China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee is aiming to pass new legislation meant to put limits on excessive homework and after-school tutoring, according to state news outlet Xinhua. Despite the expressed intent of safeguarding children’s health from the dangers of exhaustion, the move has been greeted with mixed sentiments by the public.
We’re no strangers to peculiar laws passed in China these days. Earlier this year, officials moved to limit the amount of time those under 18 years of age can partake in online gaming, and have previously banned exams for children 6-and-below. While the stated purpose of such legislation is to protect the health of children in China and to safeguard their development, it’s safe to say that they’ve been perceived as strange, to say the least — both in China and abroad.
New legislation passed in late October is bound to make stir its own share of controversy. It aims to reduce the after-school demands placed on China’s children and places the responsibility on local governments and parents while limiting the ability to make a profit from after-school education teaching core subjects. Companies looking to perform such a service will need to operate as nonprofits.
While an argument can be made that these laws hit their intended mark — and their proponents certainly bring this argument to the discussion — critics point out that they set a huge precedent of unnecessary and significant government intervention into people’s personal lives.
Local authorities will “strengthen their supervision in order to reduce the burden on students in terms of homework and extra-curricular lessons”, said news agency Xinhua, citing a law passed by the Chinese legislature. As part of the bill, parents are also asked to monitor their children and ensure they’re getting enough time for rest and exercise.
Officials explained that the law is aimed at protecting children’s mental and physical health which, at the time, is being heavily pressured by intense educational demands at school and after.
The law was issued on the 23rd of October, although its full details were not published at the time. State news media however explained that it is meant to help parents “nurture their children’s morals, intellectual development, and social habits,” according to the BBC.
Local government will be required to actually implement the law, including to make funding available for “enriching extra-curricular activities”, the same source adds. The law will come into force on the 1st of January next year.
Public reactions to the announcement of the law were mixed, according to the BBC.
Outside of the sphere of our personal lives, the law also sets rigorous rules on how after-school education can be performed. Firms offering assignment help or tutoring on core curriculum subjects must operate as non-profits, among other stipulations. This follows an initiative from Beijing to clamp down on Chinese online tutoring firms and a move to regulate the private tutoring sector.
It’s possible that the law is also meant to even the playing field for families of more modest means, as private tutoring can give children an edge during exams. As such, affluent parents are able to pay the way for their children to get into top schools to an extent, promoting inequality among China’s numerous citizens.