Leadership lessons for kids in China: Helpful or just hype?

The high-end classes include golf and language sessions, but some parents are doubting the value of such courses. Problems with child safety have also emerged.
The high-end classes include golf and language sessions, but some parents are doubting the value of such courses. Problems with child safety have also emerged.PHOTO: CREDIT

GUANGZHOU • "Hand us a kid, we give you back a future leader," said a poster outside an education training agency in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

According to a staff member of the agency, it offers classes that develop "CEO characteristics" in children aged three to 12 years old. The cost is staggeringly high at 50,000 yuan (S$10,100) a year for one or two sessions weekly.

In a golf training club in the city's Tianhe district, a five-day training course for children is recruiting students during the summer vacation.

A coach surnamed Deng told a Xinhua reporter that the course teaches basic knowledge and movements, as well as the etiquette of golf, "aiming to cultivate the physical and mental endurance of children".

Such high-end training classes are popular among rich parents in the city.

A man surnamed Liao enrolled his two-year-old daughter in a private English class. The 8,800-yuan course has around 15 students and provides two classes each week.

"A lot of parents enroll their children and in less than an hour, the class was filled."

As "CEO classes" spring up in China in recent years, complaints about misleading advertisements for such courses have grown rapidly.

In the first half of 2016, more than 2,600 such complaints have been filed with China's Consumers Association.

The effects of these extracurricular classes are dubious with some parents saying the classes were not worth the high fees.

In one of the "CEO training" classes, infants can be seen playing in the room during weekends.

A staff member of the training organisation said that they provide thinking training - filling in the blanks in quizzes, and hands-on skills - such as model assembling.

"It is actually a baby-sitting organisation," said Mr Liao.

"Some parents enrolled their kids because they did not want to see their children left behind by their peers."

Safety problems have also emerged.

In a jockey club in Shenzhen where a class was opened for children aged three years or older earlier this year, the coaches and facilities were not tailor-made for children, posing a threat to the safety of the minors.

Experts warn that these training classes meant to groom future elites may backfire.

Young kids are not yet able to evaluate information and communicate like adults, so it is questionable whether they can develop leadership skills, said Dr Fang Haiguang, a professor of education in Capital Normal University.

Moreover, the summer vacation is designed for children to relax, but training courses put too much pressure on the kids, he said.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'Leadership lessons for kids in China: Helpful or just hype?'. Print Edition | Subscribe