Have Chinese parents finally rebelled against excessive homework?
Asian “Tiger parents” are generally viewed as demanding extra work for their kids, in the relentless pursuit of academic achievement. But when a parent identified only as “Mrs. Wang” poured out her heart on Weibo about the pressure the homework put on her personally, it was viewed millions of times and caused a wave of similar complaints.
Mrs. Wang said that, after working ten hours a day at the office, she then had to come home and spend hours helping her children. “Sometimes all I think about when I am at work is my son’s homework,” she said.
The government have issued various regulations and orders to tackle this problem. In 2013 a major reform of education in China was announced, aimed at reducing the importance of testing. Schools are now assessed on five different criteria, including ethics, health, and the development of students’ interests.
However teachers have in the past come under pressure from parents to set more homework, and their career progression remains heavily dependent on their students’ success in tests. There is also a vicious circle whereby students handing in homework which their parents have helped with leads to teachers setting more difficult tasks, which require more parental support, and so on.
Research shows that homework is less effective in helping younger children learn, and that too much homework is counter-productive for children of all ages. In the highly successful education systems of Scandinavia, homework is minimal or banned altogether. While this radical approach would be culturally alien to China, this may be a turning point in recognizing that piling on more and more work delivers diminishing returns for academic achievement, and can have negative effects for the health and happiness of parents as well as children.
Photo: Ronnie Macdonald via Flickr