Dad regrets pushing son to take gaokao

By Liu Sha Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-27 20:23:01

The father of a 13-year-old boy who has been found safe this week after running away from home due to scoring poorly on his third gaokao (or national college entrance examination) attempt said that he regrets pushing his son so hard.

The young boy, Zhang Zhe, who was considered a genius before the age of just 10, when he took his first gaokao, was discovered at a friend's place by his aunt on Monday, the boy's father, Zhang Jun, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The young Zhang disappeared Friday, fearing that his repeated gaokao disappointments only served him to be a great "burden" for his father.

Prior to his latest attempt, the boy had failed the test twice before.

Though he finally scored enough points to be admitted into a low-level college this year, he was not selected by any school departments to enroll in the programs that he had applied for.

A great 'burden'

Young Zhang was disappointed in himself last year, after his second try at the exam and wanted to quit right then and there.

But his father insisted that he have another go and paid an additional 7,000 yuan ($1,143) to have him prepped to take the exam again this year, Hefei-based Jianghuai Daily reported.

"You have spent so much money on me…I shouldn't continue to be your burden," the young Zhang wrote in a letter left for his family before he disappeared Friday.

Zhang's father said that he never meant to make his son feel so overwhelmed.  

"He had outstanding talent, and I believed that he would be able to achieve things that other children could not," said Zhang's father.

Parental pressures

Sun Yuxiao, an expert on teenage psychology, told the Global Times that adolescent boys under such immense pressure are at risk of coping with their stresses through extreme means.

Sun said that he has encountered many parents who are too eager to push their kids into achieving quick success. But warned that a child may end up "damaged" unless he or she is able to manage the mounting stresses that come with such extraordinary efforts.

"Kids who are given too much academic pressure will suffer unless they are truly talented," he said.

Sun added that sending such a young boy to college is not without risk.

"A 13-year-old boy going to college and being surrounded only by people who are many years older than him can bring about other social problems," he said. "It's often best for parents to let kids go through a normal school life."

Young, bright minds

The case has also prompted a second look at whether Chinese students should attend college at a younger age by education experts like Xiong Bingqi. 

"We can't deny that there are some students with extraordinary talents who need access to a more advanced level of education," said Xiong, vice president of 21st Century Education Research Institute. "But we need to ensure that younger children also receive a level of education that matches their development needs."

 After the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) began the country's first specialized courses for underage college students in 1978, some 13 other schools followed suit in the 1980s.

Yet today, only three universities still offer classes designed for younger students, said Xiong.

"The problem found by many of the schools was that the students weren't mature enough," he said. "It's why a lot of them later had trouble integrating into society or getting along with their colleagues after completing their studies."

Still, some children appear capable of handling a higher level of education at a young age, according to a recent USTC survey, which revealed that more than 80 percent of its 1,200 underage students enrolled in bachelor programs over the past 30 years went on to pursue graduate studies.

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