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New horizons open for students as homework pressures ease

China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-05 09:18
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Primary students learn about rural development at a village in Jiaozuo, Henan province, during a study tour on Aug 12, 2022. [Photo by XU HONGXING/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Many more students these days are wearing broad smiles as they return to the classroom following a relaxing summer break.

A year ago, China rolled out its "double reduction" policy to ease the burden of excessive homework for core subjects and off-campus tutoring placed on middle and primary school students.

By cutting the pressure on students, the policy allows them not only more time to rest and play, but also to obtain the nutrition they need for all-around moral, intellectual and physical development.

Positive changes have taken place. Compared to a year ago, students now have more independent and diverse choices of extracurricular activities to explore, and can develop their interests and abilities, which opens up new horizons.

For Yue Xinyu, a third-grader from Wuhan, one notable change is that her primary school classes now finish earlier in the afternoon than before.

"After class, we can choose from a variety of interest-oriented classes and workshops, or stay in the classroom to do homework or read our favorite books," the eight-year-old said.

Soccer, basketball, opera classes and clay workshops, among other options, are available to those in lower grades, while senior primary students have even more choices, including programming and dancing.

A dance fan herself, Xinyu is eager to join the school's dance club once she is old enough. She now takes off-campus Latin dance lessons in her spare time and said the feeling of gliding across the dance floor makes her feel relaxed and confident.

Gao Fuying, principal of Xishan High School at Kunming No 1 High School in Kunming city, said that students are now less likely to be overwhelmed by homework, as teachers have increased classroom teaching and optimized the design and amount of homework they set.

"Students are happier than before," Gao said.

With less pressure from homework, they have more time for extracurricular activities that follow their interests and hobbies, whether that be on the soccer field or in an art class.

In the changes, Gao sees the essence of education, which is about the all-around development of a student.

Gao's school offers a variety of free, interest-oriented after-school classes, including sports, dancing, chorus singing, fine arts, animation drawing and cooking.

Following the implementation of the "double reduction" policy, many students from the school have won prizes at national, provincial or city-level contests.

"In sports competitions, our students have even outperformed students from schools specializing in sports, and many cannot believe that we are just an ordinary high school," Gao said proudly.

During this summer break, many schools across the country offered daycare services as a move to support the "double reduction "policy.

Among them were dozens of primary schools in the northeastern city of Shenyang, where guided extracurricular programs, including baking, rock-climbing, rowing and indoor skiing, attracted many, bringing fun and joy to students.

Parents also have their own role to play in the context of "double reduction", one that is demanding, according to Xinyu's mother, Ding Ning.

With less homework and more free time, children need help making better use of their time, she said.

Apart from dancing, Xinyu is interested in graphical programming and has been learning with her father for a year during her spare time. Computer programming skills allow her to design images, such as trees and the Great Wall.

"Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming more and more popular, and we hope our child will have more chances to choose what she likes in the future by developing her interest in programming while she is young," Ding said.


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