Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

A tragedy that highlights kids' plight

By Xiao Lixin (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-03 07:45

A tragedy that highlights kids' plight

Unable to cope with the pressure of homework, an 11-year-old schoolgirl jumped to her death from her seventh-floor balcony in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on March 30, highlighting anew the tremendous stress that today's students have to endure. The tragedy occurred after the fourth grader's mother brought her home from school to complete her homework.

Although it cannot be said why exactly the girl committed suicide, there is no denying that like all her peers she too must have been facing the pressure of homework. Chinese students, even those in preschools, spend hours - sometimes late into the night - doing homework. And parents have been complaining that much of the homework is time-consuming mechanical repetition of lessons, such as copying texts, which interferes with their children's playtime and sleep.

Left with few or no choice, some parents even become "ghostwriters" of the heavy, tedious homework. Many even take the responsibility of doing the "mission impossible" assigned to their children such as designing original posters for a school contest to ensure that their children get enough rest and sleep.

But the attitudes of many young parents toward homework are rather complicated. They are fully aware that homework overload will deprive their children of the fun and freewheeling spirit associated with childhood. Yet they are afraid that, without "adequate homework" to help enhance their knowledge, their children may not be able to build a solid educational foundation. Many teachers agree with them.

More often than not, Chinese parents blame schools and teachers for burdening their children with homework and stealing their happiness. But, on the other hand, they too make their children slog away at homework, for they believe that is the only way to prepare them for the fierce competitions ahead. Such parents also send their kids to specialty coaching classes over the weekends to learn painting, dancing or how to play the piano, without even trying to know whether their children have an aptitude for it.

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