CHINA

Exhausted students rebel by burning textbooks

 Students in the United States or in Europe drag their feet when it’s time to go back to school after two months of summer holidays. However they’ve got it easy compared to students in China, who not only study seven days a week, but often get only two weeks of time off in the entire year. In one high school, this rhythm wore students down so much that they set fire to all their books in protest.

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Images of burning books posted here.

 

Students in the United States or in Europe drag their feet when it’s time to go back to school after two months of summer holidays. But they’ve got it easy compared to students in China, who not only study seven days a week, but often get only two weeks of time off in the entire year. At one high school, this rhythm wore students down so much that they set fire to their books in protest.

 

Chinese students’ education is peppered with state-mandated tests. The most important of all these tests, the university entrance exam (gaokao), determines a student’s professional future. Goakao, which takes place at the end of the last year of high school, is composed of questions that test logic and memory. High schools offer extra classes to help students study for this exam – for a fee. Most parents choose to enrol their children in these courses, hoping this will give them an edge over the others.

 

According to the website OffbeatChina, authorities have banned schools from holding these “cram classes” over weekends and holidays. Most schools, however, pay no attention, since these classes are a major source of income for them. The headmaster of the high school where students burned their books, in Hunan Province, said: “It’s a secret to no one that all schools offer cram classes. If they didn’t, parents would complain.”

 

According to the Chinese news site Sina, parents pay on average 1000 yuan (about 120 euros) per semester on cram classes, as well as on books to help them prepare for the exam. These books, too, are sold by the schools.

 

Photos of high school student rebellion posted here.

“Our teachers tried to stop some of us, but it was impossible because everyone was involved”

Zhang is a high school student in Xiangtan, a village in China’s Hunan province. He took part in last month’s student rebellion.

 

It all went down on March 9, when the electricity suddenly shorted out as classes were let out at around 6 p.m. The electricity still hadn’t come back on an hour later, when evening classes were scheduled to begin [evening classes run for a total of three hours, ending10 p.m.]. So, we asked if we could go home. The teachers and other school employees refused let us leave, which made us angry. We tore up our books, set them on fire and threw them off of the upper floors of the building. Some kids even burned their school uniforms and dumped water into the courtyard. It was littered with debris. The high school was totally wrecked. Our teachers tried to stop some of us, but it was impossible because everyone was involved.

 

The blackout was really what set everything off. Our schedules are so overloaded that we don’t have any time to recuperate. On top of that, the school makes us pay way too much money to take cram classes.

 

“Last year, we only had 14 days off for summer break”

 

We were really happy that CCTV [a public Chinese television station] talked about the incident last week. After our rebellion, all of our cram classes were suspended. According to the school’s administration, Sunday classes have been altogether cancelled, but evening classes are set to resume. We’ve already paid about 1,800 yuan [or around 218 euros] for the first half of classes. But the school has agreed to reduce the fee for the remaining classes from 1,300 yuan [around 153 euros] to 126 yuan [15 euros].

 

We used to only get half a day off Sunday morning to rest. We were so tired, we couldn’t help but sleep during this time. Weekends and holidays were spent going to classes to prepare us for exams. We were so jealous of students in other high schools who could actually enjoy their vacations. Cram classes definitely exist in all schools, but ours went a little too far. Last year, we only had 14 days off for summer break.

 

“We haven’t had a single day off since February”

Liu is a high school student in the town of Xuan’en in China’s Hubei county.

 

In my high school, the work conditions are even worse than those in the school where the rebellion took place. Our classes begin at 6:30 a.m. and don’t end until 10 p.m. We don’t even really have enough time to sleep. We haven’t had a single day off since February. Some of the boarding students haven’t gone home for months [the majority of Chinese high schools house part of the student body]. We’re not allowed to have mobile phones, and if one is discovered in the possession of a student, the teachers will destroy it. Cram classes and printed handouts are just a way for the school to make more money.