Apr 19, 2010

Families in China Obsess Over Educational Opportunity and the Future

Blogging from China

SHANGHAI—In an interesting twist on “over scheduled” child syndrome, millions of struggling Chinese parents have become “slaves to their children,” (hai nu) obsessively saving and sacrificing to provide enrichment opportunities not unlike those stealing every free after-school minute from children in US households. Hoping to gain an edge on the competition, Chinese parents arrange for a mind-boggling array of pricey lessons from English language tutoring to swimming, chess, music, gymnastics, and table tennis—all beginning early in the pre-school years.

“My son is fourteen months old,” explained Serena, a Chinese tour guide from the Zhejiang Province. “I send him twice per week for private classes to prepare him for school.”

According to a recent report in the Shanghai Daily, Chinese parents are increasingly obsessed with ensuring their children’s success, an issue exacerbated by China’s “one pregnancy” laws effectively limiting mom and dad to a single chance at producing the perfect child. The growing group of “parent slaves” is also driven by China’s high-pressure, test-based education and college admission system.

Taking to the internet to voice their complaints, Chinese parents hope the government will expand educational opportunities and provide relief for the rising cost of raising a child through college. Along these lines, more than 58 percent of adults surveyed in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou called for a “fairer” educational environment. The unbalanced distribution of high-quality educational resources is their top concern.

With a good job and support from both her husband and mother-in-law who watches the baby while she is away on tours, Serena looks forward to a successful future for her son and will work hard to provide it. “Maybe he will come to the US for college,” she concludes. “But that’s many years away.”

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