Education reform can soften 'tiger mums'

Amy Chua, also known as "Tiger Mother".
Amy Chua, also known as "Tiger Mother".PHOTO: BLOOMSBURY UK

By Lisa Carducci 
China Daily/Asia News Network 

Since Amy Chua took the world of Chinese parents by storm with her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in 2011 it seems more Chinese mothers have turned into "tiger mums".

Several young Chinese mothers are my friends. But rarely any of them is free for lunch or other activity, because they appear to have become their children's "slaves".

One of these young mothers moved from Hebei province to Beijing just to get her daughter admitted to a private and very expensive kindergarten. 

She closed her flourishing business and her husband shifted his office to Beijing, where they have bought a house. 

Another young mother is divorced and always busy with her daughter's calligraphy, dance, piano or English class. And a couple, both professionals in high positions, left their jobs, sold their Beijing house and moved to Australia when their son started going to school.

The offspring of tiger mums rarely play sports, exchange ideas with their peers, take part in social projects, clean their rooms or wash clothes. 

Since everything such children do is under the guidance of their protective mothers, they don't learn how to manage their time or plan a project. 

As such, their education is far from complete. They are unable to defend an idea-let alone come up with one-deal with opposing views, accept defeat or organise their life.

Tiger mums want their children to be more competitive so that they can enter the best schools. 

But school is only one period in a person's life. What about real life? What kind of autonomy will these children have once they grow up?

Today, children don't get the chance to discuss or choose what they want: learn to play the violin or piano; take up drawing or swimming. 

Their tiger mums decide for them.

Ideally, parents should discuss with their children, give them a choice and explain to them that they will have to finish what they start. This would help children develop not only their judgement but also their sense of responsibility.

The solution to this conundrum is total reform of the education sector. And the government knows that. 

But reform needs time. We can only hope the reform is completed before today's children become the "sacrificed generation". 

We need to reform the existent mindset more than the education sector.  Education is not only about memorising books and taking exams. We should stop seeing kindergartens as "schools", and ensure all schools have the same standards, and bookish knowledge is complemented by knowledge from other sources, from society and life itself.

Mothers are not to be blamed for the present situation, for in their quest to provide the best education for their children they become victims of social trends. 

But let's hope the Chinese view of education will change, gradually if not rapidly, to the benefit of children, families and society as a whole. 

This is my wish on Mother's Day.

The author is a Canadian writer living in Beijing.