China / Society

School tests blamed for suicides

By Zhao Xinying (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-14 01:13

Pressure of exam-based system leads teens to kill themselves, report says

The test-oriented educational system is the cause of many suicides among elementary and middle school students in China, an education report said on Tuesday.


Preschool education:

Since 2010, the central government has spent more than 50 billion yuan ($8 billion) on preschool education nationwide. The money has mainly been spent on improving public kindergartens and adjoining facilities, as well as improving preschools in China’s western regions.

Figures from the Ministry of Education show that over the past three years, 160 billion yuan was invested in preschool education by local governments.

Vocational schools:

The number of vocational schools, or training institutes, has declined noticeably from 181,600 in 2008 to 144,000

in 2012. The number of people working for vocational schools has increased during the same period, from 495,800 in 2008 to 506,600 in 2012. Over that period, these schools have become more diverse and high-tech — about 17 percent provide courses online.

Home education:

More parents are willing to home school their children instead of giving them a traditional education in China.

According to statistics from, in 2013, there were about 2,000 children that were being

educated at home, most of them by their mothers. The children were mostly between 6 to 12 years old.


According to the Annual Report on China's Education (2014), or the Blue Book of Education, released on Tuesday, most of the teenagers who killed themselves are in middle school, and they did so mainly because they could not bear the heavy pressure of the test-oriented education system.

The blue book was released by the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a nonprofit education research organization composed of educational professors and experts. Teenage suicides have raised concern among people after dozens of such cases were reported in 2013.

On Jan 11, 2013, a middle school student in Hohhot, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, jumped from the top of a building after learning that his score in a recent test dropped.

On May 2, a 13-year-old boy in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, hanged himself at home after he failed to finish his homework.

A girl in Sichuan province killed herself by cutting her wrist and taking poison on June 22 after the college entrance exam results were released, as she knew that she couldn't be admitted into a university with her scores.

Cheng Pingyuan, a professor of Nanjing Normal University and the leader of the study, said in the blue book that most of the teenagers killed themselves because of pressure.

Analyzing 79 cases of primary and middle school student suicides in 2013, Cheng found that 92.7 percent of them did so after arguing with their teachers or having lived under the heavy pressure of study.

"The pursuit of high test scores not only brings pressure to students, but also to teachers, making the relationship between teachers and students worse, especially when students perform poorly in exams, which finally leads to some students' suicides," he said in the blue book.

The study also found that 63 percent of the suicides occurred between February and July, the second half of the academic year, when some important exams, such as the high school entrance exams and the college entrance exams, are held.

School tests blamed for suicides

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Of the 79 suicide cases, 33 were middle school students and 28 were high school students, indicating students' sensitivity during their adolescence. However, Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher on basic education at the National Institute of Education Sciences, said academic pressure is only one of many factors that lead to suicide among teenagers.

The circumstances of the middle and high school years should also be considered, he said. "The middle and high school period is a special stage for children, a transition from children to adult. During that period, children tend to be rebellious.

"Their thoughts are quite different from those of their parents or teachers. They are confused over many things, but they usually choose to hide their true feelings and deal with everything by themselves, which is very dangerous," he said.

Under such circumstances, Chu believed that more communication is needed between students at this stage and their teachers and parents. "Parents and teachers should often talk to the children, get to know their needs and respect their thoughts," Chu said. "This is a simple thing to do, but really effective."

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