Parents concerned over education ministry instruction

A notice calling on schools to stop giving advantages to students on the basis of their talent in sports and the arts worries mothers of girls about to go to middle school. 

A Ministry of Education notice asking schools to stop favoring applicants with special talents, such as in sports or the arts, is concerning some Shanghai parents.

A ministry document released on Friday instructs schools across the country to ensure each student has a fair opportunity to enjoy a quality education.

Among the guidelines are promoting the practice of enrolling students, without testing, to schools as close to their homes as possible and encouraging schools to admit students by random selection.

One item requires primary and middle schools to reduce the proportion of students recruited based on their special talents and to cancel such admission programs by 2020.

Meanwhile, the ministry has asked high schools to stop adding extra points to middle school graduates’ exam scores for their special talents, such as in sports and the arts. The rule will affect students going to middle schools in September this year.

Fiona Xu, the  mother of an 11-year-old girl set to start middle school in September, said: “I’m really upset to hear about the news as my daughter loves traditional Chinese arts and she has spent a lot of time on arts since she was 3. She will have no advantage against her competitors who are good at academic studies if her special talents are not taken into consideration.”

Xu said her daughter had been learning Chinese painting, sketching and calligraphy, and playing the erhu (Chinese fiddle) and bamboo flute. She spends seven hours a week studying at training organizations and another 1.5 hours a day practicing at home.

Xu said she would not stop her daughter continuing her artistic training because she is truly enthusiastic about arts.

“She learns arts not only for school application but for her whole life,” she said.

Ling Li is also worried as her 10-year-old daughter, who has been learning dancing since the age of 3, will apply for middle school next year.

But Ling said she would wait to see how the rules will be enforced in Shanghai and adjust her daughter’s time on the arts accordingly.

“I will not ban her completely from dancing but maybe will have to reduce the time she spends on it,” she said.

Education authorities and schools in Shanghai have not yet released any specific plans on implementing the rules.


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