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2021-09-01 13:25:02

At 8:10 a.m., the temperature has reached nearly 30 degrees. A father tugs on his son’s school uniform and urges him to run quickly to make it to class on time. But the boy walks reluctantly towards to the school gate, clearly unhappy. As the man launches into a tirade of complaints, his wife reminds him that he was the one that woke up late this morning.

On Wednesday, students in Shanghai returned to school after a two-month holiday, marking the first semester since China announced the shuangjian, or “double reduction” policy. Following other recent efforts to lighten Chinese couples’ childcare burdens and boost the country’s ebbing birth rate, the new regulations aim to cut back the amount of time children in grades one through nine spend on homework and extracurricular classes.

With megacities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou being designated as the first cities to pilot the reforms, Shanghai has scrapped final exams in English for primary school students. But for many parents, the policy brings anxiety and uncertainty. Mr. Wang, one of the parents sending his son back to school, says that without extra-curricular classes, he is unsure how to judge the fact that kids have the freedom to just play all day long.

“To parents like myself, of course it’s a good thing,” Wang says. “But for children, I don’t know. People can always find ways to cope with government policies, because not only does everyone want to create a better life for their children, but also a better life than others.”

A girl waits at a bus station in Shanghai, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A girl waits at a bus station in Shanghai, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A mother and her son outside the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A mother and her son outside the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A father takes photos of his son outside the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A father takes photos of his son outside the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy runs to the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy runs to the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

Students wait to enter the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

Students wait to enter the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

Young Pioneers at the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

Young Pioneers at the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A girl wearing a red scarf gives a salute at the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A girl wearing a red scarf gives a salute at the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy at the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy at the entrance of the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy at the entrance of a private school in Shanghai, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy at the entrance of a private school in Shanghai, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy enters a private school in Shanghai, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone

A boy enters a private school in Shanghai, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone


Editor: Daniel Wilkinson

(Header image: Pupils wait to enter the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai University, Sept. 1, 2021. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone)