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New test policy sparks controversy in Chengdu schools
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Students who fail a cooking or sewing test will not receive a graduation certificate, a district education authority announced last week in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Under the new policy, about 60,000 students in 53 primary and middle schools in Chengdu's Qingyang District now need to pass a total of three tests on sports, art and life skills. Those who fail will not graduate, according to a local newspaper.

An online survey showed about 73.5 percent people support the decision as "it can help students improve their independence and overall skills." About 21 percent were against it because "students need to study, not learn how to cook and sew."

Not having a graduation certificate will not hurt primary school students but it will affect a middle school student trying to enter a higher school, Chengdu-based Tianfu Morning News reported today.

Students will take the tests prior to graduation. In terms of life skills, primary school students are supposed to make simple dishes and cook rice, do some cleaning, arrange their school desks and bags, and sew by hand. For middle school students, the test also includes installing an electric appliance and answering a question on how to manage money for their parents.

Some middle school teachers are worried such regulations will influence teaching.

"Students in junior and senior middle schools are facing the pressure of advancing to a higher school, which is a significant turning point in their life. It is more of a loss than a gain if such tests stop students from further education," a teacher told the newspaper.

Students in primary schools can have such training, but it should not be compulsory for middle school students to have such tests, the teacher added.

Students also complained, saying that they face even more pressure now.

"Besides studying, I have already signed up for art and piano lessons in my leisure time. I don't have time to learn to cook and sew," fourth-grader Li Wei was quoted as saying.

The Qingyang District Education Bureau also requires that every teacher in the district should master one sports skill and one art skill, the report said.

(Shanghai Daily October 27, 2008)

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