2020-07-03 09:51:52

Schools in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen will not administer final exams for the spring semester or reveal the scores of students who have already taken such tests, the city’s education bureau said Thursday.

Shenzhen is the latest place in China to introduce such a rule during the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted the country’s education system and forced millions of students to switch to online classes. The move to prohibit releasing exam scores and student rankings is likely aimed at easing some of the pressure felt by students.

“Being cooped-up at home is an isolating experience,” Zhang Jing, a Hubei-based child psychologist, told Sixth Tone. “Students were separated from their peers and experienced a rupture in their routines, resulting in a psychological burden.”

In recent months, authorities in the eastern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces have ordered schools to prioritize students’ mental health, and forbidden them from releasing grades. In April, China’s education ministry published a guideline asking schools to help students deal with academic pressure, along with several suggestions.

Months of distance learning on digital devices has not only resulted in more screen time, but also increased stress levels in students as they try to keep up with their curricula. According to an online survey of 1.2 million primary and secondary school students conducted by Guangdong’s health commission and a university, 10.5% of respondents said they were dealing with mental health issues.

Anxiety in young students has emerged as a hot-button issue in China, which has witnessed an uptick in suicides among minors, according to multiple domestic media reports. When Shanghai’s primary and middle schools resumed on-site classes in May after months of online learning, hospitals in the city reported a rise in demand for counseling by children, according to an article published on the Shanghai health commission’s website.

Shenzhen’s decision to scrap test results and class rankings has received mixed reactions among parents. Under the education bureau’s announcement on social platform WeChat, some parents commented that the move could indeed ease the burden on students, while others argued that scrapping final exams would discourage children from focusing on their studies.

“I personally believe (disclosing) rankings isn’t a big deal,” one parent commented under the post. “Otherwise, how will we know our child’s level of academic performance? Some competition is necessary.”

Zhang, who also founded an NGO in Hubei that provided online counseling services to students during the central province’s COVID-19 lockdown, said Shenzhen’s policy may only be a stopgap solution for relieving students’ stress, and emphasized a need for long-term goals.

“Canceling final exams is just a temporary solution,” she said. “It’s time for both teachers and parents to come up with creative ways to help our students become driven and inspired.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Students take their final exams at a primary school in Nantong, Jiangsu province, Jan. 14, 2020. People Visual)