BEIJING -- At the age of 12, Zhuzhu seems to have
everything a child could dream for -- plenty of toys, beautiful clothes and even
Zhuzhu however, has little time to play, with a mountain of homework to do.
Like most other Chinese children her age, Zhuzhu has to
go to school from Monday to Friday, nine hours a day -- an hour more than her
parents spend at work. Come the weekend, her mum and dad indulge themselves in a
lengthy lie-in -- Zhuzhu however, isn't so lucky.
Students bury their heads into the mountain of text
books at a middle school classroom in a village in Jinzhai
County, east China's Anhui Province, May 11, 2007. [Xinhua]
Unlike her parents, she has to get up early for piano lessons on Saturday and
Sunday morning, followed by private extracurricular Maths and English classes
the afternoon. As a reward for her hard work, Zhuzhu's parents let her play with
her toys for one hour on Saturday and Sunday evening.
"She will have plenty of time to play after she enters university," said
Zhuzhu's 42 year-old mum An Hui, a department manager of a PR company in
Zhuzhu is not alone. According to a new survey conducted by the Chinese Youth
and Children Research Center (CYCRC), increasing numbers of children in large
cities across the country are experiencing joyless childhoods.
The CYCRC surveyed 2,500 primary and secondary school pupils across the
country in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changchun, Chengdu and Lanzhou. The
results of the survey reveal how, due to long school hours and growing pressure
from parents to study hard, children are feeling unhappy about a lack of
On average, China's children spend 8.6 hours a day at school, with some
spending 12 hours a day in the classroom. The survey also claimed that the
majority of children spend longer hours at school than their parents spend at
Almost all of the students involved in the survey said they had to do
homework, revise and prepare for classes after school. Around half of the
students' parents testified that they often don't allow them to play outside as
it means less study time.
The CYCRC survey also reveals that when they do have spare time for play,
many children are either too tired to play or have nobody to play with -- only 4
in 10 of the survey's participants claim they had friends to play with.
Indeed, Sun Yunxiao, director of the CYCRC noted that heavy study loads have
exhausted children, more than half of the survey's participants said that what
they want most is, "A good night's sleep."
Chinese students are put under ever-increasing pressure by their parents to
study hard due to the country's highly competitive market for university places
and jobs. Study pressure has led to an increase in stress, psychological
problems and even tragedy.
Last June, a 16 year-old girl from Chengdu, Sichuan Province, committed
suicide after failing to pass the entrance exam for a respected senior high
In spite of persistent requests from the Ministry of Education asking parents
to stop enrolling their children in extracurricular courses and requesting
schools to limit homework time to one hour a night, primary and secondary
schools have continued to offer after school Maths and English classes, with the
sole aim of sending more students to good universities.
"Too many students are striving for the limited places in higher education
resources may be a reason for schools' flout to the circulars," said Sun
As for Zhuzhu, her mother, An Hui, knows full well that her daughter doesn't
get enough sleep or playtime, "We have no other choice," she said, "if she gives
up now and doesn't study hard, she will regret it as her future will be lost.
She will complain to us more then."
"This is the reality of China," An sighed.