2018-04-24 10:55:43

Mapping the human circulatory system, mastering the complex game of Go, explaining the chemistry behind nuclear reactions — these are among the skills found on the résumés of 6-year-olds hoping to earn places in China’s top primary schools.

As parents prepare for the primary school registration season in late April, photos of what some claim are outlandish résumés made by parents for their precocious kids have been widely circulated online. According to one article that posted several such photos, the résumés belong to children who beat out over 8,000 applicants to win one of 60 spots at an unnamed elite primary school in Shanghai.

On Tuesday, a commentary published in state-owned newspaper People’s Daily slammed the so-called little genius résumé phenomenon and the parents behind it for contravening the natural course of a child’s intellectual development and being too eager for early success.

In one résumé, a child is said to have inherited his mother’s gift for language to the extent that he was able to discuss Nobel laureate Marie Curie with American tourists in English when he was just a year old. The boy’s résumé states that he now studies robotics on Sundays, accompanied by his father, who holds a doctoral degree from China’s top engineering school, Tsinghua University.

While the little genius résumés have elicited skeptical reactions from most netizens, they’ve also triggered anxiety in parents, who often find themselves under great pressure to ensure that their children succeed from an increasingly early age.

Chinese students’ long and stressful road to the gaokao, the national college entrance exam, is well-documented, and the struggle to get a leg up on the competition is beginning earlier and earlier.

In Shanghai, primary schools begin admitting children at the age of 6. While private schools are expensive compared with public schools, their students typically perform better on standardized tests, making them the coveted choice for families who can afford them. As such, competition for admission can be stiff. In 2016, for example, only 160 out of over 3,000 children who interviewed at the elite Shanghai World Foreign Language Primary School were admitted.

The private school admission process typically consists of interviews and simple tests for learning ability, social skills, and logical reasoning. In some cases, even the child’s parents and grandparents are interviewed or otherwise evaluated.

To prepare their children to get an early jump from the starting line, many parents flock to online forums to check interview questions and commiserate over their experiences. According to EliteBaby, a Shanghai-based preschool group, 81 percent of Chinese families surveyed begin some form of preschool education for their children when they are 3 or younger. In addition to expected classes focusing on music and movement, many early childhood education institutions claim specifically to prepare students for primary school entrance interviews and tests.

“There are natural rules when it comes to educational enlightenment and knowledge development in children: One should not be so hasty,” read the People’s Daily commentary. The author also warns of parental pressure causing children to lose interest in their studies later in life.

In a notice released in February, the Shanghai education commission prohibited primary schools from conducting written tests and accepting tailored résumés. The commission also barred schools from interviewing or evaluating applicants’ parents.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A boy and his mother walk to the the examination room at Shanghai Pinghe Bilingual School for admissions interviews, May 7, 2016. Yang Shenlai for Sixth Tone)