The suicide of a 14-year-old girl who jumped to her death in mid-April to protest her school's dress code has triggered online discussion about a deficiency of "life education" for Chinese teenagers.
"Ying Ying," a student at the Shengli No. 1 Middle School in the city of Dongying in east China's Shandong province, died in a hospital on the morning of April 14 after jumping off a building.
Her school contacted the students' parents the night before to ask them for help in persuading the schools' female students to cut their hair in compliance with the school's dress code.
"I tried to persuade her to have a haircut but she refused. Suddenly, she jumped out of the window," her mother recalled sadly, alleging that the school's policy was to blame for her daughter's death.
Zhen Xi, vice principal of the school, said the dress code is not aimed at any particular individual, adding that most of the students in the school have complied with the dress code.
Liu Zhichun, principal of the school, said the dress code is intended to unify students and prevent unauthorized individuals from sneaking into the school.
One of the school's students, a girl surnamed Zhou, said that while most girls prefer to keep their hair long, she was willing to cut her hair, since she believes the dress code was created with good intentions.
The story of Ying Ying's suicide prompted some netizens to complain about a lack of "life education" in Chinese schools, referring to programs that build up teenagers' resilience to adversity and give them the strength to get through situations that challenge or frustrate them.
Sun Yunxiao, an expert on adolescent issues, said on his blog that respecting life is "the core of life education."
"It is vital to help children or juveniles cultivate the competency to face difficulties and frustrations," Sun wrote.
Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor at Peking University, said the girl's suicide reflects poor judgment on the part of some young people, adding that since they wrongly believe that their lives belong to them, they are free to give up their lives as they wish.
"We should teach them to value their lives. It is irresponsible to commit suicide," Xia said.
Life education currently exists as a mere formality in China, taking the form of simple lectures and slogans, said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.
A netizen using the screenname "fenglinhuoshan1223" wrote on netease.com, a Chinese Internet portal, that it is good to see people have begun to reexamine China's exam-oriented education program, paying more attention to the cultivation of healthy individual character.