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To Make the School Days More Fun - Insight on Double Reduction in China

By Kenny DongICHONGQING|Sep 18,2021

Chongqing – Compulsory education marks one of the important flags of modern society. It embodies a mature society, not only taking responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the state institution, but also for training of the future society  with knowledge that contains applied skills, commonsense, and on the higher level, the proposition of a state’s ideology, like “what is worth chasing” or “what should an advanced society look like.”

The first country in the world to implement compulsory education was the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1763, King Friedrich Wilhelm I issued the General School Regulation, which asked “all young citizens, girls, and boys to be educated from age 5 to age 13-14,” which later became the model of modern compulsory education. Japan introduced the Education System Order in 1872 that proposed primary education in the whole society and then expanded it to the mandatory nine-year education after WWII.

China stipulated compulsory education in the 1982 Constitution, following the establishment of a mandatory nine-year education system in 1986, asking that all school-age children must receive an education. In 2006, the newly released “Compulsory Education Law” expressly stipulated that compulsory education must be quality education.

Since July of this year, China has begun to promote the “Double Reduction” policy nationwide, asking to cut down the workloads inside and outside the school for students in the compulsory education stage, starting from the fall semester of 2021. According to the document released, the policy ensures that students have enough time to rest and liberating parents from the children’s study pressure. This is thought to be a response to the over-inflated cram schools in recent years, which originated in the increasing school pressure that did no good to the children’s growth in a healthy way, neither to parents’ economic consideration.

For primary schools, it is a challenge to explore a way of implementing the policy. There are two major changes triggered by the “Double Reduction.”

One is the decreasing quantity of schoolwork, especially the take-home assignment. Now, written assignments can be finished before students back home. Wang Zewen of Jinshan Primary School said that his time after school had increased a lot compared to the last semester when he needed more time to write the homework, and now he has more time to play sports games with friends after school. His classmate Guo Zhihan said that she uses the time saved from the homework to study her favorite English subject.

It is not only the quantity of homework that has changed. Tan Yuqin, an English teacher of Xingyuan Primary School, said that she assigned more written homework to kids. Still, now the whole English class is focusing on creating diverse forms of teaching to inspire students’ interest in the English language, such as learning classical English songs.

Another change lies in the school time. The “Double Reduction” policy asks schools to not exceed six hours of schooling time in a day, which moves the off-school time from 4:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. But this causes a new problem: parents who are not off duty yet cannot take their kids home. What should the schools do to fix that up?

Primary schools of Chongqing Liangjiang New Area give a solution by promoting an “extension service” program, which is that schools can host children for two more hours for parents after 3:30 p.m. if they choose to join this program. During these two hours, students can either finish homework or decide to attend interest clubs. Lijia Experimental Primary School provides a fencing club, programming club, science club. Xingguang School has a Chinese opera club, making club, and Xingyuan Primary School has a sand painting, electric piano, and cooking club. Usually, before students coming home, they can finish the homework and also broaden their experiences.

Students of Xingyuan Primary School are playing robots at the programming club. (Photo provided by Xingyuan Primary School)

“Except for letting parents pick up kids, another benefit of the extension service is liberating the parents’ pressure. We would spend more time checking kid’s homework and sign it for the teachers. Now the kids are coming home with work don. It saves our energy as well. Before we would stir up a fight as we pushed him to finish the homework, so now the family also becomes more harmonious,” said Ni Hongyan, a mother of a third-grade student. “However, can this new form of schooling guarantee that kids will learn and improve their grades while reducing their workloads? Since we both just started to try it, I think it needs parents and school to find out cooperatively.”

 

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