Apr 20, 2010

Students in China among the Most Stressed in the World

Blogging from China

BEIJING—China’s senior high school students suffer a far greater rate of “high or comparatively high stress” than students in other major industrialized nations, according to a survey conducted by the China Youth and Research Center in cooperation with corresponding international organizations.

More than 86 percent of Chinese high school students feel under high stress, compared with 69 percent in Japan, 74.8 percent in the Republic of Korea, and 61.7 percent in the United States. According to China Daily, the poll found that top causes of stress in China were parents’ expectations, followed by “the students themselves.”

The number of high school students competing for spots in China’s limited university system no doubt contributes greatly to academic stress. More than half of the Chinese respondents claimed pressure came from competition among students. Only about 20 percent of the students from the other three countries were as concerned about peers.

And this competition is taken seriously. Between classwork and after school activities, Beijing students study an average of 12.7 hours per day, according to a report from the Institute of Social Sciences at Peking University. The numbers were 12.4 hours per day in Shanghai and 11.4 hours in Guangdong.

Also, China’s national college entrance exam, or the “gaokao” (tall test) is a “major event” in the lives of high school students hoping to pursue higher education. About 10 million compete annually for the highest scores to secure one of 5.7 million openings—and the test is currently the sole criteria for admissions.

To address the problem, the Chinese government is considering various reforms of the country’s educational system both to raise standards and provide more opportunity. Sun Xiaobin, a senior official with the Ministry of Education, explained in an interview with China Daily that proposed reforms should ease pressure, as test results will be “paired” with student interviews and an evaluation of the student’s high school performance as a part of the overall criteria for university admissions.

To see how well you might fare on the 'gaokao,' try some sample questions provided by Danwei or the WideAngle blog.

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