The Life of a Pupil in China



wait organize spend/spent/spent (2)
decide grade (2) character (2)
habit schedule pay attention
average count (3) pay/paid/paid
neat improve middle-class
discuss matter (2) feel/felt/felt
tutor common extracurricular
annual attitude curriculum
tiring make sure when it comes to
dull spirit (3) lose/lost/lost
expect process get involved
per tough (2) performance
barely break (2) take a break
load workload break/broke/broken
-phile jump off technophile
focus fierce (2) enthusiastic
-phobe push (2) subject (3)
fail deal with frustration
in store book (2) private (3)
rote issue (3) competition
require primary generation
task secondary towards (2)
off (3) too far (2) calligraphy
range broad (2) personality
busy raise (2) heart condition
limit embrace intellectual


Video: The Life of a Chinese Pupil




Zhao Ying waits here every day at three-thirty for her son’s class to end. She quit her job so she could spend more time raising Xiaoxiao. The seven-year-old spends seven hours a day in school.

But that’s only part of his education.

Zhao Ying has organized a schedule of activities for his afternoon. They start at four pm with a talk about the day’s homework.

Zhao Ying, Mother: “I don’t look at his grades so much, but I do pay attention to his study habits. In first grade his Chinese characters weren’t very neat. But he’s improved. It’s his attitude towards learning that counts.”

Like many middle-class parents in China, she feels the regular school curriculum isn’t enough for her child. It’s common for families to pay for additional classes and tutoring.

Xiaoxiao’s extracurricular lessons include English, Chinese, swimming, exercise and math. Chinese parents spend and average of fifteen-thousand euros (€1,500) annually on private tutoring.

Xiaoxiao, Pupil: “I have eight minutes to complete this page.”

Zhao Ying, Mother: “I do think that his schedule is very tiring, but children have endless energy when it comes to doing things they like. You just have to make sure he’s in good spirits.

When studying get dull, he’ll lose interest, and he needs to stop.”

The schools here expect parents to get involved in the learning process.

Zhao Ying, Mother: “This is the school’s app.”

Using the school’s app, Zhao Ying gets daily reports from Xiaoxiao’s teachers on her son’s performance and his homework.

Zhao Ying, Mother: “In China, homework is a tough work for the parents — it can give you a heart condition.”

By five-forty-five (5:45) pm, Xiaoxiao has finished his math and English exercises. He and his mother take a break for dinner. His father works twelve hours per day, so Xiaoxiao barely sees him throughout the week.

Chinese children are already being trained for their later workload.

Xiaoxiao, Pupil: “I think I have enough time to play; if I get my homework done quickly, I have more. But if I’m too slow, I have less. Sometimes I have an hour a day. Sometime forty minutes, or just twenty. It depends.”

It’s time for his evening class: a language and writing course. China’s technophile society enthusiastically embraces new teaching methods, especially if they are more playful than traditional learning by rote.

But Zhao Ying sometimes asks herself if she’s pushing him too far.

Zhao Ying, Mother: “Many children now in China are excellent students — but then they’ve failed with an important exam, and they can’t deal with the frustration, and they jump off a rooftop.

What matters most to me is raising a healthy personality.”

That’s an issue that’s much discussed on the internet in China.

The competition to enter the best schools and universities is fierce. And there is one thing that has not changed in generations: Chinese characters requires a lot of practice.

By the end of primary school, children are expected to read and write three thousand and five hundred (3,500) characters. Practicing those characters is Xiaoxiao’s final task of the day.

At nine-thirty, he’s finally done. Bedtime. He’s just finished twelve hours of studying and activities.

Now, it’s Sunday. He’s not off today either: weekends are the busiest time for tutors. Besides regular school subjects, there’s a broad range of subjects parents can book for their kids from ballet to chess, art and calligraphy — and even skiing.

For children like Xiaoxiao, Saturdays and Sundays can be just as busy as the rest of the week.

Xiaoxiao’s parents have decided to limit his activities in weekends to one class per day. On Sundays, he gets tutored in physical fitness.

Guo Xin, Sports Teacher: “Schools focus on intellectual activities. The space for physical activities is limited. Most kids spend a lot of time sitting and doing a lot of homework. They don’t have enough time to train their bodies.”

Another tough week is over for Xiaoxiao. No more classes and no more homework.

In the afternoon, his parents have something special in store: they’re taking him to a museum.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *



1. Zhao Ying is a career woman. Career success is the most important thing in her life. Her job is the most important thing in her life. True or false?

2. For her, what is the key to academic (educational) success? How do children become great students?

3. Does Zhao Ying believe Xiaoxiao’s school curriculum is sufficient? Does she think his school lessons are enough

4. Chinese parents value education very much. Is this right or wrong? Is it an investment for them?

5. In China, do children have a “balanced” life of work and play?

6. What are the main goals of Chinese pupils?

7. Pupils study on weekdays, and play, rest and relax on weekends. Is this correct or incorrect?


A. Is your school system similar to that of China’s or is it different? Is your school similar to or different from Chinese schools?

B. All countries (Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, United Kingdom) should adopt China’s educational system. All countries should copy China’s school system. What do you think?

C. Education is very important for people, the economy and society. Do you agree?

D. Is your school system perfect or can it be improved? Should there be changes? What changes should be made?

E. What might happen in the future?

Comments are closed.