China’s public schools will soon ask students to put down their books and electronic devices and pick up spatulas, brooms, and kettles.
The country’s top education authority has ordered all primary and secondary schools to set up compulsory “labor” courses under a newly revised national curriculum, domestic media Guangming Daily reported Thursday. Starting September, students will take at least one such class every week.
The Ministry of Education said the move was aimed at “purposefully and systematically getting students involved in labor,” according to a notice released last month and has since been updated. The notice identified 10 labor-related activities for students, including cooking, repairing household appliances, raising pets, and growing vegetables.
For one “Cooking and Nutrition” class, while primary school students would be taught basic skills such as peeling vegetables and using a knife, they would eventually learn to prepare various dishes at secondary school.
China’s rigorous education system has been long criticized for its emphasis on standardized tests and neglecting life and professional skills. The revised curriculum standard marks the government’s latest attempt to impart “quality education” while also teaching practical life skills to students.
Starting this month, high schools are also required to include vocational courses to provide students with “enlightenment and experience.”
The announcement of labor courses for primary and secondary school students has attracted wide discussion on microblogging platform Weibo. While some online users said they supported a diverse curriculum, others questioned the effectiveness of such courses.
“I don’t think teachers can afford the safety risk, as students will need to use fire and electricity,” said one Weibo user who claimed to be a college student majoring in education. “I don’t have the confidence and would suggest parents do that job.”
Xu Yeqian, a mother of four from the southern Guangdong province, told Sixth Tone that schools had previously offered cooking and other courses voluntarily. The 36-year-old said her children barely learned anything in the class, but she ended up cooking the dishes herself and shooting staged photos as requested by teachers.
“I’m getting tired of cooperating unconditionally,” Xu said. “I don’t think there will be any fundamental changes, as academic grades will still be the most important in the current evaluation system.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Students show how to cook at a primary school in Xiangyang, Hubei province, Sept. 1, 2017. VCG)