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Guideline: Unfinished homework OK

By Shi Xiaofeng in Hangzhou and Zhang Yi, Zou Shuo in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-02 08:17

Teachers told to lighten study load, put children's overall health first

Students in two districts in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, no longer need to stay up late to finish their homework. Authorities have called for a limit on out-of-class assignments to ensure that children get enough sleep.

Primary school students often trudge through schoolwork until 9 pm; for those in secondary school it's 10 pm. Now they can choose to leave homework unfinished after it's due, the education department of Shangcheng district said in a guideline released on Wednesday.

To control the amount of homework, primary schools are advised not to give written homework to first- and second-graders. The time pupils in other grades spend on homework each day should not exceed one hour.

Homework time per day for middle school students should be less than two hours, under the guideline, which also requires schools to give students at least one homework-free day per month.

Teachers are required to assign homework that's more diverse and innovative to raise interest - avoiding exercises such as rote memorization - according to the guideline.

The Gongshu district has also launched a homework-reduction campaign.

"If your children can't finish their homework by 10 pm, we do not recommend continuing to work on it. Parents could sign off on the work and students can hand it to the teachers the next day," the district educational department said.

Secondary school principals and local education authorities in the district sent a letter to parents on Wednesday proposing that they work with teachers to improve the quality of homework and ensure adequate sleep time for children.

The traditional idea that staying up late equates to diligence should be changed, and parents should not add too many after-school classes for children, the proposal said, adding that they should set a healthy bedtime routine for kids.

Teachers in the district said in a letter that they will take students' individual situations into consideration when they determine homework loads.

Yang Dongping, dean of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the root cause of high pressure for primary and secondary school students is the unbalanced allocation of educational resources, leading to intense competition.

Competition starts at a young age, with many parents doing whatever it takes to enroll their children in the best kindergartens. This, in turn, leads to easier access to better primary and secondary schools and then to better universities, which get the best teachers and most resources, Yang said.

Competition to get into the best schools has also been linked to rampant and often unregulated development of private education and after-school tutoring institutions.

"After-school training is supposed to be a supplement to regular school and offers children diverse and personalized education," Yang said. "However, over the years, they have become exam-oriented."

Although schools are reducing student workloads, parents will continue to send their children to after-school programs, which increases their workload, said Zhang Ruihong, a professor at Tongji University in Shanghai.

"Compulsory education should not only be free but, more importantly, free of exams," Yang said.

Contact the writers at zhangyi1@chinadaily.com.cn

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