

There is no doubt, however, that going to school in China is still hard work.  

Do you have Finnish education expertise or products that you would like to export to China? Then do not hesitate to contact us!