Are students in China too pressured to succeed?

24 Feb



Between the ages of 6 to 15 years, China’s citizens are required to go to school. It is free but parents still pay for uniforms and equipment.  After middle school, parents must pay for public high school though the majority of families in cities can afford the modest fees. In rural parts of China, many students stop their education at age 15 (Mack, 2014). In high school, Chinese students begin preparing for the competitive gaokao which are the National University Entrance Examinations.

According to the OECD the children of factory workers and cleaners in parts of the Far East are more than a year ahead of the offspring of British doctors and lawyers (Paton G, 2014). Overall, the UK was ranked in the world as 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science while China’s Shanghai district was the top-rated jurisdiction in each subject. There are questions though as to whether these Chinese children have more capable abilities or that actually they are overworked and under too much pressure at school.

Even parents and educators in the far-east see their schooling system as “corrupt, dehumanising, pressurised and unfair” (Kairman, 2014). Even with the pressures there are also concerns that students only memorise content for nine hour exams, and though results are successful, students aren’t able to apply their knowledge to real life situations and don’t gain social skills such as leadership and teamwork.

In 2012, pictures of a classroom of Chinese high-school students hooked up to intravenous amino acid drips while studying for the gaokao went viral on social media websites Facebook and Twitter and only last summer two teenage students in the district of Jiangsu killed themselves because they were unable to complete their homework on time, according to state media (Kairman, 2014). These examples are extreme but do shape how pressurising the schooling system is, especially on students in public high school. If these events were to occur in the UK, there would be public outrage and a call for the government to change things immediately.

However during 2013, the Chinese Ministry of Education imposed ten new regulations to lessen the academic burden of primary school students. The ten new regulations are as follows (Zhao, 2013):

1)      Transparent admissions

2)      Balanced grouping

3)      “Zero starting point”

4)      No written homework

5)      Reducing testing

6)      Categorical evaluation

7)      Minimising supplementary equipment

8)      Forbidding extra classes

9)      Minimum one hour of physical exercise

10)  Strengthening enforcement and regulation

The reactions have mainly been received well but some argue on the impact that this will really have. However it is a step in the right direction that many parents are happy to see. However it doesn’t change the fact that it is still highly competitive completing the gaokao from high school which is one of the main problems that China faces in its schooling system. Nonetheless the Chinese government are becoming more aware of the problems and are starting to tackle the issue.



Kaiman, J. (2014). “Nine hour tests and lots of pressure: welcome to the Chinese school system”, The Guardian [online]. Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].

Mack, L. (2014). “School in China: Introduction to School and Education in China”, Chinese culture, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].

Paton, G. (2014). “China’s poorest beat our best pupils”, The Telegraph [online]. Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].

Zhao, Y. (2013). “China’s 10 new and surprising school reform rules”, The Washington Post [online]. Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].


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