China has ordered local authorities and parents to "reduce the burden" of primary and secondary school children by giving them less homework, supervising their use of electronic devices, and ensuring that they get sufficient sleep.
In a notice approved by the Cabinet and jointly issued by nine ministries and agencies on Friday (Dec 28), the government said the authorities, schools and training institutions, as well as families are responsible for fostering a healthy environment for children.
"All parties should... reduce the over-heavy schoolwork that defies pedagogical discipline and damages the physical and psychological health of primary and secondary schoolchildren".
The notice goes on to list 30 measures that could help relieve children's workload and improve their health.
The measures include:
- No written homework for first- and second-graders; homework shall not exceed 60 minutes for third- to sixth-graders, and 90 minutes for junior high schoolers;
- Difficulty of assignments should not exceed the requirements of the course, and teachers should not give repetitive and punitive assignments;
- There should be no more than one exam every semester for lower primary pupils, and no more than two exams for others;
- Schools shall offer flexible dismissal times and provide a variety of co-curricular activities;
- Set reasonable expectations and encourage children to develop their talents; avoid comparing them to others or copying others;
- Increase communications with children and model positive values and behaviour; help children become comfident and reliant;
- Encourage children to be physically active and maintain good habits; pay attention to their emotions and mental health;
- Guide children to use electronic devices and the Internet appropriately, prevent them from being addicted to online games or smartphones;
- Ensure that primary school children get at least 10 hours of sleep a day, and at least nine hours for junior high school children and eight hours for senior high schoolers.