Chinese university curfews stunt students’ personal growth

By Katie Kelly Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/13 18:18:40

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

It is a familiar scene for Chinese university students: It's late at night, perhaps you were out having a feast with friends, or watching a movie, or even studying at a cafe. However, when you reach campus you realize that the gates are closed and you are locked out!

At this point, most students find a way back into their university by climbing over a fence or shimmying through an unlocked window. However, as this situation plays out nightly on campuses across China, I as a foreign exchange student here am compelled to ask why local universities feel that they cannot trust students to manage their own time?

Many have argued that these rules are simply a measure to protect Chinese students so as to make sure that they receive the quality education they and their parents worked so hard for. After all, education is very important in Chinese society, so it would make sense that university officials would rather have students in bed at night than out drinking. But, this argument ignores an important fact: University students over 18 are legal adults.

The idea of a university curfew is unreasonable and outdated. If students want to go out dancing and getting drunk, skip class the next morning and fail their exams, then they should be allowed to do so. Young people need to have the complete freedom to make mistakes so that they can learn from these mistakes, which they won't be able to do if their lives are controlled.

There are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons why students might want to be out at night. Twenty-four-hour cafes in Shanghai are often crammed with college kids studying late due to the extreme pressure put on them to do well in school.

Many Chinese students also have part-time jobs and are sending money back home to their families in the countryside. Having to deal with a curfew limits their opportunity to work a night shift, which really is the only shift a student can work. Additionally, if students are expected to be responsible for the financial security of their families, then they should be considered responsible enough to set their own bedtime.

On many campuses, the curfew is the same on the weekend as it is on weekdays. This means that students are unable to go out on Friday night to de-stress after a long week of sitting in lectures. If they can't release this stress, it will most likely have a long-term negative impact on their mental and physical health.

Based on my experiences here in Shanghai, living on campus is a good intermediary step toward living on one's own. For a spoiled Chinese student - and there are many - who has never before lived apart from his helicopter parents, it might be difficult at first to manage their own schedule, but living on campus helps with this adjustment.

Most everything a student needs is provided to them on campus; there are affordable dining and housing options, health services and lots of student clubs, activities and events to keep them away from Shanghai's nightlife. It is the perfect environment to help sheltered students slowly become more independent until they are ready to live on their own.

When you graduate, you leave campus with experience taking care of yourself, which makes the adjustment to professional life easier. Students who live in dorms with strict rules do not receive the freedom that is necessary for personal growth; many will struggle in their adult life because of this.

While I recognize the good intentions of university officials, placing time restrictions on students does more harm than good. The best solution, then, would be to phase out this archaic policy while encouraging students to develop better personal habits. After all, universities are supposed to teach students skills that will be important in their adult lives, so what skill could possibly be more important than self-discipline?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

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