Rtl today – hyper-competitive school system: China bans exams for six-year-olds as Beijing revamps education system


Beijing on Monday banned written exams for six and seven-year-olds, as part of sweeping education reforms aimed at easing pressure on students and parents in China’s hyper-competitive school system.

China’s exam-driven system previously required students to take exams in the first year, culminating in the dreaded 18-year-old college entrance exam known as gaokao, where a single score can determine the trajectory of life of a child.

“Too frequent exams (…) which cause an overload of work and enormous pressure for the students”, were removed by the Ministry of Education, according to new guidelines published on Monday.

The ministry said the pressure on students from an early age “harmed their mental and physical health.”

The regulations also limit exams for other years of compulsory education to once per term, with midterm exams and mock exams being allowed in college.

The measures are part of broader government reforms to China’s education sector, which include a crackdown on high schools – seen by parents as a way to boost their children’s educational fortunes.

At the end of July, China ordered all private tutoring companies to transform into nonprofits and banned tutoring agencies from teaching major subjects on weekends and holidays, effectively crippling a $ 100 billion industry.

The goal is to reduce educational inequalities in China, where some middle-class parents willingly spend 100,000 yuan ($ 15,400) or more per year in private lessons to enroll their children in the best schools.

Many are also clinging to ownership in catchment areas of schools, pushing up housing prices.

“There is no other country that has such a strong tutoring culture (than China),” said Claudia Wang, partner and Asia education manager at Oliver Wyman, a Shanghai-based consultancy.

With population growth at its lowest in decades, Chinese authorities lifted a birth limit of two children earlier this year and want to increase incentives for parents to have more children.

Beijing city officials announced last week that teachers must change schools every six years to avoid a concentration of top talent in some schools. Education officials on Monday reiterated the ban on schools creating “priority” classes for gifted students.

The Education Department also banned written homework for first and second graders earlier this year, and limited homework for junior high school students to no more than an hour and a half per night.

However, many Chinese parents still see education as a path to social mobility.

Gaokao is one of the few ways that poor rural students can access better educational opportunities and employment prospects at top universities.

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