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Legislation Urged to Better Protect Students' Rights
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Regarding the issue of examination-oriented education prevailing in China's primary and middle schools, some Standing Committee members of the National People's Congress (NPC) have suggested that articles should be added to the revised draft law on compulsory education to clarify that schools and teachers should never publish students' examination scores and their rankings.

At a Standing Committee meeting of the 10th NPC on February 27, He Keng, former deputy director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said that, in the US, students' examination scores are considered private, but in China, schools not only publish the results, but also issue student rankings. "This is wrong for it greatly wounds the hearts of children," he said.

Wang Tao, a professor from China Agricultural University, said that an imbalance in the distribution of educational resources is the prime breeding ground for examination-oriented education.

"Even if compulsory education stipulates that children must all go to the nearest schools, many parents still try to choose a better or key school in the hope that this will give their children a brighter future," Wang said. "For parents, a good primary school promises access to a better middle school, and a key middle school promises admission to a key university."

Wang added that if the practice was not stopped, it would be impossible to achieve the smooth development of quality-oriented education.

These NPC Standing Committee members are also paying close attention to the fact that the current exam-oriented approach is leading to the phenomenon of students being worn out both physically and mentally.

Pang Lijuan, a professor from Beijing Normal University, said that school classes commonly start too early in the day for middle and even primary schools, with many beginning teaching before 7:00 AM or shortly thereafter. "Children have to get up before 6:00 AM or even 5:30 AM in some cases," she said. "Some students cannot go to bed until 11:00 in the evening because they need to finish piles of homework."

Insufficient sleep has severely influenced children's bodies and minds, she added. "This will affect their comprehensive development and retard the implementation of quality-oriented education."

Pang suggested the revised draft law stipulate that "Middle and primary schools must not start classes before 8:00 AM."

Zhuang Gonghui, former vice chairperson of Tianjin Municipal People's Congress, said that "Quality-oriented education needs to be publicized more vigorously to counter the trend of recent years toward greater emphasis on examination-oriented education."

The Ministry of Education has continuously stressed the need to relieve the homework burden and create conditions for students to receive a comprehensive education, but the homework load remains far too great, Zhuang said, adding that "This phenomenon has made us think more deeply."

Zhuang said that the phenomenon is due to historical, cultural and traditional concepts as well as the prevailing idea of China's need for more "qualified personnel." "It is incumbent upon educational executive departments and schools to put quality-oriented education into practice, but this cannot be realized unless a good environment is created in the whole society," Zhuang said.

Zhuang also suggested the revised draft law should contain specific stipulations on the point.

( by Li Jingrong, March 6, 2006)

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