Extracurricular activities shouldn’t become a burden

By Lu Yuanzhi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/3 16:08:40

Photo: VCG

How will you spend your year-end bonus? On a fancy new bag or a luxury trip? Well, most Chinese parents would say it depends on how their children perform in the final exam. If their kids' academic performance fails to meet expectations, they would spend their bonus on getting their children admitted to cram schools, wishing that their wards can catch up with their peers during the winter holidays. But even if some children perform well in exams, the possibility that they would take extracurricular classes during the winter break cannot be ruled out

My cousin, a final-year primary school student, who used to be a lively boy, has been a bit blue recently since my aunt told him he would participate in four extracurricular classes - piano, chess, swimming and English during his winter holidays, which spoils his original plan - relaxing and having fun with his friends. In addition, my aunt said she is considering sending him to a transition class between primary school and secondary school this summer, which really drives him nuts. What my poor cousin takes comfort in is that many of his classmates will have similar holidays. 

It is reported that on average, every Chinese mainland household spent around 120,000 yuan ($17,234) annually on children's extracurricular classes in 2018. If kids take classes on sailing, horse riding, golf, the cost will be much higher. 

What drives Chinese parents' fever for extracurricular classes? The popular saying in China, "Don't let your children lose at the starting line" must be one of them. Aware of the fierce competition in education, Chinese parents expect their children to shine among their peers. Attending extracurricular classes would be a shortcut to help their kids achieve a bright future.

My aunt said, before my cousin went to primary school, she was determined not to take him to any extracurricular class, giving him a happy childhood. But it failed to go as planned. When she met parents of my cousin's classmates, what they would talk about was what extracurricular classes their kids were attending and the beneficial effects. Even the slogans and marketing telephone calls for these classes warned her if my cousin did not attend any of them, he would fall behind. 

Furthermore, most Chinese families are two-earner households and cannot be with their children in the daytime during winter or summer holidays. Lacking confidence in their children's discipline, they try to make up for that feeling of inadequacy by sending kids to extracurricular classes. 

It cannot be denied that extracurricular classes have played a role in improving academic performance, skills and talent. 

Thanks to attending these classes my cousin has passed a grade 8 piano exam, he can speak English confidently when traveling abroad, and he keeps his body in good shape because of frequent swimming. Music and sport have made his life much more colorful. 

However, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Parents should understand that children are born with an instinct to play. The time spent on extracurricular classes shouldn't be too long. Parents should respect and take into account adolescents' interests, rather than blindly following others.

In China, there is a debate on where the "starting line" is. Some argue it lies in parenting. Regarded as the first teachers of their children, parents' role is primary. In addition to striving to make sufficient money to pay for extracurricular activities, parents can make more effort to behave as role models for their offspring in nurturing a healthy life style, positive attitude toward academics and life, and proper values. These traits would be crucial to shaping their kids' future.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. luyuanzhi@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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