And there she was, a nine year old in southern China, doing homework at midnight.
Ten of her classmates were also awake trying to complete the same task.
It’s the bane of many parents – homework. It gets written into a little, specially designed notebook. Sections are created for Chinese, Math, and English. It gets worse as they get older. Big kids have to deal with the sciences too. Let’s not forget history. And politics.
It’s now June
Which means that the end of year exams are lurking around the corner like the shadowy monsters that inhabit children’s dreams. This will be our third year of exams in China (as parents). Evenings are filled with mock exam papers, extra math tests, extra English dictation, extra Chinese essays, and extra headaches.
My task will be to keep our preschooler away from the young scholar.
A Typical Day
Kids finish school at 4 or 5pm depending on the weekday. They either go home or head to an education centre till their parents finish work. A typical homework load might contain:
Chinese – four items (correct and review the previous lesson, preview new characters, a fill-in-the-gaps worksheet, essay)
Math – three items (textbook work, calculation book, double-sided A4-sized worksheet)
English – three items (dictation, reading and writing comprehension)
If she doesn’t muck around (playing on her grandfather’s phone), gets on with things and does a proper job, and one allows time for dinner and shower (Chinese almost always shower at night) she might be finished by 9pm. If she decides to delay the commencement of the homework… well we’re looking at a much later bedtime.
There’s also the music and art homework which can be very time-consuming.
Three hours of homework is the average amount Chinese kids do each night.
This is twice the global average according to the Global Times.
The Education Ministry here released a report which among other things highlighted the lack of sleep amongst Chinese primary school-aged kids. Apparently, only 30% of fourth-grade kids are getting the necessary sleep.
A third of Chinese kids spent more than 30 minutes a night on math.
ONE MILLION GRAINS OF RICE!
This homework assignment made national headlines a few months back and caused both students and parents many headaches. Students in Foshan City were expected to count 100,000,000 grains of rice. Some parents even made calculations that it would take a year to count that much rice at a rate of three grains per second. The teacher defended her position and said she was trying to promote critical thinking.
of Chinese students felt under great pressure according to the study. Many struggled with Math and Chinese which led to enrolment at:
Very popular now, even after the criticism that was levelled at such institutions. It is not uncommon to see kids spend their entire weekends at these “places”. Ironically these places hand out extra homework which leads to more stress which leads to futher underperformance at school etcetera etcetera….
How do you feel about the Chinese homework situation KJ?
As a language teacher – one can see the absolute benefits of a bit of revision and prep for an upcoming lesson.
As a parent I can also see the absolute hell a three hour homework load can wreak on a family life. Everyone is affected by late night study sessions.
Why the heck would you keep your daughter in the Chinese education system?
Because it pushes her to levels she would never achieve in my home country. Her math is streets ahead of many Western kids her own age. She gets opportunities to perform in front of large crowds (owing to her Western features). She gets to become trilingual at a young age. She gets out of her comfort zone!
It forces her to form good study habits at a young age. She also gets a few international holidays (and expensive presents) a year which softens the edges…
The blog title was a bit misleading but it points to some essential summer reading. This little gem was written nearly 20 years ago. I am not in the business of subverting the authorities but if I could get this book into the hands of the policy makers here then we might see a reduction in the amount of homework done!
Or maybe it’s a case of the family that slaves together stays together.