Chinese Schools Reform Strict Grading System

About a quarter of Beijing's primary school students have been relieved of the pre-exam 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 daily behavior, the China Daily said Saturday.

"Why should you go crazy over exams? Homework and scores won't bother you anymore," the report quoted Cai Fang, a primary school student in Beijing's western Haidian district, as saying.

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 witnessed homework loads reduced by half, with kids able to enjoy more time for play or extracurricular activities.

But not all parents are pleased with the elimination of exam scores and the accompanying educational reforms, and are worried 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 are related and beneficial to their study. They also help kids develop to their full potential.

Xu Xiuru of the National Institute of Healthy Education says 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, meanwhile, 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.

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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