Last Sunday, I saw a documentary on the Discovery Channel’s Asian Gateway program entitled Bad Kids. It was about the military-style schools that have risen up in China in response to the number of badly behaved (more like holy terrors from what I saw) Chinese children that have appeared in the last few years.
After watching for about 10 minutes I was sort of suspicious of the show’s premise that these children’s bad behaviour came from the new opportunities that China’s economy gave them. If you look at the way the parents treat them not allowing them to be children and instead study all the time. If the child gets 80% on a test, it’s not good enough. He should have got 90% or 100%. When you’re parents give you nothing but negative praise, of course you’re gonna rebel.
Brendan John Worrell in a column in China Daily agrees with me:
“Here it is common for children as young as six to be assigned several hours of homework each night. Then they are sent to extra classes on the weekends, to learn English or music, math or calligraphy. Before these children have even had a chance to be kids, they are competing academically with their peers.
American mental health professional Dr Gregory Mavrides who has lived and worked in China for several years says, “In America, any parent would dance for joy upon finding that their child was reading anything, even the television listings in the daily newspaper, let alone a magazine or work of fiction. In China, children are often physically scolded by their parents, and, in some areas, their teachers, if and when they are caught reading anything other than assigned textbooks. In this context, there is simply no psychic energy left over for doing anything other than preparing for the next exam.”
Compounding the situation is the continuing family planning policy, where most elementary and middle school students have no siblings to talk to when the pressure gets too much. In such situations friends become increasingly important, yet they too are under similar strains and are not equipped to offer practical emotional advice.”
According to Worrell the central government seems to be seeing children’s mental states as a potential problem too and are placing mental health professionals in schools. This is a good start, but it’s not a solution. The amount of homework has to be less (this is happening in some places and school is starting later). But most importantly change needs to happen at home. Stop the cram-classes let kids be kids and have fun. Otherwise the rebels will just get worse over time. One of the major problems for China right now is innovation. If children are stuck in a ridge structure of classes and studying with no free time to think or play how can they be creative?
Time to play will give Chinese children time to be creative and that can only help the country.