Beijing Kids Freed From Exams

About a quarter of Beijing's primary school students have been relieved of the preexam jitters long associated with the days leading up to the Chinese Lunar New Year vacation.

Some 106,000 pupils in the Chinese capital are among the first to bid farewell to the old 100-mark system that was abandoned in September in favor of a grading system that defines performance in terms of "excellent, good, pass, and fail," with 60 percent of the grade based on overall achievement and 40 percent on behavior, the China Daily said Jan. 3.

The transition to the new system in selected schools in Beijing, the nearby port city of Tianjin, Shanghai, eastern Jiangsu, Shandong, and northeastern Liaoning provinces has led to homework loads being reduced by half, with kids able to enjoy more time for play or extracurricular activities.

But not all parents are pleased. Some worry that their children will become increasingly unruly and lazy without the pressure of test scores, China Daily said.

Pro-reform educators say most parents continue to ignore the fact that play, leisure reading, painting, dancing, or club activities help kids develop to their full potential.

Xu Xiuru of the National Institute of Healthy Education said the number of pupils suffering mental problems due to pressure of homework and fierce competition under the old 100-mark system has increased in recent years.

Many teachers argue that pupils acquire a better and faster command of fundamental knowledge under the old system, the report said.

Last year the China Daily warned parents against pushing their toddlers into becoming little prodigies, citing cases of children being beaten to death or driven to suicide by parents demanding too much, too soon.

The report said the craze for high marks and university admission were mistakenly the sole concerns of schools and Chinese parents who are limited to one child per couple in cities in accordance with the nation's strict family-planning policy.

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