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Play a Luxury for Children in Cities
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Spare time and sleep are rare commodities for kids in China with a survey finding that half the children aged four to 12 years old in major cities have to attend extracurricular courses outside of school and have little time to goof off, play and sleep.

In a ferociously competitive society, most urban children are catapulted into a busy "course-going" life from the age of four. On average, they spend 3.7 hours a week in extracurricular courses, not counting the time they need to travel to classes and back, according to a survey conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan and four other cities by Horizon Research Consultancy Group.

The courses cost their parents an average of 200 yuan (about US$26) a month.

The research said almost 64 percent of the 246 children surveyed attend English training courses; 29 percent study dancing, piano and violin and another 25 percent learn how to paint. Some parents send their children to martial arts and tae kwon do courses.

Many of the parents surveyed said school education doesn't prepare their offspring sufficiently for future competition while others said they were more concerned with cultivating their children and making them more sociable.

Only 10 percent of the respondents think children should be allowed to choose the courses they attend, the survey said.

The survey also suggested parents are spending more money on children. Last year the parents spent 148 yuan (US$19) on average to celebrate International Children's Day which usually falls on June 1 but this year they have budgeted 179 yuan (US$23) for the occasion.

International Children's Day is a chance for kids to partake of what is a scarce commodity in many Chinese cities: fun. Another survey conducted by China Youth and Children Research Center (CYCRC) shows that urban kids are unhappy about how little playtime they have and the fact that they are not free to play whatever they want.

The survey also found that the kids are just plain worn out by their heavy study loads.

"More than 50 percent of the surveyed said what they want most when they have free time is a 'good sleep'," according to the survey.

(Xinhua News Agency May 31, 2007)

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