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    China Launches Campaign to Bring Order to Unruly Classrooms

    The crackdown will target a range of problems in schools, from bullying to excessive homework.
    May 16, 2024#education#policy

    China’s top education authority has vowed to take stronger action to protect the well-being of minors on school campuses, following a raft of high-profile incidents that have raised public concern.

    In a notice published Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Education announced the start of a special campaign targeting a range of problems in schools, from bullying to disorderly management practices.

    The crackdown — which is set to continue until the end of the year — will reportedly focus on 12 issues affecting China’s preschool, primary, and secondary education system. These include bullying, teachers discriminating against students or using corporal punishment in the classroom, and schools giving excessive homework or failing to allow students to take recess.

    To tackle these issues, the Ministry of Education plans to introduce a new rating system that judges teachers, schools, and local authorities based on how well they have dealt with these 12 issues. The ministry will also provide teachers with additional training and establish new public oversight mechanisms.

    The notice stresses that all forms of bullying in schools is strictly forbidden, and that teachers who overlook or condone bullying behavior should be held accountable. This is likely a response to growing public concern about the issue, with a shocking case generating headlines in March – three teenagers from Handan in northern China’s Hebei province were found to have killed a 13-year-old boy living in the same city.

    The case sparked outrage in China and intensified discussion over the country’s rising juvenile crime rate. The Chinese government lowered the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 for serious crimes in 2021 in an effort to tackle the issue.

    Earlier this month, Chinese authorities launched a nationwide inspection drive aimed at detecting, preventing, and taking action against bullying in primary and secondary schools.

    The campaign will also crack down on schools using underhand methods to circumvent China’s ban on selecting students based on academic ability.

    Top Chinese schools used to routinely select students based on ability, but the practice was widely believed to be putting unreasonable pressure on students due to ever increasing competition for school places. To tackle the problem, Chinese authorities issued a guideline in 2014 requiring primary school students to be enrolled at their nearest middle school.

    However, an investigation by China’s state broadcaster CCTV revealed that some junior middle schools in Beijing are still quietly forcing students to sit entrance exams. The report, which aired Wednesday, showed that schools are using these tests to “reserve” the brightest students while they are still in the fifth grade.

    Other issues covered in the notice include teachers using corporal punishment, schools giving excessive homework, and students being charged unreasonable extra fees.

    “The 12 areas cover all aspects of school management. It sets strict boundaries and establishes institutional references for clarifying the rules and bringing transparency in management,” Jin Zhifeng, vice dean of the China Institute for Education Policy Studies at Beijing Normal University, told China Education Daily.

    “These policies and standards are not new. They are reiterated as bottom-line standards to remind local authorities, schools, and teachers to implement them, aiming for tangible improvements in practice,” Jin added.

    (Header image: VCG)