BEIJING (AFP) - Two teens in eastern China committed suicide after "failing to complete homework assignments" state-run media said on Friday, in an extreme case highlighting the immense pressure schoolchildren can face.
In a highly competitive education system that emphasises rote learning and passing exams, Chinese students spend on average 8.6 hours a day in class and can expect several more hours of assignments afterwards.
A 15-year-old boy in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, who failed to finish homework from a three-day public holiday jumped to his death around 11:00 am on Thursday, the China Daily said.
A 13-year-old boy in the same town got up at 4:00 am Thursday to complete holiday assignments but was found hanged on a staircase at his home two hours later, it said.
"In a suicide note, the boy said he loved his parents, felt sorry for them and hoped they could bring lilies, his favourite flower, to his grave," it said.
China has made impressive progress in rolling out universal education across the country, and according to the United Nations has a youth literacy rate of 99 per cent.
But many parents complain about the emphasis on rote memorisation and tests and the rigid teaching style.
Some students spend as much as 12 hours in the classroom each day, a 2007 survey by China's Youth and Children Research Centre reported. They can typically expect several hours of homework on top of that.
"Test scores are still an important evaluation, or the only evaluation, for a student to get admitted to college," Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the China Daily.
"Therefore it's natural for teachers to leave heavy homework assignments."