Published: 11th September 2021
Welcome to Reason: Should we be torturing our kids with exams?
The age old debate over the efficacy of exams in reinforcing the worth of a student's education had some fuel added to it, with China banning exams for younger students. Does India need to take notes?
“From a young age, pupils are put under immense amounts of pressure in high-stakes exams. Often, they're made to feel like their whole future depends on how they perform in these narrowly focused tests.” - Layla Moran (b.1982), a British Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament.
Layla may have said this of the formal educational system. Now exams start before the pre-school informal classes. They take away the pleasure out of the learning process and often imprint exam-phobia for life — which is marked by plethora of exams. This is realised in modern-day China and corrective steps have been taken. But, firsts the facts as reported by an international news service on August 30, 2021 and carried extensively in the Indian media, and excerpted below.
Beijing has banned written exams for six- and seven-year-olds, as part of sweeping education reforms aimed at relieving pressure on pupils and parents in China’s hyper-competitive school system.
China’s exam-oriented system previously required students to take exams from first grade onwards, culminating in the feared university entrance exam at age 18, known as the gaokao, where a single score can determine a child’s life trajectory.
"Too frequent exams ... which cause students to be overburdened and under huge exam pressure" have been axed by the Ministry of Education. The ministry said the pressure on pupils from a young age “harms their mental and physical health.” The regulations also limit exams in other years of compulsory education to once a term, with mid-term and mock examinations allowed in junior high school.
The measures are part of wider government reforms of China’s education sector, which include a crackdown on cram (private tutoring) schools — seen by parents as a way to inflate their children’s educational fortunes. In July 2021, China ordered all private tutoring firms to turn non-profit, and barred tutoring agencies from giving lessons in core subjects at weekends and holidays, effectively crippling a $100 billion sector. The aim is to reduce China’s education inequality, where some middle-class parents willingly fork out 100,000 yuan ($15,400) or more per year on private tutoring to get their children into top schools.
Relating to the same subject, Beijing city authorities announced that teachers must rotate schools every six years, to prevent a concentration of top talent at some schools. The Ministry of Education has also banned written homework for first- and second-graders earlier this year, and limited homework for junior high students to no more than 1.5 hours per night.
The subject is open to many views. What are yours?